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(UK) Cambridgeshire faced with funding choice: SPED or reg. ed; 'We are starting to get into that'

Mar 2, 2020, Hunts Post: Councils proposal to transfer special educational needs funding rejected by government https://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/councils-proposal-to-transfer-special-educational-needs-funding-rejected-by-government-1-6540436 The council had previously asked the government to approve a 1.8 per cent transfer out of the county’s “schools block” budget Cuts in support for Cambridgeshire students with special educational needs and disabilities are expected this year as the sector faces a £6.6 million [$8.5M US] shortfall. Cambridgeshire County Council's latest and last effort to shift more education funding to its "high needs" budget for the year failed on Tuesday (February 25). The council had previously asked the government to approve a 1.8 per cent transfer out of the county's "schools block" budget - a government grant directly for primary and secondary schools - to the "high needs block" budget, which supports a range of special education needs and disability (SEND) programmes and support, including special schools, as well as behavioural support. When the government blocked the 1.8 per cent transfer, the council then attempted to pass a 0.5 per cent transfer, which is the most it can move between its ring-fenced grants without government approval - but the Schools Forum rejected that proposal on Tuesday. … Ahead of the decision, the council's director for education, Jonathan Lewis, told the Schools Forum that the county's high needs education services face changes and cuts whatever they decided to do. He said: "We have been very clearly directed by the secretary of state to implement cuts in funding for high needs children. That's the reality. We are very open. If people think there are better ways of dealing with it, I think put your hand up now and tell me, because this is obviously going to be very serious. But we can't see any other way". … He added: "We will have to reduce services to children and young people. We are cutting, essentially, what they are being offered. And that's really challenging for us because we still need to meet need. "The legal obligation is still to meet the need - it will have to be in a different way. Whilst we talk about cuts, we will also need to talk about service transformation and different ways of doing the same thing". … Dr Kim Taylor OBE, headteacher of Spring Common Academy, a special school in Huntingdon, argued in the Schools Forum for a transfer from the general schools budget to high needs. "These special needs children are everyone's children. Our strategy in SEND is everyone's business," she said. "We can't end up in a system where we only support the most able children - but we are starting to get into that". … Despite the discussion on cuts and changes to services, funding for the county's schools is due to rise this year. The total schools grant from government to Cambridgeshire will be £368.2million, up 6.7 per cent compared with 2019/20, the latest council figures show. Funding for pupils with SEND has also increased, by around nine per cent, to £75million. But the council says demand is increasing faster, and the sector has overspent for several years, leaving a deficit. Mr Lewis told the Schools Forum: "We are still seeing a huge amount of increase in requests for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) coming through. We are running at three times the level we were 12 months ago for requests". …