Millions could be diverted to help ease growing demand for specialist education in Rotherham
Permission is being sought by education chiefs in Rotherham to divert £2.7m from the town’s mainstream education budget to help prop-up the work done to support children with special educational needs as demand for those services grows.
In the past, councils have had the flexibility to move cash between different elements of the service, but a change in Government rules means that if an authority wants to move more than half a per cent of the money in one area for another purpose, it has to seek consent from the Secretary of State for Education.
The £2.7m identified as needed in Rotherham accounts for 1.5 per cent of money allocated to schools, so can only happen if the Government gives its consent.
Councillors on the authority’s ruling Cabinet have been told that money would be affordable from the regular schools budget and would give the council the flexibility to make changes to improve the services it offers.
The objective in future is to keep more pupils with special needs in mainstream education where, it is believed, they will emerge with better prospects for life in the future.
Demand for ‘high needs’ education has been increasing and while the full reasons for that remain unclear, one may be that Rotherham has made swift progress in recent years in identify pupils with complex demands and the working out the type of assistance which will best help them.
At present, some are educated outside the borough and that is not regarded as the most constructive way forwards.
The council’s strategic director of children’s services, Jon Stonehouse, told councillors: “We are seeing greater levels of complexity within our children and young people nationally and locally. That is driving demand considerably.
“Our understanding of children’s needs and identification of their needs is much more effective now than it has been before,” he said.