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(UK) Hillingdon: Primary school pop. down, "demands for SEND...on the rise"

April 25, 2024, Harrow Online: Council greenlights £10M school expansions plan in Hillingdon

(London Borough)

Hillingdon Council’s cabinet has approved plans for £10m [$13M] of spending on school expansions across the borough.

The move will increase the council’s ability to accommodate growing numbers of students with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

While overall demand for primary school places has gone down, with the council projecting a reduction of 18 primary school classes by 2026, demands for SEND school places are on the rise. In a report presented to the council officers wrote: “Hillingdon’s children and young people are the future of Hillingdon. . . .

The report notes that the total number of pupils with Education, Health and Care plans (ECHPs) in Hillingdon schools rose by 23.5 per cent in the 3 years between October 2020 and October 2023 census, a rise of 440. Of the 2,313 children and young people, 1,038 (44.9 per cent) are in special schools, with the remaining children and young people attending mainstream schools. . . .

The largest growth in demand is for pupils with Autism Spectrum Conditions, many with additional complex secondary needs. Hillingdon has two community special schools and five academy special schools, all of which are facing high demand with children filling spaces as soon as they are vacated . . .

The largest by far is Meadow High School Expansion where the council has agreed to commit £9.26m. Pinkwell Primary School Expansion will also receive funding of £413,000 while Wood End Park Academy will be assigned £324,000 [$405K] to establish an extra 24 places for pupils with Autism.

The spending commitment comes as the council’s budget reports a projected deficit of £29m [$36M] in its school budget. This comes after Hillingdon reports that discussions with the Department for Education failed to gain commitments for further grant funding.

The report adds the issue of mounting Dedicated Schools Grant deficits remains a national issue, with projections for a £4bn [$5B] deficit across the country forming a key strand to lobbying by sector bodies such as the LGA and London Councils.


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