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£50m boost for special educational needs and disabilities places

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Councils will receive £50m to create additional places and facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities, the government has announced.

In a statement today, the Department for Education said the funding will help create about 740 new school places and is in addition to £680m also pledged to create more general places in good schools.

The DfE said the aim of the funding to councils is to remove “barriers” to a good education for children with additional needs and brings the total investment for this purpose to £265m, following the announcement of a £215m fund last year.

More than half of councils in England will receive more than £225,000 to increase schools’ capacity, with all councils set to receive at least £115,000, the DfE said.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said the funding would create school places that meet children’s individual needs and support them “to achieve their full potential, regardless of the challenges they may face”.

Richard Watts (Lab), chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, welcomed the new funding but warned councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties to children if the cash injection is a “one-off”. He called for “significant, on-going and sustainable funding” and added: “This is why we are calling for an urgent review of funding to meet the unprecedented rise in demand for support from children with special needs.”

Cllr Watts also welcomed the government’s pledge of further funding for general school places, but said councils are best placed to support the government in building new free schools and ensuring existing school buildings are “fit for purpose”.

“But the current school capital funding system is highly fragmented, and should be replaced with a single local funding pot, which brings together existing programmes to create additional places, and rebuild, maintain and repair schools,” he said.

Earlier this month, county leaders called for an urgent meeting with the education secretary over “unsustainable” rising demand for services supporting children with special educational needs.

Research by LGC in March found significant weaknesses in support for children with special educational needs and disabilities are being identified in an increasing number of areas, amid concern funding is insufficient to meet rising demand.

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