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(UK) BCP: D of E offers bailout for SPED debt; "councils must curb spending"

Feb 2, 2024, New Milton Advertiser: Schools and parents of SEND children hit out at BCP Council’s plan to sign up to the Department for Education’s Safety Valve programme

S. England

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole 

EVERY parent of a school age child should be worried about this” was the stark warning in response to BCP Council’s plans to push more children with special educational needs into mainstream schools to cut costs.

The cash-strapped authority has been asked by the Department for Education to sign up to its so-called Safety Valve programme, which is designed essentially to bail out struggling councils who have overspent on their “high needs” budget.

In exchange, councils must curb spending on their provision for SEND children to avoid the deficit, which for BCP stands at £35.8m, [$45M] building up again.

BCP Council wants to sign up to the government’s Safety Valve Campaign under a 15-year framework.

BCP wants to slash the number of children with special needs being placed in independent specialist schools, which is costly to the council, instead putting requirements on mainstream schools to provide places.

But parents, teachers and SEND children packed out a meeting of the council’s children’s services overview and scrutiny committee to voice massive concern over the proposals.,,,

“Our already overstretched teachers have not had the training to cope with children that are mute, have learning difficulties, flap their hands, screech and scream, bang their heads in frustration, and are aggressive and swear.

“They won’t have the time to provide the support needed.”

Mum Kerry Friend, who said her son had been “totally failed” by the school system due to a lack of resources, said the plan “terrified” her….

The Safety Valve programme would ordinarily require a council’s budget to be balanced within five years. But BCP says this is not workable and has instead proposed a 15-year plan.

“We have to persuade the Department for Education to pay for the deficit, which in 15 years time will be close to £200m [$253M],” he said….


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