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Councils attack ministers over need to ‘raid state school funding to support special needs children’

2 min read

Senior Tory councillors have hit out at the Government for being put in the “unsustainable” position of having to funnel spending marked for state schools into supporting special needs children.

In a letter to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, the County Councils Network said authorities may be forced to cut more teaching staff, while rural schools could be made to shut without a funding boost.

According to the Independent, nearly £200m was overspent by county councils on the grant for children with special educational needs in just three years.

Meanwhile a survey conducted by the body, which represents 37 English councils, found that eight authorities transferred £43m from schools in the past four years to compensate for overspends and to fulfil their statutory duties.

In a letter to Mr Hinds, two senior Tory councillors said it was “regrettable” that money intended for another group of children had to be moved, adding: “I am sure that you will agree that this is not a desirable or sustainable position.” 

“Whilst the sector hopes that there is an opportunity to put in place a long term solution through the forthcoming spending review, I would welcome an urgent discussion with you about how we can ensure that [the high needs block] is properly resourced in the current financial year.”

Paul Carter, chairman of the CCN and the Conservative leader of Kent County Council, wrote the letter alongside Ian Hudspeth, an executive member of CCN and the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council.

Mr Carter said: “Schools have had to make significant sufficiency savings already to sustain anymore would materially affect the education of the pupils in their schools. We are on a cliff edge now.”

Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner said schools should “not have to choose” between funding extra support for children with special educational needs and “providing the basics that every child deserves in the classroom”.

“The Education Secretary and the chancellor promised every school a cash boost to their budget, but now they have abandoned their own guarantee. 

“Schools have been left scrambling to fill the gaps in their budgets, with more cuts the inevitable consequence of their failure to give them the resources they need.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6b this year – the highest on record.

“Thanks to the additional £1.3b funding announced last year, every local authority will see an increase in their high needs funding over the next two years.”

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