Deputy Mayor urges the Government to reform vital SEND funding
The Deputy Mayor of Hackney has warned of a “hidden education crisis” – as a freeze in government funding for pupils with special educational needs means councils in London are being forced to plug a funding gap of £100m.
High needs funding, which allows local authorities to support young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has effectively been frozen since 2011-12. This is despite a major increase in the pupil population and reforms in 2014, which significantly increased the number of children who are eligible to receive support, leading to a 34% increase in the number of young people Hackney supports.
In Hackney there is a funding forecast shortfall of over £6m, but the impact is being felt across the capital. Research carried out by London Councils found that, in 2016/17, 26 out of 31 London boroughs reported a combined funding shortfall of £100m.
To meet this shortfall, councils are using money from other education funding pots, and are drawing on reserves – which is not sustainable in the long term. Next year funding is expected to rise by 0.5% - but this is nowhere near enough to fill the shortfall.
Deputy Mayor of Hackney, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, urging her to reform this vital funding.
The funding of SEND is a hidden crisis in our education system and is threatening the quality of education and support we can offer to our most vulnerable young people. The National Funding Formula rightly sparked a national debate, but this funding freeze means councils are running out of choices.
In Hackney, we will be forced to reduce the amount of high needs top-up funding we give to schools by 5%. Reducing funding is absolutely the last thing we want to do, and it’s been a hard decision to make. As a former SEN teacher, I know the importance of adequate funding, but there simply is no other option left to us.
It is absolutely crucial that the Government changes the way that this vital funding is calculated and distributed, and take into account the growing demand.