Over £6million for SEND students in Essex still leaves funding black hole

The funding shortfall for SEND pupils in Essex is £8.6million despite the funding from central gover

The funding shortfall for SEND pupils in Essex is £8.6million despite the funding from central government Picture: GREENACRE8 - Credit: Archant

A huge government cash injection for special needs students in Essex will not fill the massive funding gap for the services.

Even with the second-highest sum given to a council in England, Essex County Council will still not have enough to cover the cost of all the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services it provides county wide - with a projected overspend of £8.6m.

The budget imbalance could potentially leave staff unpaid or services needing scrapping to balance the books.

Jerry Glazier, Essex branch secretary for the National Education Union (NEU), said: “The pressure schools are under is escalating while the government has reduced the real value of money for schools.

“The reduction of staff as a result will affect not just SEND students but students across the board.”

Mr Glazier pointed to a greater focus to identify children with SEND needs as well as a rise in the number of children seeking to use services as additional factors for the rising pressure.

Ray Gooding, county councillor cabinet member for education, said that the ongoing efforts to support SEND pupils should be commended but that problems “will not be solved overnight”.

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“Essex, like many other areas in the country, has seen an increase in demand for specialist SEND services after a rise in the number of children requiring Education Health and Care plans, and those needing special school places,” said Mr Gooding.

“We are already putting longer-term plans in place to transform our SEND services, including our ambitious capital investment programme which will introduce new provision from 2020/21 and therefore reduce spending on high cost, out-of-county placements.”

Essex County Council is set to receive £3,267,560 in 2018/19 and again in the 2019/20 financial year.

The money, split by the Department for Education between local authorities in England, is for schools providing support for any number of children with special educational needs, services like school transport and additional staff to assist pupils.

Brian Sainsbury, headteacher of Woodcroft School in Loughton, Essex, applauded the announcement but is already looking beyond 2020 to ensure his students are supported long-term.

Mr Sainsbury said: “The SEND needs of children appear to be an ever growing consideration as the complexity of 21st century life impacts on their emotional and cognitive development.

“Although £6million looks initially quite a sizeable sum there is an need to ensure appropriate funding is maintained over the coming years as the demands upon the sector continues to increase.”

In December 2018, the government announced that £250million will be given to local councils to support provision for children and young people with SEND.

Witham MP Priti Patel welcomed the funding for Essex, saying: “This additional investment for local SEND services is positive news and will help to improve support and outcomes for children and young people with SEND needs.”