South Gloucestershire’s Conservative Cabinet has backed away from taking a major step to deal with a deficit in the budget for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
In a recent public consultation exercise the Tory-run council expressed its preference to move £3 million from the budget for mainstream schools to help plug a deficit in the SEND budget used to support children with the most complex needs. This is something which nearly 70% of local authorities are forced to do in response to local pressures. However, a Government move to curtail this flexibility now means that the Tory Secretary of State would need to give permission for this.
However, the district’s ruling Cabinet voted yesterday to transfer nothing new from the mainstream budget. Instead it voted to put £0.6 million of new funding recently supplied by government towards the SEND budget. The Schools Forum, a body which represents all South Gloucestershire schools, had been prepared to transfer some £0.73 million from the budget for mainstream schools, but again the Secretary of State would need to give permission for this.
Commenting on yesterday’s decision, Labour’s Lead on education matters, Councillor Gareth Manson, says:
“Many South Gloucestershire residents will find it very hard to understand why the council’s ruling Conservatives have done this about turn. Many will conclude that their decision was not based on what they thought was best for local children and young people and their education budget, but instead was based on avoiding having to ask their Secretary of State an awkward question.
This issue must not gloss over the fact that the government is not investing enough in our children and young people or the long-term future of the SEND budget.
In real terms, funding of schools has fallen by 8% since 2010 and South Gloucestershire is 150th out of 150 local authorities in terms of per pupil funding, so we have a significant shortfall in funding for all of our children and young people.”
5 February 2019