Only one thing works in Tory Britain - the wrecking ball they've taken to our nation.
During my recent studies to become a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator), I stumbled upon the Government's newly published Green Paper on SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) provision in the UK. Titled "Right Support, Right Place, Right Time," this document, available here, tells a sorry tale. Yet it struck me that the tragedy of SEND provision holds within it a broader lesson, revealing the Tory government's catastrophic approach to managing not just SEND but all institutions and services in Britain. They seem determined to destroy us once and for all.
Let's begin by addressing the issues plaguing SEND provision. In a general sense, one of the major problems is the significant delay in processing applications for EHCPs (Education, Health and Care Plans) – care plans for children with special needs that often include financial assistance. This delay is directly attributable to two factors: a lack of resources at the county level to process them and an increasing number of parents seeking EHCPs for their children. Notably, this problem is not a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, I have been told anecdotally that EHCP referrals actually increased during the pandemic, as the online process expedited certain aspects and enabled some backlog to be addressed. Nevertheless, the current reality is that the EHCP application process can take over a year to reach a conclusion, leaving vulnerable children and their parents in a state of uncertainty, devoid of the necessary support. Furthermore, this delay denies schools the resources they need to deliver improved outcomes for students with special needs.
In essence, the state of SEND provision in Tory Britain is a disheartening reflection of many other aspects of the government's philosophy. It is undoubtedly a mess that requires urgent attention and reform. Unfortunately, the Green Paper's proposed solution introduces yet another hurdle in the system for parents applying for EHCPs. It suggests implementing a mandatory mediation process before parents can appeal any EHCP decision at a tribunal. This measure appears to be a desperate attempt to stem the tide of tribunal appeals that continues to rise due to chronic underfunding of local councils. However, by focusing on dealing with the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause, this proposal fails to address the systemic issues that have led to the current state of SEND provision.
However, there was a particular statement in the report that caught my attention. It claimed that parents increasingly sought EHCPs as their first recourse because they lacked trust in their local schools' ability to provide the necessary support for their children. This surge in EHCP applications diverts valuable school resources away from those without EHCPs, perpetuating a cycle where parents feel compelled to pursue EHCPs for their child's well-being.
Trust. It's evident that people have lost faith in teachers. But perhaps that's the intended outcome. The erosion of trust in our institutions appears to be a deliberate agenda of the Tory government. Let's take the education system, for instance. Even before they were elected, figures like Michael Gove launched attacks on history teachers for using seemingly poor resources, such as the "Mr Men" resources provided on one teacher's website, while teaching about Nazi Germany. On a personal note, I've come across these resources, and they actually serve as engaging tools for exam revision and mnemonic devices. It's akin to how we remember the difference between stalagmites and stalactites (stalactites hold tight to the ceiling). Gove went on to claim that grade inflation had rendered GCSEs worthless, replacing the well-established A*-F grading system with the bewildering 1-9 scale. This new grading system only fostered confusion and further eroded trust among parents, teachers, and students. Even now, after years of implementing this system, I find myself telling my students, "You've achieved a 6, which is comparable to the old B+. Congratulations!"
Moving away from education we can see this is a deliberate policy targeted at all areas of society. Britain had “grown tired of listening to the experts” as Mr Gove said in the lead-up to Brexit. Legal support was slashed – causing huge delays in processing court cases and making a mockery of the police’s work. Social care was slashed – causing huge delays in getting hospital patients out of the wards and back home. Court resources were cut, leaving thousands of asylum seekers rotting in army barracks or hotels across the country, awaiting their fate. GP clinic provision was let to die out, overwhelming our A&E departments as people desperately tried to find a route into the healthcare system that worked. The BBC has been systematically attacked from both outside by Tory ministers and from within when they pushed the appointment of Tory agent Tim Davie as Director General to destroy the BBC from within. Our thriving university sector was attacked for being too woke, with too many ‘Micky Mouse’ degrees (regardless that the creative industries were one of Britain’s areas where it had the most competitive advantage) – they have been attacked and the lucrative revenue from foreign students strangled by visa restrictions. And let’s not even begin on the damage Brexit has done to everything from our customs laws to tax regimes to agriculture and service sectors.
Post-Empire we survived by linking ourselves to Europe. Post-Brexit we were left with nothing except our good old British charm and sense of fair play. Everyone from American tech firms, to French energy giants, to Russian oligarchs, to Somali pirates, to Chinese Communist Party officials to Gulf oil despots knew that investments in Britain were safe. Now, I’m not saying all such money is ethical – but it was money flowing into Britain nonetheless. That has dried up as the one USP we had left, trust, has been eroded.
Trust is precious and fragile. Something that can be wrecked during a budget speech or an illegal lockdown cocktail party at Downing Street. Or when a parent has to wait for over a year to find out of their child with autism will be given the care that they need.
Going back to the Green Paper on SEND provision, it is clear that this approach serves as a microcosm of the government's philosophy. Rather than addressing the underlying issues of underfunding and resource scarcity, it merely attempts to manage the increasing number of appeals. This approach is emblematic of a government that prioritizes short-term fixes over sustainable solutions.
At every stage they've destabilised a system and then blamed the symptom of their actions as the cause. It is what the Tories want. Their distrust of government leads them to pursue a deliberate policy of destroying the state, artificially creating evidence to support their belief that the state cannot solve our problems. It isn't allowed to even try.
Fixing this mess is a generational task. Restoring trust in Britain's professions and services will take even longer.