No, Mr. Hurst, special needs statements are no "Golden Ticket"

Joe Holloran gives us his take on the controversial comments made in The Times by Greg Hurst.

Joe Holloran
24th October 2019
Image: Geograph
On 14 October, The Times social affairs editor, Greg Hurst, published an article on the education spending announcement by the government.

The original headline (before being quickly changed) of the second of his two articles read “£400 million schools funding diverted to special needs”. Hurst details that there is a "Crisis in special needs funding" in our schools. Nothing wrong, or indeed new, so far. As many parents of special needs children have been saying for years and years, the school system as a whole is massively underfunded, and teachers overstretched.

"Right-leaning journalists distract from government failings and austerity by dividing the people and diverting blame to those most vulnerable in society"

It is what Hurst writes next that has caused such outrage among these same parents, and many others on social media. Hurst writes that "[The funding gap] has led councils to raid their mainstream budgets". Here we have a typical trait of the right-leaning journalist. Distract from government failings and austerity by dividing the people – in this case parents – and then diverting blame to those most vulnerable in society,  which in this instance is children with special needs.

A quick addendum - I use the word 'special' as it is the understood term, but personally I find it patronising, and prefer 'additional'.

"Getting schools to look after your children properly involves endless forms, bureaucracy, sleepless nights and humiliation"

According to Mr. Hurst in a second article published the same day, parents are desperate for their child to be granted what is commonly referred to as a "statement" (a EHCP document detailing the individual pupil's needs), which Hurst refers to as a "Golden Ticket". In his reckoning, schools are arbitrarily assigning special needs labels to pupils in an attempt to get more money and that the rates in which conditions are being diagnosed is not a sign of more attentive teachers or more understanding on the part of parents, but rather a work-around. Any parent who has had to endure the endless forms, bureaucracy, sleepless nights and humiliation of having to beg school to look after their children properly will probably have a better phrase to describe the process than obtaining a "Golden Ticket".

As someone who has experience of the system first hand (I did not have a statement, though a close family member did), I know the process is failing pupils across the board, and the solution is not scapegoating parents, schools or pupils. Quite simply, it is listening to the experts in educational childcare, and granting them the funding they need.

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