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(UK) Swindon: School deficit $7.7M; 'more and more children exhibiting complex needs'

Oct 18, 2021, Swindon Advertiser: Swindon schools' budget deficit set to double to £5.6m [$7.7M] this year

SW England The deficit in Swindon’s dedicated schools grant looks set to nearly double over the next year – putting it above £5.5m. The figure is the amount Swindon Borough Council says will be spent by schools above the money they have been allocated by government. The deficit stood at £3.27m at the start of the school year in August 2021 and members of the borough’s Schools Forum were told the projected spending gap this year is £2.3m – bringing the cumulative total to £5.66m. By law the borough has to come up with a plan to cut that deficit and balance the budget over the next five years and it cannot transfer any money from its general fund to cover the gap in the schools grant. Director of inclusion and achievement at Swindon Borough Council Annette Perrington outlined the steps it was proposing to tackle the deficit. She said one of the issues causing the overspend is a higher-than-average call on the high needs portion of the grant – with Swindon having a higher-than-average number of children with education health and care plans. She showed that the expected growth is such plans in the borough would outstrip increases in funding. Next year it is expected funding won’t cover 18 children with EHCPs and that could hit 143 by 2025/26. She said the recovery plan would focus on help at the earliest age possible to reduce the need for such education and health and care plans and the most expensive interventions. … There will be a focus on children’s communications skills, addressing the needs of those with autism and a positive behaviour support service will be set up for those with the most complex needs,. Ms Perrington’s plans showed the deficit would be cut to £2.6m by 2025-26…. She said: “This is a common occurrence across the country. This is all every head teacher talks about. “When is enough, enough?”

“While we are seeing more and more children exhibiting complex needs, we see cutting resources. I understand why we have to do this, but we see neighbouring authorities with a deficit closer to £30m [$41M] and they are refusing to do as much about it as we are doing about £5m. Ms Perrington said she didn’t agree the recovery plan was just a matter of cutting resources, but of addressing issues earlier. She said: “We are trying not to cut funding; we’re trying to do more with the same funding in real terms. This is putting pressure on school budgets.”


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