***(UK) Oxfordshire: Huge SPED deficit; 'overspends are forecast to continue'

Updated: Jan 4, 2019

Jan 3, 2019, Oxford Mail: Hundreds of special school places needed in Oxfordshire HUNDREDS of new school places are desperately needed in Oxfordshire to educate children with special needs. A report compiled by Oxfordshire County Council has pointed to an 'urgent need' to increase places for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Its analysis revealed that by 2022, there is a need for 100 more places in mainstream schools for SEND pupils and an additional 300 special school places. The document, which was passed to the council's cabinet just before Christmas, stated: “Growth in demand for special school and resource base provision has increased rapidly. "There has been a real-term reduction in school funding, impacting on the ability for a mainstream school to effectively educate pupils with special educational needs at an early stage. … It added that most special schools in the county are running at or over capacity. There are currently two new special schools in the pipeline as well as school expansions. … In October The Iffley Academy in Oxford also gained planning permission to pursue £9m plans to demolish and replace its 'dilapidated' building. The Gallery Trust, the multi-academy trust that oversees the school, is also due to open a new special school in North Oxford. According to the council’s report to cabinet, the 100-pupil free school will be called the Bloxham Grove Academy, co-located with The Warriner School in Bloxham, and could open in 2020. There are also plans to open a special school within the Valley Park development in Didcot, though this is not expected to be ready until 2022 at the earliest. The council’s SEND education overspend is expected to hit £6m [$7.6M US dollars] this year and £8m next year, as demand for its services soar. Last month education secretary Damian Hinds announced that councils will receive an extra £250 million [$320M US] over the next two years, to support children and young people with SEND. A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said the authority has not yet learnt if it will benefit, adding: “This is an area of our budget in which overspends are forecast to continue.”