According to Newsnight, more than 1,500 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are without a school place in England, with some waiting up to two years for provision.
Figures suggest that 1,580 children with education and health care plans (EHCPs) have no education provision.
In 2018, there were more than 285,000 children with EHCPs in England, yet, the number of SEND children was much higher.
Currently, there is no statutory requirement for local authorities to keep a register of these children, and in the meantime, parents can spend months, or even years, trying to get their child access for an EHCP.
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said: “The figures reaffirm my concern that this is actually really widespread and there are a lot of children in this situation.”
Earlier this year, the Government announced an additional £250 million to support high needs and an extra £100 million for new special school places – but the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates the funding gap for SEND education will hit £1.6 billion by 2021.
Charlotte Stubbs, the Headteacher at Uffculme Special School, in Birmingham, which supports children on the autistic spectrum, said: “This year, we had 19 spaces available for September 2019 [in Year 7], yet we had 86 requests for placement.
“In our primary provision, specifically at Years 1 and 2, the class sizes are about seven or eight pupils per class size. We’ve had 130 referrals for primary placements this year and we’re full.”
To support a SEND child at a mainstream school the first £6,000 has to come from the school’s core budget and typically the pupils who need specialist assistance tend to cost more than the funding provided.
The Department for Education said EHCPs had meant more than a quarter of a million children with complex educational needs “are receiving the tailored support they need to thrive”.
“We know that a number of children with EHC plans are waiting for a place in school, having moved to a new local authority area, or waiting for their first primary school place,” a spokesperson said.
“Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that there are sufficient school places for all children in their local area.
“We encourage local authorities and providers to work collaboratively so the right range of provision is available for children.”