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(UK) Wigan facing SPED "crisis"; money 'is simply not there'

June 13, 2019, Wigan Today: Wigan special needs education has budget ‘crisis’ Schools in Wigan face a £7m [$8.8M US dollars] black hole in their special educational needs budget, it was revealed this week. The Government says it has increased national funding since 2015 from £5bn to £6.3bn, following demonstrations by parents of children with special educational needs in May. But the National Education Union says this does not take into account the increase in pupils that schools have to provide for, estimating they now face a shortfall of at least £1.2bn. Wigan Council chiefs admit they are facing rising demands on services within Whitehall-induced budget constraints but say they are trying to tackle the overspend through the authority’s Special Education Needs and Disabilities (Send) Transformation programme. Over the next five to 10 years there are plans for a huge overhaul of special needs education in the borough. Consultations are continuing but, if approved, the first phase would see Hope School move from its current location to the old Pembec and Central Park site on Montrose Avenue, where a completely new school would be built…. Young people aged up to 25 who are assessed as having special educational needs are given an Education, Health and Care plan by their local authority. In January 2015, there were 1,262 youngsters in Wigan with either an EHC plan or their predecessors, which were known as statements of special educational needs. The budget for high needs pupils in 2015-16 stood at £27.4m in today’s terms, adjusted for inflation – the equivalent of £22,151 per pupil. In 2018-19, the budget had only increased by three per cent, but the number of pupils needing support had gone up by 33 per cent, to 1,680. The NEU estimates this meant a real-terms cut of £4,208 [$5338 US dollars] in per-pupil funding – the equivalent of a £6.6m [$8.4M US dollars] for the 2018-19 year. Since then, the number of children with an EHC plan has increased by another seven per cent, reaching 1,804 in January 2019. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “This is clearly a crisis, with pupils and parents bearing the brunt of real-terms funding cuts and the wholly inadequate planning by Government. … The NEU says a lack of funding across the country is now leading to cuts in specialist provision, a loss of specialist support staff and increased waiting times for assessment. When a parent asks the council to assess whether their child has additional needs, it must carry out an assessment and draw up a plan within a maximum of 20 weeks…. The Local Government Association said councils were reaching the point where the money “is simply not there”, with special needs support at a tipping point. …


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