Dear Damian Hinds, you didn’t need a ‘fresh look’ at special needs funding. You knew about the crisis | Michael Rosen

Parents, teachers, carers and children have been telling you for years that there’s a crisis

I understand that by the time you read this you may well be on holiday, contemplating how to spend your time on the backbenches. Excuse the cynicism, but anyone involved in education has a struggle to understand why people with no knowledge of schools other than their own childhood experience, can come in, throw their weight about for a year or so and disappear. Sometimes it’s not so much about weight-throwing, more a case of can-kicking, even on the most urgent and important issues.

You’ll remember, in May you called for what newspapers described as a “fresh look” at educational funding for children with special needs in England. Apparently a “review” would enable you to “make sure we have the best understanding of how our system for funding is operating on the ground”. When you said this, I admit to having made more than one sneery snort: one for the “fresh look”, one for “best understanding”.

Let me put it this way: children with special educational needs are not a separate category. They aren’t a problem. They’re not an extraterrestrial event we have to make allowances for. They are not even a “they”. They are us. We exist as a totality of human beings in all our states of being, in all our various ways of surviving on this planet. When you or I talk of education, this can never exclude, marginalise, or downgrade any group because it has been prejudged as less worthy or less deserving. Yes, we talk of “special” needs, but really they are “our needs”, the needs of our society to be a society for all of us. I hope that’s the attitude of everyone at the Department for Education, and you, too.

When you talked of a “fresh look”, you and I know this was triggered entirely by what everyone knows is a crisis. There are reminders every week. A crisis in provision. And everyone knows this crisis has been caused by the preposterous idea that something you people call the “British economy” (as if all we British have equal parts of it and all get the same out of it) could be “saved” by stopping us having decent public services. Cynically and cruelly you people cut back where you thought there would be least resistance. Guess who that included? Children with special educational needs.

What “fresh look” did you need in order to find out what’s happened? You have armies of inspectors, accountants, testers, regional commissioners and performance monitors checking every time a child puts pen to paper and we are supposed to believe that you’re going to find out something you didn’t already know.

Nevertheless, you diverted a DfE squad on an expedition to discover something. What? That the hundreds of protests from parents, carers, teachers, teaching assistants and children are wrong? Or that we don’t really know that the provision has been cut? Or that families have not had to go to court to get funding for their child? Or that we weren’t reading the papers in 2010 when politicians announced they were going to cut public services?

Or is it that this whole charade of a “fresh look” and “best understanding” was so you could conjure up a lash-up intended to assuage the rage of people who have been petitioning and demonstrating, until they can petition and demonstrate to your successor?

Yours, Michael Rosen


Michael Rosen

The GuardianTramp

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