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(UK) Wokingham: $7.8M deficit "largely due to rising cost of special educational needs"

Oct 8, 2020, Bracknell News: Growing concern about cash-strapped schools struggling through pandemic https://www.bracknellnews.co.uk/news/18780047.growing-concern-cash-strapped-schools-struggling-pandemic/ South Central England EDUCATION bosses in Wokingham, who are facing a funding gap of almost £6 million, are concerned they do not have enough money to help schools struggling with the financial impact of Covid-19…. Wokingham Borough Council has been handed £142.74 million of ring-fenced government cash, known as the Dedicated Schools Grant, to fund schools across the borough in 2020/21. But the council predicts that by March 2021, it will be left with a £5.98 million [$7.8M U.S.] deficit, which is largely due to the rising cost of special educational needs services. According to the council, it has “a small contingency budget” of £50,000 to support schools that have been hit hard by the pandemic but “it is unlikely that the level of funds would be sufficient”. However, 16 Wokingham schools have successfully applied for government funding to cover “exceptional costs” and more claims are being considered. The council report states: “Government funding made available to the council to address Covid related pressures more generally has fallen significantly short of budget pressures experienced. “Therefore no flexibility exists to consider this for schools. “A small number of schools were already facing a very difficult financial position for the 2020/21 financial year, and it is therefore likely that a greater number will now face a budget deficit…. Earlier this year, the council predicted a £4.88 million deficit, due to the cost of the Addington School expansion and the cost of placing children in independent special needs schools. But it now expects that to increase by £1.09 million due to the cost of placing children in secondary schools, colleges and special needs schools outside of Wokingham. The council says a review of spending on special educational needs services is “a key priority”.