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Councils slice £67m from schools to prop up SEND deficits

More than 20 councils have been given ministerial approval to quietly slice £67 million from schools budget to prop up gaping SEND funding black holes.

For the first time in recent years, all councils that asked for approval were given the green light to move millions between the core schools and high needs funding pots.

Four years ago nine in 10 applications from councils were rejected. 

If councils wish to move more than 0.5 per cent, or want to move 0.5 per cent or less without agreement from their schools forum, they must get approval from the Department for Education.

Most of the councils who applied for 2024-25 were those who have high needs deficits, and are taking part in the government’s “safety valve” and “delivering better value in SEND” intervention programmes. 

For 2024-25, Norfolk had the largest percentage approved – 1.5 per cent of its schools budget, totalling £9.5 million. They were followed by Kent, which sliced 1.2 per cent, totalling £15 million. 

‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’

In total, £67 million has been sliced this year by the 23 councils. This compares to at most £17 million from the three councils given approval in 2020-21.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton, general secretary at ASCL school leaders’ union, warned it is “robbing Peter to pay Paul of moving money between inadequate budgets in a system where there is simply insufficient funding to meet the level of need”. 

The transfers “are a reflection of a system that is under enormous strain and isn’t working as it should”.

“Schools need the money in the schools block for all the work that they are doing – including for children with special educational needs – and in fact there isn’t enough money in the schools block in the first place. 

“Councils, special schools and alternative provision settings need the money in the high needs block for their costs of supporting children and young people with special educational needs.”

DfE has been approached for comment.

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