A major shortfall in the special educational needs and disability (SEND) budget across London amounts to £100 million, according to new research by London Councils released today.
The funding gap reveals the extent to which the government is not providing vulnerable young people with the support they need at school or college, claim campaigners.
The number of pupils in the capital with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) – the measure of more complex special educational needs and disabilities – has increased by 10 per cent since 2013-14, a higher rate of growth than seen in any other region in England.
However, this rise has not been reflected in government funding, with high-needs allocations to London boroughs having increased by just 2 per cent (£14 million) over the same period, according to the research.
The shortfall is forcing local authorities to break their budgets in order to ensure that pupils receive a high-quality education tailored to their needs. A survey of 31 London boroughs showed that SEND budgets were underfunded by £100 million in 2016-17.
The situation is set to worsen, with the number of pupils with SEND expected to increase in the coming years amid mounting concern that the current funding arrangements are unsustainable.
Funding 'doesn't match growing demand'
Peter John, deputy chair of London Councils, said: “Boroughs are committed to providing support to meet every child’s needs, but, alarmingly, government funding is failing to keep pace with demand in London.”
He added “The number of pupils with SEND in London is set to rise in the coming years, which is why we are urging government to review funding allocations now to ensure schools across the capital are able to meet the needs of their most vulnerable pupils.”
This comes just weeks after Tes revealed how pupils in local authorities across England are set to lose out as a result of the new national funding formula. Under the new approach, just 0.5 per cent of the bulk of school funding – known as the “schools block” – can be reallocated for pupils with “high needs” if needed. This means that many local authorities that have reallocated a higher percentage in the past will effectively be forced to cut the amounts spend on SEND.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are investing an additional £1.3billion in school funding and under the new national funding formula, every local authority will see an increase in funding for high needs. We have protected the high needs budget in real terms over the next two years, but we know there are local pressures, and we are providing additional funding, including £130 million this year to help local authorities with high needs costs."