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(UK) Liverpool: 'Significant increase' in special needs students; $10.8M increase in budget

Sept 26, 2022, Liverpool Echo: Schools facing £10m shortfall as need for specialist places increases

NW England The cost of specialist places could lead to a huge budget overspend next year Increasing numbers of specialist education places needed in Liverpool could place an almost £10m [$10.8M] pressure on the local authority’s budget next year.

Estimates made by the city’s school forum have indicated that almost 150 additional places could be needed as Liverpool faces an increase in pupils with educational health care plans (EHCP) over the coming years. A report on school budgets, to be discussed at a meeting of the forum on Wednesday, said the cost of specialist placements could lead to an overspend of £9.4m in the next financial year.

The document said: “Liverpool is seeing a significant increase in the numbers of pupils with EHCPs with a 28% increase in 2021-22 and similar increase expected this year. A review of pupils currently with plans indicates that an additional 90 specialist places will be required in 2022-23 and 149 in 2023-24.

“The cost of specialist placements can vary significantly but it is estimated that this will result in a potential overspend of £4.0 million in 2022-23 and £9.4 million in 2023-24”. Despite an underspend being carried forward from last year, an overall deficit of £8.7m is expected on the city’s high needs block.

A report to the council’s cabinet earlier this year revealed more than 4,000 children in Liverpool are on an EHCP, representing an increase of 46% since 2019. In a bid to reduce funding pressures on the high needs block from the Direct Schools Grant it receives from government, the local authority proposed moving three of the city’s special schools to new locations.

A consultation was launched on the potential for Bank View School on Long Lane to relocate 14 miles away to Parklands in Speke, while Princes School on Selborne Street could be moved to Redbridge School on Long Lane, while Redbridge would move into Bank View as they occupy the same site. The findings of the public engagement exercise are expected to be discussed by the end of the year. Overall, Liverpool Council and city schools are expected to need to manage increased cost pressures in education “with only a small increase in funding” from the Department of Education (DfE), despite indications of further support in the Autumn 2021 spending review. The report added: "At this stage the DfE are indicating that there will not be any additional resources made available to meet these cost pressures."

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