SEND robbery: Ministers promise vulnerable pupils WILL get cash boost

Ministers have promised special schools will receive their share of additional funding after some councils seized previous cash boosts.

Schools Week investigations have revealed how cash-strapped local authorities kept millions of pounds in previous school funding rises.

While cash goes straight to mainstream schools, additional funding for special schools goes to councils as part of high needs funding.

Last month, Schools Week launched a campaign to ensure schools for the most vulnerable children were not “robbed” of their share of the £2 billion extra cash announced in the autumn statement. 

The Department for Education said today that special schools would be “guaranteed” a funding boost from April next year.

A department spokesperson told Schools Week a “new condition” would be introduced to ensure a “proportionate share” of the £400 million extra high needs funding ends up reaching special schools.

School leaders warn ministers over ‘robbed’ SEND funding

However the specific details that will show whether government has delivered its promise are not expected until next week.

Government guidance over the £325 million extra in high needs funding this year told special schools to “discuss” potential increases with councils.

School heads were having to go with “begging bowls” to councils or threaten legal action to get the cash.

Schools Week found examples of at least two cash-strapped councils who kept millions of additional high needs funding this financial year.
Further analysis suggested about 40 councils did not increase top-up funding for special schools.

Ministers had introduced a minimum funding guarantee (MFG) requiring councils to increase special schools’ top-up funding by 3 per cent in 2023-24.

However councils could apply to exclude “some or all” of their schools from this. 

DfE said they would only consider applications from councils to disapply the new condition in “exceptional, individual circumstances where the position of a particular special school meant that it would be clearly unreasonable to pass that funding on in that way”. 

Leora Cruddas, chief executive at the Confederation of School Trusts, had told DfE officials it was “very important” funding goes “directly” to special schools, alternative provision and specialist settings.

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