SEND deficits

SEND Deficits Prompt Funding Redirect

PAG Staff2024, Article, free schools, Government reporting, Independent schools, Inequalities, Local Authorities, Schools, SEND

SEND Deficits Prompt Funding Redirect 

In an unprecedented move highlighting the depth of the financial crisis facing Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding in the UK, more than 20 councils have received ministerial approval to redirect a total of £67 million from their schools' budgets. This decision marks a significant shift from previous years, where such requests were largely denied, pointing to the worsening state of council finances and SEND deficits.

UK Councils Divert £67 Million from School Budgets to Cover SEND Deficits 

For the fiscal year 2024-25, every council that sought permission to transfer funds between core school budgets and high needs funding areas was approved, a stark contrast to four years ago when nine out of ten applications were rejected. Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), described the situation as dire, emphasising the inadequacy of budgets and the fundamental lack of funding to meet escalating needs.  

The approved transfers indicate a growing government allowance for councils to redirect funds from education to address high needs deficits, totaling £190 million over the past five years. This practice, while aimed at addressing urgent SEND funding deficits, raises concerns about the sustainability of school finances and the overall effectiveness of the system in meeting the needs of all students.  

Many of the councils granted approval for transfers are participants in government programs aimed at managing high needs deficits, such as the 'Safety Valve' bailout program and the 'Delivering Better Value in SEND' scheme. However, this approach has led to a "vicious circle," as noted by Stephen Kingdom of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, where the focus on managing deficits may detract from the broader need for systemic investment and reform.  

PAG Support 

At PAG, we have substantial experience supporting the SEND sector, as well as with the development and creation of new SEND provision across the country. Through our work throughout the sector, we have developed an intricate knowledge of the SEND crisis from both sides, from working with schools and trusts struggling to provide the proper learning environments to local authorities (LA) juggling budgets.

At the time of writing, we are actively engaged with several trusts and LAs to develop new, high-quality, but crucially, affordable, independent SEND provision.

We genuinely feel there is a chance to categorically change the way independent provision is viewed and operated, moving away from the for-profit model seen today to a system that works for the students and delivers the best possible education for those who need it most. You can read a little more about our endeavours in Schools Week here, but if you woulf like to speak to us about how you could get involved, please rech out via our Contact page and we will be in touch to arrange a call shortly.

This article is a summary of one originally found in Schools Week, which can be found here