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London facing annual £57m special educational needs shortfall

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The allocation of extra funding for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) will cover just over a quarter of the funding shortfall facing councils in London, it is claimed.

Analysis by London Councils has found local authorities in the capital will collectively receive £21m extra a year from the overall pledge of £250m over two years. However, the organisation said London boroughs have already faced a collective funding shortfall for SEND services totalling £78m in 2017-18.

The extra £250m, announced by education secretary Damian Hinds on Sunday, will be allocated using projected child population levels.

However, if the government used the current allocation formula for high-needs funding, which was introduced in April and includes level of need as well as population, councils in the capital would have received an extra £9m over the next two years, London Councils said.

The analysis showed that, under the formula which will be used as compared to the high-needs forumla, county councils will receive an extra £8m over the two years and metropolitan areas an additional £2m. Unitary authorities will receive £1m less than if the high-needs formula had been used.

Nickie Aiken (Con), London Councils’ executive member for schools and children’s services, welcomed the extra funding but called for a government rethink.

“London is set to receive additional funding of just £21m per year, a quarter of what is needed to cover the annual funding shortfall in budgets for children and young people in London with SEND,” she said. “We urge central government to look again at using the high needs funding formula to allocate this extra funding, as well as investing more resources in supporting children with SEND on a longer term basis.”

A County Councils Network spokesperson said the organisation has been calling for further resources to address the financial pressures facing all top-tier councils. 

They added: “Counties face specific pressures in high needs services; they remain the lowest-funded areas in schools funding, despite the introduction of the new formula, with the average county receiving 43% less per pupil compared to the average local authority in central London.

”Alongside a projected £175m shortfall in their high needs block alone between 2016 and 2019, county authorities are spending a third more on special educational needs home to school transport compared to four years ago.”

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

In addition to the extra £250m, which comes on top of a high needs budget of £6bn this year, Mr 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.

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