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(UK) $1.2B bailout to councils; "make mainstream schools more inclusive"

Mar 17, 2023, Schools Week: Council SEND deficit bailouts hit £1bn [$1.2B] as 20 more issued

Councils told to make mainstream schools more inclusive in new wave of handouts

Twenty more councils will be forced to make sweeping changes to their special educational needs (SEND) provision in exchange for government bailouts which now total nearly £1 billion [$1.2B].

The latest announcement means ministers have sealed “safety valve” deals of £989 million with 34 councils to help plug high needs funding deficits since 2020-21 (see latest councils below).

But the handouts – a key policy of the Department for Educations’ SEND reforms – come with strict conditions.

Town halls have been told to create inclusive cultures – such as an “inclusion charter” – in mainstream schools while reducing spend on expensive independent placements.

Kent, one of the country’s largest councils, is set to receive £142 million [$172M] to eliminate its deficit by 2027-28 – the largest package to date. An initial payment of £56.8 million [$68.9M] will be made by April.

Education and health inspectors have previously slammed SEND services in the region for having “too wide a variation … in commitment to inclusion in schools”.

In return for government cash, Kent must implement a “countywide approach to inclusive education”. This would “build capacity” in mainstream schools and reduce “dependence on specialist provision”.


It must also “implement models of reintegration of children from special/independent schools to mainstream where needs have been met”.

Norfolk has been told to agree an “inclusion charter” with schools in return for £70 million [$85M] by 2028-29.

It should help mainstream schools to support “a greater complexity of need” so they are “stepping back from the over reliance” on the costly independent sector.

In Medway, they must “incentivise inclusion” by providing more funding into the system through top ups to the SEN notional budget – a set amount each school gets for SEND needs.

The funding policy should be reviewed so schools with a higher proportion of children with EHCPs receive additional funding, the agreement says. This is in return for £14 million by 2025-26.

Bolton will receive nearly £7 million [$8.5M] by 2026-27 to “enhance and embed an inclusive culture” in schools to reduce exclusions.

Croydon has clinched £27 million [$33M] by 2026-27 if it increases “leadership capacity” in schools to support pupils with SEND and their families.


Blackpool should “encourage more pupils” with education, health and care plans to remain in mainstream schools “through consistency of advice and guidance”. The council will receive £3.89 million [$4.7M] by 2026-27.

Meanwhile Bexley will be handed nearly £30 million [$36M] by 2028-29. It should “seek to repatriate learners from independent special settings at key points of transition”.

This aims to return at least 16 learners per year to Bexley, saving on average £32,000 in high needs funding and save on travel costs, the agreement says. They should also offer early intervention to children requiring SEN support to “reduce the need” for EHCPs.

Schools Week has revealed how maintained special schools are “bursting at the seams” while council costs soar on private placements and transport….

The agreements are targeted at councils with the largest deficits in their dedicated schools grant budget. If conditions are not met, DfE can withhold payments.

Councils have an estimated combined £2.3 billion [$2.8B] high needs deficit, with ten said to be on the brink of bankruptcy until government stepped in to continue allowing the deficits to sit off their balance sheets until 2026….

THE 20 NEW ‘SAFETY VALVE’ AGREEMENTS Barnsley – £22.9 million Bath and North East Somerset – £19.2 million Bexley – £29.8 million Blackpool – £3.8 million Bolton – £6.5 million Cambridgeshire – £49 million Croydon – £27.4 million Darlington – £6.1 million Haringey – £29.9 million Hounslow – £26.8 million Isle of Wight – £12.6 million Kent – £142 million Medway – £14.3 million Norfolk – £70 million North Somerset – £21.1 million North Tyneside – £19.5 million Slough – £27 million Southwark – £23 million Torbay – £12.9 million Wokingham – £20 million


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