A “hidden crisis” in education funding is brewing for the Hackney’s most vulnerable children, the borough’s deputy mayor has warned.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble is urging the government to implement “crucial” reforms over the way money is distributed for youngsters with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).
The deputy mayor says a high needs funding freeze, coupled with a 34 per cent increase over the last three years in the number of young people eligible for council support, has left the Town Hall facing a £6 million shortfall.
It means the council will have “no other option” but to slash the top-up grants it hands out to schools for extra support by five per cent.
The cut will not affect dedicated SEND schools, whose funding comes from a separate pot.
In a letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening on 12 October, Bramble wrote: “The funding of SEND is a hidden crisis in our education system and is threatening the quality of education and support we can offer to our most vulnerable young people.”
Greening recently revealed what she described as “historic” changes to the national funding formula, which dictates how cash is divvied up between schools across the country.
But the announcement of an extra £2.6 billion in funding was criticised by Hackney campaigners, who accused Greening of “stealing from other parts of the education budget to make it look like everything is okay”.
Deputy Mayor Bramble, whose brief includes early years services, added: “The national funding formula rightly sparked a national debate, but this [SEND] funding freeze means councils are running out of choices.”
Commenting on the impending cut, Bramble added: “Reducing funding is absolutely the last thing we want to do, and it’s been a hard decision to make. As a former SEN teacher, I know the importance of adequate funding, but there simply is no other option left to us.
“It is absolutely crucial that the government changes the way that this vital funding is calculated and distributed, and takes into account the growing demand.”
A September report by London Councils, which represents the capital’s local authorities, found the city is home to more pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) than the national average.
According to the findings, the number of SEND pupils in London has increased by 22 per cent since 2010, and creating a new SEND school place costs around £69,000 on average – three times what it costs for a mainstream school.
London Councils says the combined effect of these pressures mean London schools need an extra £1 billion over the next six years to ensure that every child is able to get a school place that meets their needs.
You can read Deputy Mayor Bramble’s letter to Justine Greening in full by downloading the PDF here.