Rotherham’s £20m “safety valve” plan to address funding black hole for youngsters with special educational needs

Rotherham Council is set to enter into a £20m ‘safety valve’ agreement with the Department for Education (DfE), to resolve a historical deficit of the borough’s ring-fenced Dedicated Schools Grant.

Thursday, 21st April 2022, 11:31 am

The council, along with many other local authorities across the UK, faces a funding deficit due to the growth in demand for special educational needs (SEN) provision exceeding the government funding provided.

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The agreement will see the DofE investment £20.5m to address the deficit over the lifespan of the agreement – from 2021/22 to 2025/26.

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Rotherham Council is set to enter into a £20m 'safety valve' agreement with the Department for Education

The deficit is due to an increase in the number of young people aged 16 to 25 who require SEND provision, and an increase in the number of pupils in alternative provisions.

Demand also increased for SEND provision for authorities across the country after the Children and Families Act passed in 2014, which extended the upper age limit for support from 18 to 25.

Senior council leaders met with the DofE to come to the agreement, in the hopes that more children with special needs can be supported to stayin mainstream education in the borough.

The DofE has committed to paying the council £8.53m of safety valve funding in 2021/22, followed by £3m for the next four financial years.

As part of the agreement, RMBC must also reduce the number of youngsters who recieve SEND education outside of the borough, review its support services, and drive mainstream schools to adopt inclusive practice to enable more children and young people to remain in mainstream settings.

The agreement is set to be formally accepted by RMBC’s cabinet at the next meeting on April 25.

Councillor Victoria Cusworth, cabinet member for children and young people added: “We’ve struggled with the deficit for a number of years in Rotherham because of that increased demand for SEND provision.

“One of the things that stood us in good stead for being accepted on to this programme was the extensive work that’s been done around mapping and understanding that demand.

“Years ago we would rather have not had that huge deficit, it is a positive thing that we’re getting this investment.

“We want children to be educated whatever their need is, local to where they live. That’s the right thing to do.”