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ENGLAND: $135M for 15 special schools; not enough to cover shortage

Mar 6, 2024, Schools Week: Budget 2024: £105m [$135M] for 15 special free schools, and nothing else

Plus no news on tutoring cash extension suggests 'curtain has crashed down' on scheme

The government will spend £105 million [$135M] opening 15 new special free schools, the chancellor announced at the budget, which included no other investment for the sector.

Jeremy Hunt’s budget was heavy on tax cuts but light on public spending, with no further revenue funding to help schools deal with rising pressures.

He also announced a “public sector productivity plan” aimed at making public services including education more efficient, but did not detail how this would affect schools.

There was also no mention of the National Tutoring Programme, suggesting funding for subsidised tuition will come to an end this summer as planned.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the chancellor “spent more time name-checking film stars than he did on education”.

“A building programme for special schools is welcome but does not address the wider crisis in special educational needs funding.”

It comes after the Department for Education’s own analysis predicted schools only have headroom of 1.2 per cent in their budgets for next year.

Here’s what you need to know …

1. 15 new special schools (but not for years)

In budget documents, the Treasury said it was “committing an initial £105 million towards a wave of 15 new special free schools to create over 2,000 additional places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across England”.

“This will help more children receive a world-class education and builds on the significant levels of capital funding for SEND invested at the 2021 Spending Review.”

Locations will be announced by May this year. The Treasury said the DfE will then run a competition to find trusts to run the schools, and “once trusts have been appointed, we expect to open schools in three to four years”.

However, this likely will not cover the shortage of SEND places in many areas, and as Schools Week has revealed – delivery of the schools is sluggish, with many promised years ago still not open.

The government has also confirmed the location of 20 alternative provision free schools, which were originally announced as part of a £2.6 billion [$3.3B] capital investment at the 2021 spending review. . . .


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