(UK) Funding..."not adequate to keep up with increasing numbers of children who need extra support"

May 4, 2022, Bracknell News: Wokingham SEND students sent miles away for their education

Near London SEND (special educational needs and disability) students in the borough are being sent many miles away to receive an education, an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has revealed.

The data shows that 13 SEND pupils from Wokingham are being sent to educational settings more than 100 miles away, with one student sent to Bolton – a distance of 200 miles.

Other notable examples include two pupils sent 197 miles away to Yorkshire in the north-east and one 162 miles to Torbay in the south-west.

In total, 507 Wokingham students have been sent to schools or other education settings outside of their home local authority.

At the same, more than 150 SEND students from other local authorities have been sent to Wokingham for their education – with 99 of those coming from neighbouring Reading borough – as some are unable to find places because they are being taken by children from other parts of the country.

A spokesman for the Disabled Children's Partnership, a coalition of 100 children's and disability charities, Stephen Kingdom, said the BIJ’s investigation had exposed “worrying data about the distances disabled children are travelling just to go to school.”

Government figures show that, In the 2020/21 academic year, over a million children across England required additional help with their learning and education, which has been steadily increasing since 2015.

In many parts of the country, the funding available is not adequate to keep up with the increasing numbers of children who need extra support. As a result, there is a growing financial black hole at the centre of the SEND system.

In 2020/21, Wokingham Council’s Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), which includes funding for Education Health and Care (EHC) plans, showed a deficit of £6.535m [$806M], according to its monthly budget performance documents.

The BIJ investigation forecasts that this deficit will increase by a further £3.1m [$3.8M by the end of 2021/22 to £9.642m [12M] - an increase of 47.5 per cent on the previous year.

The data also reveals that the special needs deficit across England has reached at least £1.3bn [$1.6B]— an increase of around £450m [$555M] since last year.

Councils blame rising demand and increasing complexity of need, issues exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and a shortage of local government-funded SEND provision for the deficit.

The borough had previously received a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) from an Ofsted inspector to address “significant areas of weakness” in its SEND performance. …