Barnsley education bosses to tackle £35m SEND budget black hole

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Education bosses say a black hole in its schools budget – which is set to reach £36 million in the next five years – is due to “historic under-funding” of local authorities.

A growing number of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), as well as out-of-borough placements, means that the council has an accumulated £11.7 million deficit in its SEND budget this year – which is set to rise to £36.8m by 2025.

There are currently 2,220 pupils in Barnsley with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) in place, which is forecast to rise to 2,457 by 2024/25.

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The total spend for the councils’ high needs budget for 2021/22 is currently forecast at £31.2 million, and is estimated to increase to £35.9 million by 2024/25.

Town Hall.Town Hall.
Town Hall.

A report to be seen by Barnsley Council’s cabinet next week states that an increasing number of pupils requiring specialist support “continue to exert pressures on the high needs budget”.

The report states that a “significant cost driver” is the number of youngsters with school places outside of the borough – it was revealed in April that 220 children and young people from Barnsley have an out of borough school place, at a total cost of £11,233,061.

By creating new places in schools within the borough, the council hopes to save £5m by 2025.

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Education bosses will submit a management plan to the Department for Education (DfE), outlining how they will address the cost pressures.

A number of local authorities have been given extra funding to mitigate deficits.

Councillor Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, said: “We want children and young people with SEND in Barnsley to receive the best start in life, with education and services there to support them to achieve their potential.

“Like other local authorities, we are seeing an ongoing rise in demand for support for children and young people with SEND and those with Education and Health Care Plans.

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“The dedicated schools grant action plan sets out the key actions the local authority and its partners are taking to address the projected deficit, which can be largely attributed to a national, historic under-funding of Local Authorities.

“The deficit position of £36.8m is the forecast if no proactive action was to be taken, hence the need for detailed planning and action in this area.

“The plan sets out how the council and its partners will manage SEND support within available resources by 24/25.

The DfE are holding discussions with Local Authorities about their plans and across the country a number have been given extra funding to mitigate deficits.