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£350m funding boost for struggling SEND support

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The government has pledged an additional £250m over the next two years for councils to provide support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In addition to this sum, which comes on top of the high needs budget of £6bn this year, yesterday education secretary Damien Hinds announced a further £100m to create more places for SEND children in mainstream schools, colleges and specialist schools.

Earlier this month Ofsted’s chief inspector of education and children’s services Amanda Spielman criticised the numbers of children with special needs not receiving adequate support and raised serious concerns over the number of vulnerable children being excluded from school.

Councils have warned the system for supporting children with SEND is “buckling” and called on the government to act to stem spiralling overspends.

Mr Hinds said he recognised high needs budgets face “significant pressures”.

“Every school or college should be one for a young person with special educational needs; every teacher should be equipped to teach them, and families need to feel supported,” Mr Hinds added.

The government also said it is to establish an advisory SEND system leadership board in a bid to encourage councils to work more closely with health and social care services to commission support.

Ms Spielman’s annual Ofsted report said 30 of the 68 areas inspected on SEND provision had been ordered to make improvements.

She added inspectors had begun revisiting areas where significant concerns had been identified.

“It is vital that this additional investment makes a much-needed difference to the quality of provision and outcomes achieved by this group of children and young people,” Ms Spielman said.

Responding to the announcement, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board Anntoinette Bramble (Lab) said she was pleased the government had responded to concerns over SEND support but added the extra funding would not address deficits for these services which could reach £800m in 2019-20.

“Parents rightly expect and aspire to see that their child has the best possible education and support, and councils have done all they can to achieve this,” she added.

“However, councils are reaching the point where the money is simply not there to keep up with demand, pushing support for children with SEND to a tipping point.”

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