Support costs wrangle

Scottish ministers have been asked to adjudicate in a bitter cross-boundary war between Glasgow and East Renfrewshire over who should pay additional support costs for pupils living in one authority but educated in the other.

Although the Additional Support for Learning Act was intended to reduce such wrangles, East Renfrewshire has submitted 18 cases, "two individual cases and a job lot of 16", to the Scottish Executive for determination in six months.

Glasgow insists that the new legislation means the educating authority is responsible for all costs, support and decisions regarding any pupil with support needs who, despite residing in Glasgow, opts to be educated in another authority.

East Renfrewshire argues that it is a net importer of pupils on placing requests - 2,000 a year, 400 of whom have additional support needs. Of these, about 25 have significant support needs, it is estimated. It says it can't afford to pay for the support without help from their home authority.

Ian Fraser, head of education services, estimates it is costing his authority pound;200,000 a year to pay for the support of children from outwith East Renfrewshire - money which, before the ASL Act went through, was passed on from the residential authority.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: "There are similar need profiles of children in Glasgow schools attending on placing requests.

Glasgow meets the costs of any additional supports for them."

She added that, of all Glasgow's neighbouring authorities, East Renfrewshire was the only one with which it was in dispute. "In our opinion the new ASL Act is clear. If a Glasgow parent decides to educate his or her child in another authority, and the other authority accepts that child into its system, then the responsibility for costs falls on the educating authority."

Mr Fraser argues that East Renfrewshire is a special case: "Most of the other authorities like East and West Dunbartonshire are in a quid pro quo situation. But there are no youngsters with special needs going from East Renfrewshire to mainstream schools in Glasgow."

In April, the executive decided that Glasgow should contribute to the support costs of a pupil residing in Glasgow who was being educated in East Renfrewshire. The case, which pre-dated the new legislation, was of a pupil who did not have a record of needs, but required additional support.

Glasgow is still disputing the finding and East Renfrewshire is angry that it has received no contribution.

Mr Fraser says the new legislation cannot force a council to contribute to costs: "We can't refuse placing requests if there are places in our schools, and disability discrimination legislation means that we can't refuse placing requests if someone has special needs."

Kenneth Macintosh, MSP for Eastwood and a member of the parliamentary education committee, says the Scottish Executive offered reassurances that there were mechanisms to resolve such disputes: "It was not the intention of the legislation for Glasgow to divest itself of responsibility for its own inhabitants."


* One autistic pupil on a placing request from Glasgow should be attending East Renfrewshire's special unit at Carlibar for communication difficulties or autistic spectrum disorders. However, Ian Fraser says that, because Glasgow won't pay, the authority has had to deny him the most appropriate support for his needs.

* Another pupil with a behavioural disorder is supported by an auxiliary and attends a special programme run by Quarriers. His family has moved to Glasgow but Glasgow City Council is not contributing to his support. Mr Fraser warns that if the boy's behaviour deteriorates, he runs the risk of being excluded - in which case he will have to be educated in Glasgow.

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