Below is basically a County Council press release I’ve copied and pasted. The link to the original is at the bottom.
I’m not an expert on this so some details in my commentary here may be slightly off but the County Council has had far too little funding for Special Educational Needs for a period of time, the government told the County Council to ring fence the deficit on the basis that they would offer some solution. So the County Council did that but had a deficit which grew by about £20million a year which for a County Council is absolutely unsustainable. Where a County Council has a significant black hole in their accounts and the government offers to help find a solution the County Council does not find itself in a great negotiating position. The extra places and funding for two new settings are definitely a good outcome although funding for ‘105 new places in mainstream schools across the county’ does not feel like a big number or even a big enough number. The ‘deal’ agreed is that the County Council has to follow government policy in this area so for example funding for transport for SEND children to access after school clubs has already been cut as part of this deal. There will be no doubt be other discretionary policies within the county which will have to go.
This is a complex area and others are more on top of the detail but if you would like to know more or this affects you or your family and you have additional questions about this or connected issues please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I might not know the answer but I can find out.
County Council Press Release and explainer
Special Education needs
Pressure on school places for children in Cambridgeshire with additional needs could be eased thanks to an agreement forged by the county council with national Government which will see almost 600 new school places created in the next three years.
The council’s bid for extra money came through a process known as a ‘Safety Valve’. Under the agreement with the Department for Education (DfE), the local authority will use the funds to balance its budget for children with additional needs by 2026/7. Without it, the council would have to make widespread cuts in its support for children with SEND.
The package of support announced by DfE is worth £49 million to Cambridgeshire County Council. It is part of the Safety Valve programme which supports local authorities and aims to drive service improvement, with better value for money in a sustainable way.
The Government has also allocated a further £11.3m for capital funding to Cambridgeshire to support new SEND provision on mainstream school sites.
The funding will help tackle a gap in the budget for SEND provision which is expected to hit around £58 million by the end of this month – caused by demand for services far outstripping government funding to Cambridgeshire for SEND services over the past six years.
As part of the agreement, Cambridgeshire will make a contribution of £9 million over five years towards the reduction in the overall deficit of the Dedicated Schools Grant.
Requests for Education, Health and Care Plans in Cambridgeshire – the document which describes a young person’s special needs and the support they will need to meet their educational goals – have more than doubled from 3,429 in 2016 to more than 7,000 currently.
The challenging picture in Cambridgeshire is one being faced by many local authorities across the country with more than half also in deficit for their High Needs budget – the money allocated by the DfE to be spent on SEND provision.
Cambridgeshire has historically received less funding per child for education than other areas. This is while still responding to a rapidly growing population of children with special educational needs and disabilities who are presenting with greater complexities, some of which relates to young people suffering more with social, emotional and mental health arising from the Covid pandemic.
To meet these challenges, the council will use the new funding to create 463 new special school places. There will also be extra support for 105 pupils at mainstream schools by September 2026 through a programme of expanding current sites and building new schools. The council has also applied to the free school programme for two new special schools in Fenland and Gamlingay.
As part of the agreement, the council has committed to deliver changes to the high needs system to make it sustainable in the long term – working with parents and carers and the wider education system. These changes include:
- Working in a more transparent and consistent way with partners and parents when awarding Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and ensuring appropriate provision is put in place;
- Developing a special schools outreach model to help support children and young people with SEND in mainstream provision;
- Developing new provision for pupils currently on tuition packages to access mainstream school settings;
- Ensuring support and training exists so there is a consistent offer of support in mainstream schools including funding to support pupils without an EHCP;
- Strengthening processes around mediation and disputes in order to reduce the requirement for tribunals;
- Increasing independence of children and young people by targeting reviews to ensure provision is appropriate, meets needs and promotes independence.