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Friday, 21 November 2014

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Special needs education funding change in Cumbria agreed

Changes to how funding is allocated to schools to meet the costs of pupils with special educational needs were agreed by Cumbria County Council’s cabinet today.

The recommendation is in response to revisions made to the national schools funding formula by the Department for Education (DfE) and will require ratification by the Schools Forum next week.

From April 2014 DfE stated that schools must fund the first £6,000 of additional educational support for each special needs pupil from their main school budget.

This meant a reallocation of funding from the specific special needs pot into the general schools pot which was set to result in significant turbulence to some schools’ budgets – with the worst affected school potentially losing over £36,000 a year. It also created a situation where over 70 schools would receive funding for special educational needs when they have no special needs pupils.

The council’s position was that this was not appropriate for Cumbria and it began lobbying officials from the DfE to find ways to limit this potentially perverse impact.

The council has now established that it can centrally retain a proportion of general schools funding and also provide some additional high needs funding which it can then allocate to schools to mitigate the impact of the funding change.

Cabinet today agreed to recommend to the Schools Form that that fund should total £0.870 million and will be allocated to schools for whom the number of statemented pupils is more than two per cent of their total pupil numbers (comprising pupils from reception up to and including year 11). These schools will receive a lump sum of £3,000 per statemented pupil above the two per cent level. Modelling indicates that this would mean that the greatest loss for a school is reduced from £36,600 to £8,397 and that the total number of schools losing more than £3,000 will reduce from 74 to 44.

Cllr Anne Burns, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “This is quite a complicated set of changes, but basically we’ve moved from a situation where special needs funding was allocated to schools on the basis of the number of pupils they had with special needs, to a situation where all schools receive a block of funding irrespective of whether or not they have pupils with needs.

“We don’t feel this is the right approach but the DfE have made the changes mandatory from this year.

“I’m glad to say though that our discussions with them have been productive and we have been able to better tailor the formula to meet Cumbria’s needs. It’s not perfect but we have been able to reduce both the number of schools that would lose money, and the amounts that those remaining schools will lose. This is a really positive outcome.”

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