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(UK) England: $13.5B for sped, yet "nearly all" special schools running out of money

July 18, 2023, tes: Nearly all special schools predict budget deficits More than a third of special schools and alternative provision providers are forecasting a deficit as early as next year – with the vast majority expected to be in this position within two or three years

Almost nine in 10 special schools and alternative provision providers are forecasting a deficit budget in the coming years, a survey suggests.

And more than a third say they will be facing a deficit next year, according to a stark report from the National Network of Special Schools for School Business Professionals (NNoSS).

The findings are based on responses, from a survey in June, from 76 special schools and alternative provision settings across England.

The report comes amid concern about how the new teacher pay deal announced last week will affect schools in the specialist sector.

Some 38 per cent of survey respondents predicted their school will be running a deficit budget next year, 27 per cent said they will be in deficit in two years’ time and a further 22 per cent warned this would be the situation in three years’ time.

Only 13.5 per cent of respondents were not expecting a budget deficit in future years. Special schools forced to make cuts

The report also highlights the impact of cuts that special school and AP providers are having to make because of financial pressure.

It says that most cuts have involved a reduction in staff, and it warns that almost 30 per cent of respondents said that they were unable to make further cuts.

Schools are increasingly having to use reserves to avoid deficits, improve premises and meet staff pay increases, the NNoSS says.

The report adds: “Most cuts involve a reduction in staff, including redundancies, not hiring new staff, changing contracts and reducing hours. Schools are also having to make cuts to educational resources and building maintenance, and [are] negotiating with local authorities (LAs) for increases in top-up funding.”…

Almost 90 per cent of survey respondents said that the capital funding they received wasn’t enough to ensure premises are maintained adequately. Of those schools that had applied for condition improvement funds, half had been unsuccessful. Fears over new pay deal

Special-school leaders have also been raising concerns about whether the sector will be able to afford the new teacher pay deal announced by the government last week….

Heads of special schools have repeatedly warned that the sector has not been factored into government assessments about what increases in pay an average school can afford….

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Every child deserves to have access to education that meets their needs. Our recent improvement plan will reform the support system for children with special educational needs and disabilities, prioritising earlier intervention and creating consistent high standards across the country.

“We are also putting significant investment into the high-needs budget, worth £10.5 billion [$13.5B] by 2024-25 - an increase of over 60 per cent in just five years.”


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