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(UK) Bristol: 'High needs' costs 'unsustainable'; almost 20% of students SPED

Feb 13, 2023, Bristol Live: Bristol’s spending on expensive special needs education becoming ‘unsustainable’

SW England

The huge amount of cash spent on providing expensive special needs education is becoming “unsustainable” the mayor has warned. Demand and costs for special educational needs (SEN) is rising across the country, with Bristol facing a growing budget black hole.
In an effort to stop these costs spiralling, the Department for Education has given Bristol City Council £1 million [$1.2M] to explore what reforms can be brought in. While details of the reforms are not fully clear, they’re expected to begin by this April, affecting thousands of children.
This year, the council budgeted £78.5 million [$95M] for its “high needs block”, and next year this will increase to £86.5 million [$105M]. But this is still not enough cash to cover costs, with this year’s deficit expected to be £44 million [$53M], and growing next year to a whopping £63 million [$76M].

The reforms include increasing specialist places, providing extra funding to schools for early intervention work, and ensuring therapies are good quality. Details of the work and new government cash were given to the cabinet, on Tuesday, February 7.

Mayor Marvin Rees said: “Like so many other councils, Bristol is accruing a significant deficit in the dedicated schools grant budget. In Bristol the overspend on the high needs block budget has been increasing year on year to the point at which it has become unsustainable.

“The DfE is running some intervention programmes to assist local authorities with deficits to achieve high needs spending sustainability. This funding aims to support local authorities to improve delivery of SEN services for children and young people while trying to ensure services are sustainable.”

As of October last year, 11,892 pupils in Bristol had special educational needs, almost one fifth of the total school population. Of these, 9,284 are receiving support for special educational needs, and 2,608 have an education, health and care plan….

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