The pressures that schools face are growing. We know it across this House, and we hear it from heads, teachers and parents alike. The message—just like the message that many of us have heard about the climate crisis this week—could not be clearer. As some hon. Members have said already, the special educational needs of pupils are increasingly challenging. Heads have told me directly that they do not know how their secondaries will cope when the numbers of younger children who are now being diagnosed start to come through. I have heard estimates that genuinely shock me.
As many as a third of pupils in some local nursery classes are now thought to need some support. That is massive. In Newham, the challenge for schools is only likely to get bigger. Hundreds of local children who need an education, health and care plan or a statement do not yet have one. Official statistics show that EHC plan and statement rates for Newham are currently five times lower than for any other inner London borough. The council is working hard to turn this around, but these current low rates mean that the challenge for local schools is just beginning, and they are struggling to keep up. The funding for the specialist, trained support that large numbers of children now need simply is not there. The average funding available for each child with an EHC plan has fallen by a fifth over the past five years.
I want to raise just one example—I would have given many more if we had had longer. Adam is nine. He has complex behavioural and emotional challenges. He has an EHC plan and is supposed to receive speech and language therapy and psychological help. He simply does not get it. The support services have been cut far too much. Most of the speech and language staff are now temporary or agency workers, so there is no consistency, and there are long gaps in Adam’s access to services. Cuts to the psychological services mean he has not had any of the support he needs for his emotional and behavioural challenges, and his ability to learn and grow as a healthy member of his community will obviously be hugely affected.
Adam’s primary school in Newham has got to the point where it simply cannot meet his needs. Between 2015 and 2018, it lost more than £100,000 from its budget every single year—more than £400 for every pupil. How foolish will Adam’s generation think we were because we did not invest in them or him and left his and their potential unfulfilled? Like climate change, this is an issue where we are letting our children down. What kind of country are we living in?
The achievements of Newham’s young people are extraordinary, given the circumstances, and our teachers are amazing—I see it on so many school visits—but the achievements of our children are made against the odds, despite the barriers and with no thanks to this Government, who will have cut Newham’s schools by £37.5 million since 2015—a cut of £445 for each and every pupil. The Government need to wake up to the long-term damage they are doing. They need to give Newham’s schools and other schools the funding they need to keep up with rising pupil numbers and inflation, to reduce the impacts of the poverty and inequalities their policies are increasing and to pay for proper support so that pupils with increasing needs can fulfil their potential as well.