(UK) Norfolk: "Demand for places at special schools has soared in recent years"

July 3, 2018, Norfolk Cty, Eastern Daily Press: Four new special schools in bold vision to ease pressure on complex needs places Demand for places at special schools has soared in recent years, along with the number of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), a formal support document for children with complex needs. It has seen immense pressure on places at the county’s 13 special schools, with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) either stuck in mainstream schools - themselves battling a funding crisis - or a steep number in costly independent school placements…. The plans would see an extra 170 SRB places, on top of the existing 244. At the children’s services meeting on Tuesday July 10 the committee will be asked to agree plans to explore a feasibility study into the expanded provision. The government has pledged £215m [$283M US] for special needs provision from 2018 to 2021, with Norfolk to see £2.7m in that period. But the plans would be costly - the council estimates the cost of a new build school with 100 to 150 pupils is roughly £13m. Ongoing pressure saw the council’s high needs block - funding dedicated for vulnerable children - report an overspend of £10.6m [$14M US] last year, with a forecast overspend of £3.1m [$4M] this year. The papers also show while the council has, in the past, received roughly 600 referrals for EHCPs in a year, that number has started to top 1,000. The government expects councils to carry out 90pc of EHCP assessments in 20 weeks - but the council only achieved 5.8pc in 2016 and 9.3pc in 2017. The lack of places in special schools is forcing the council to spend millions of pounds on independent placements. Papers released ahead of Tuesday’s meeting say the council funds roughly 1,600 places across the 13 complex needs schools, with an average cost of £25,000. … [$33K US] Currently, there are just over 300 SEND pupils placed in independent schools in Norfolk or in other local authorities, with a number of those being residential placements. While the average placement cost is £48,000, [$63K US] the most expensive annually in Norfolk is £85,000. [$112K US] It means the sums spiral quickly - if all of the 300 placements cost £48,000 a year, it would cost the council £14.4m. … [$19M US]