(UK) Lancashire: Special school to expand to 278 students; $55M (U.S.) shortfall by 2023

Oct 5, 2020, Lancashire Post: Preston special school set for expansion as appeal launched for more mainstream places Northwest England A special school in Preston could be poised to add 100 pupils to its roll under plans being considered by Lancashire County Council. The authority is about to launch a consultation into the expansion of Sir Tom Finney Community High on Ribbleton Hall Avenue. Subject to the outcome, the school intends to open a currently unoccupied upper floor – creating an additional 100 places and improved facilities for its existing 178 students. Headteacher Shaun Jukes said he was “delighted” that an expansion may be on the horizon. “It’s quite exciting that we could be able to offer what we do to more pupils. “Our lower floor is designed for 145 pupils, so we’re actually operating over capacity at the moment…. “We have been working with the county council looking at ways to secure funding to expand for several years,” Mr. Jukes added…. Meanwhile, mainstream schools across Lancashire will once again be asked to consider adding units for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities – after a previous call was answered by less than a fifth of the hoped-for number…. County Hall intends to create an additional 288 places to meet additional demand and also to address the fact that the proportion of Lancashire SEND pupils educated in special schools is 10 percent higher than the England average, at 42 percent…. County Cllr Williamson pledged that the authority would be “very creative and encouraging of schools” when it repeats its appeal. “One or two schools were understandably put off from making any commitment because of the Covid situation – they wanted to see how things went and get back into running their schools as they are now [before thinking] again,” she added. The county council had identified six areas where it aimed to introduce two units at both primary and secondary level – one for children with autism spectrum disorders and another for those with social, emotional and mental health needs. The proposed locations were Preston/Leyland. Lancaster/Morecambe, Fleetwood/Lytham St Annes , Accrington /Burnley, Colne/Nelson and Ormskirk/Skelmersdale. Successful applications were received from Weeton Primary School, Lytham Church of England Primary School, Barrowford Primary School, and St Leonard’s Church of England Primary School in Padiham. Formal consultations will now take place following an informal exercise over the summer. INCREASED DEMAND AND FINANCIAL CHALLENGES A report to the county council’s cabinet reveals that the authority could face a shortfall in its SEND budget of £42m [$55M U.S.] by 2023/24. The forecast is in line with national projections of a black hole in so-called “high needs” funding – and assumes that there will be no increased day-to-day contributions from the government. Lancashire has received £3.5m in additional capital funding for all schools from the Department for Education – some of which will be used to expand Sir Tom Finney and rehouse Broadfield School in Burnley – but it has had to transfer £6.5m from its “basic needs” budget for schools to ensure sufficient SEND places are provided. Meanwhile, the proportion of Lancashire pupils with education, health and care plans increased from 3.1 percent to 3.4 percent in the year to January 2020. That puts the county marginally above the England average – equating to an extra 214 SEND pupils than would otherwise have been expected.