Council needs £5m to ensure special needs schools can keep running

The town hall are proposing to rise council tax 4.99 per cent

Brent Council offices - Credit: Archant

A London council needs to find £5million to ensure it can keep its special needs schools running.

A report presented to Brent Council’s schools’ forum showed it expects to spend around £4.6 million more this year than it receives from a government grant. 

This is despite the council’s allocation increasing by £5m to help address the increased demand for services. 

Council officers put the situation down to an increase in the number of children in Brent needing specialist education, as well as a rise in the number of “complex cases” in the borough. 

They added there has been a push to ensure children who rely on these services can access them locally, rather than being forced out of the borough or towards independent schools. 

The council report said it will review any extra education packages currently in place for pupils – some of which cost up to £20,000-a-year. 

The council could also introduce top-up charges of five per cent to those providing special needs services, which would result in around £39,000 worth of extra income. 

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It also intends to run a £500,000 pilot scheme that will look at how to improve support for those with special education needs. 

The report added the council will continue to lobby the government for more support in this area given the struggles it is facing.  

While there are issues with funding for children with special needs, spending across the wider schools network in Brent is expected to be covered by the government grant. 

Brent's lead councillor for school, Thomas Stephens, said: “This is a national issue with SEND budgets being under pressure across England due to a lack of central government funding.

“A large and growing number of local authorities have a high needs deficit. Working with schools and families, we’ve set out a plan to recover our local deficit, manage demand and invest in more local SEND provision within Brent.

“The council has a new and ambitious SEND Strategy that sets out our plans to support children through the creation of additional school places which has been developed following close engagement with families who have children with SEND.

“Our SEND Capital Programme is expected to deliver 427 SEND places locally – an increase of almost 50 per cent on current local available spaces.

“This will include a new-build SEND school, expansion of existing special schools, further Additionally Resourced Provision (ARP) based in mainstream schools as well as the development of a new post-16 skills centre.

“This will reduce the need to send children to schools out of borough, helping to meet families’ demands for good-quality SEND provision within Brent.”

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