Revealed: The £643m black hole in SEND funding

Campaigners warn that specialist teaching is being cut and any additional government funding is having ‘little impact’
6th December 2020, 10:47am
Tes Reporter

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Revealed: The £643m black hole in SEND funding

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/revealed-ps643m-black-hole-send-funding
Send Support: There Is A £643 Million Shortfall In Send Funding, Analysis Shows

Almost 90 per cent of councils in England overspent on their budgets for teaching children with special educational needs and disabilities last year, with the total funding gap amounting to £643 million.

According to figures reported in The Observer and collated by the website Special Needs Jungle, 132 upper-tier councils in England (of 151) overspent their high needs block (HNB) grant that is used for SEND education in 2019-20. Only nine councils did not record an overspend, and no data was available for the other 10.

This brought the total HNB shortfall in England to £643 million. Councils partly mitigated this by taking £112 million from other funding pots, including other parts of their education budgets, according to the report. The underfunding is expected to continue into 2021.


Background: Financial future of SEND system is fragile, DfE admits

Read more: DfE 'lacks sufficient grip' on SEND provision

Coronavirus: Warning over 1 in 4 special school pupils 'sat at home'


Gillian Doherty, of campaign group SEND Action, told The Observer: "It's really concerning that the majority of local authorities are still in deficit. The 'additional funding' for SEND has not been sufficient to address existing deficits and funding shortfalls and has therefore made little impact on frontline services for disabled children and young people.

SEND funding: Support system 'is fragile'

"We are still seeing cuts to specialist teaching services and top-up funding for mainstream schools in some areas, and many schools are seeing real-terms cuts in per-pupil funding."

A Department for Education spokesperson defended the government's record on funding for education across the country: "We've announced the biggest increase in school funding in a decade and are increasing high-needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and £730 million next year."

Despite this, last month a review of the SEND system was launched after the Department for Education annual report concluded that the future sustainability of the system in England "remains fragile".

The report showed a rise of 200,000 in the number of pupils with SEND, from 1.1 million to 1.3 million.

It stated that SEND costs had increased "significantly more than available funding", identifying the risk as "stable" but "high".

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