Special Schools Funding
Where are we. What can we expect
Special schools, like all other schools, are feeling the impact of a 0% rise in budgets. This announcement was greeted with dismay but without the realisation of what it actually means.
The increase in National Insurance contributions and pension contributions which have to be met from existing resources has added to the pressure schools were already under. All schools are feeling the pressure but particularly those in the special sector due to the high ratio of staff required to support children to allow them to access a relevant and valuable education.
Many schools have made the decision to lock the general schools budget, the high needs block and the early years block, so new monies are not going to support the current difficulties.
Evidence from a range of provisions suggests that additional numbers are being funded from the current high needs block thus diluting the value of each place commissioned.
A number of the lower funded authorities received the recent uplift to start the process of equalising budgets and therefore creating equality of opportunity. Unfortunately not all local authorities adopted the same approach and some high needs blocks did not receive the percentage uplift their mainstream colleagues benefitted from.
Many special schools are taking action by cutting staffing levels, increasing class sizes and not providing day 1 cover.
All of the above is happening whilst schools are reporting the arrival of far more complex pupils with a range of educational, social, emotional, behavioural and medical needs. Migration is adding to the pressure and has also introduced issues never before present in our schools including the trauma experienced by families fleeing war zones. The languages they speak are not ones we are used to encountering so new services are having to be sourced to meet this pressing need. At this point the cost of such services is being met from current budgets
Schools are also reporting the gradual withdrawal of medical support in the form of school nursing, thus diverting staff support to these areas.
Local authorities are expressing concern that they are unable to change the funding profile and amount.
The delay in setting a National Funding Formula and the Special Schools Funding Review basically disappearing off the agenda provides little reassurance to schools. Is the introduction of such a formula going to happen in 2018 or 2019?
There is time to influence the issue, however; your local MP is the person to contact as funding has now become a direct government issue rather than a local authority issue. Make sure your MP is aware of the situation you find yourself in, make sure they are having conversations with the relevant ministers and are reporting back to you.
You may also wish to raise with them the issue of post 16 funding and the big question of where the money is going to come from for the 19-25 age group.
There seem to be more questions than answers at this point but if we all raise them then the issue will register where it has an impact.