May 25 2019, Guardian: Rise in special needs pupils forced to attend out-of-area schools https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/may/25/rise-in-special-needs-children-forced-to-attend-distant-schools Almost 20,000 children with special educational needs such as autism are attending school outside their council area because of shortfalls in local provision – with the number rising by nearly a fifth in two years, the Observer can reveal. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that some children are studying hundreds of miles from home as the special education needs and disability (Send) system struggles to cope with a funding crisis. Parents of children with Send are preparing for a national day of action on May 30 in protest at the lack of funding, with more than 25 demonstrations across England and Wales and a rally in Westminster. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said: “The Tories have created a crisis in high-needs funding for schools, and it is the most vulnerable children who are paying the price. Tens of thousands of children are travelling outside their areas, with the cuts making it impossible for either mainstream or specialist schools to provide the places and support they need.” The Observer’s figures show that in 2018-19, 19,771 special needs children of compulsory school age attended school outside their local authority area. The true figure will be higher, as only 113 of England’s 151 councils provided data. Among the 100 councils that provided figures from 2016-17 to 2018-19, the number of out-of-area school placements rose by 18% from 15,503 to 18,229…. I think that’s the frustrating part for many parents, that the local authority have only got so many local schools It is far cheaper for cash-strapped councils to fund placements in local state schools than out-of-area schools, especially independent ones. In some cases, parents decide to have their children home-schooled instead of attending unsuitable local schools. One of the county councils that lost out in the bidding to open a new special school is Nottinghamshire, where the number of out-of-area placements has doubled in two years…. The largest percentage rise in out-of-area placements between 2016-17 and 2018-19 was in Milton Keynes, where numbers nearly trebled from 36 children to 102, while the placements more than doubled in Redcar and Cleveland, Hertfordshire and Staffordshire. A statement from Hertfordshire county council said it was aware of the issue, which it partly attributed to a lack of special school places within the county. The council, which successfully bid for government funding to open a new special school, said it was embarking on a transformation of local special needs services in response. Anntoinette Bramble, of the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said: “It is fundamentally wrong that mainstream schools are increasingly unable to support children with special needs. As a result we are seeing more children with special needs being educated in much more expensive special schools – which can often be outside their local authority area – than in mainstream schools. “Councils are reaching the point where the money is simply not there to keep up with demand, pushing support for children with Send to a tipping point….