South Gloucestershire Council has announced plans to reduce their annual spending on schools by £3million in order to keep up with the demand for special educational needs.
The schools in the South Gloucestershire district were already ranked as some of the worst funded in the country and the Council had been spending more than what was available from central Government. Every local authority receives funding in the form of an annual ring-fenced grant for education from the Government. The Schools Block funds mainstream schools covering all pupils from reception to Year 11, the High Needs Block, supports pupils with high needs in relation to SEND (special educational needs and disabilities), special schools and resource bases for pupils with additional needs in mainstream schools. The Council is looking to move money from one fund to the other in order to provide services to the most vulnerable children.The council’s current forecast for the 2018/19 financial year shows it is likely to spend more than the available annual funding by over £3m, which has prompted the public consultation into proposals which involve prioritising the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The council says its spending in this area has been increasing significantly, while funding allocated for it has remained static.
Even though, as a result of lobbying, the council is getting £3.7m more funding in 2019/20 for schools, the council says it is still not enough to meet its current levels of spend, so is proposing to use the bulk of the money to cover the overspend on SEND services. This means that mainstream schools will be the most impacted.
There are approx. 6,600 children and young people under the age of 25 who are classed as needing SEND services. Most of them have their needs met from a schools core fund, which comes from the Schools Block of government grands. There are an additional 1,750 people with significant and complex needs that receive funding from the High Needs Block. To make school funding sustainable in the long term, the authority says it has been working on ways to provide SEND support more effectively so that the same budget is spent in better ways.
A spokesperson for the Council speaking to reporters said: “The main impact of transferring £3m from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block for the 2019/20 year will be felt by our schools through a reduced allocation in their core funding. We are asking for public opinion on this option to confirm whether this would be the public’s preference and if so to advice the Schools Forum and the Secretary of State of local resident’s preference to help inform their decision.”
It has been reported that the council does have two other options, but they would both have direct impact on SEND funding passed onto schools.
Cllr Savage said: “Funding for schools in South Gloucestershire will increase next year by around £3.7m as a result of successful lobbying the council undertook in conjunction with others to ensure the Government introduced the new national funding formula. The options we are considering relate to that increase, of which £3m we believe will help us meet the growing pressures in supporting pupils with Send. We do still feel there is a strong case for South Gloucestershire to receive a fairer share of funding for our schools and will of curse continue setting out our case for more funding through continued lobbying.”
The consultation runs until 25th November. There will be three public consultations on 15th October from 6pm to 7.30pm at Yate Outdoor Sports Complex on 8th November from 10.30am to noon at BAWA, Southmead Road, Filton and on 19th November from 6pm to 7.30pm at Cleve Rugby Club, Mangotsfield.
The final decision will be made in February 2019 following consideration of feedback and a possible decision from the Secretary of State for Education.
There are more details on the Council’s website and paper copies can be picked up in libraries and One Stop Shops.