(UK) Gloucestershire forced to cut SPED funding; $16.2M (US) shortfall

Feb 7, 2019, Bristol Live: Parents' despair as schools to get less money to spend on their SEND children Schools in South Gloucestershire are to have their SEND funding cut to the despair of parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities. The Conservative cabinet of the local authority has approved a new fourth approach to funding for SEND children after three options proved unpopular during consultation. … A spokesman for the council said the “Ready Reckoner” tool will bring average SEND spending back in line with that of neighbouring authorities. But parents say it will reduce the amount of SEND funding available for children who were “being failed anyway” and that the tool is discriminatory. Faced with a £12.5million [$16.2M US dollars] hole in its education budget at the end of this academic year, South Gloucestershire Council must find a way to reduce spending in schools already struggling on shoestring budgets. The council’s top-up SEND spending is higher than its neighbours largely due to the transport costs required to send those children out-of-area for their schooling due to a lack of local provision. It consulted on three proposals including one to shift £3million from mainstream schools to the SEND budget. … No money will be transferred from mainstream schools to the SEND budget in 2019/20 and the new tool for allocating top-up funding will be phased in over three years. Introducing the tool straight away would have seen SEND top-up funding for mainstream schools cut by an estimated £3.2million in 2019/20. A spokesman for the council said that spending reductions of £1million per year are expected with the phased approach. … Parents of SEND children who addressed cabinet members before they took their decision on Monday were strongly opposed to the introduction of the new tool…. She pointed to the council’s own report which concluded the negative impact of the tool would most likely be felt by SEND children, especially those with autism, communication difficulties, social, emotional and mental health needs, younger people and black children. “Focusing cuts on mainstream SEND funding will only lead to even higher rates of exclusion and off-rolling,” she said…. The council said the new option took into account consultation feedback and an extra £1.2million for SEND support in South Gloucestershire announced last year by the Government…. Council leader and cabinet member for schools Toby Savage said: “The current inability of our local education system to deliver consistently good outcomes for all children with SEND and their families, whilst providing good value for the taxpayer, means that change is needed – we have got to get better at all working together. “We are investing in new specialist school places locally and working more closely than ever with our existing schools to ensure that more children with SEND can have their needs met closer to home, whilst securing value for money to the taxpayer….