Huge funding shortfall for special educational needs support

More funds are needed for special educational needs support in schools.

More funds are needed for special educational needs support in schools. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Schools in North Somerset face a £3million funding shortfall in special educational needs provision, according to the National Education Union (NEU).

The Government has increased funding from £5billion to £6.3billion over the past five years, but the NEU says the rise does not take into account the increase in pupils schools have to provide for.

North Somerset Council says it is planning 'significant increases' in provision to cope with the increase in demand for education support.

A spokesman said: "Councils across the country, including North Somerset, are facing pressures in funding for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) as a result of funding not keeping up with increases in demand.

"We are planning significant increases in the provision of local places for children with SEND over the next few years in order help reduce this pressure."

Children and young people with special educational needs are given an education, health and care plan (EHC) by North Somerset Council.

In January 2015, there were 534 children in North Somerset with an EHC plan or a statement of special educational needs - which was replaced by the EHC.

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The budget for high needs pupils in 2015-16 was £17.9million in today's terms - the equivalent of £35,643 per pupil.

In 2018-19, the budget had only increased by 30 per cent, but the number of pupils needing support had gone up by 60 per cent, to 856 children.

The NEU estimates this has meant a cut of £4,159 in per-pupil funding - the equivalent of £3.1million for 2018-19.

Since then, the number of children with an EHC plan has increased by another five per cent, reaching 900 in January this year.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: "This is clearly a crisis, with pupils and parents bearing the brunt of real-terms funding cuts and the wholly inadequate planning by Government.

"Thousands of children and young people are missing out on the education they need and deserve, causing misery and worry among families struggling to get support for their children."

The NEU says a lack of funding is leading to cuts in specialist provision, a loss of specialist support staff, and increased waiting times for assessment.