SEN costs in Oxfordshire soar

According to Oxford Times, a rise in the need for support for SEN pupils is expected to lead to a huge overspend for the council unless it can find innovative ways to save money

A massive rise in the number of local SEN children needing support is set to create serious overspend for Oxfordshire County Council.

The council has now revealed plans to help meet spiralling costs, including the transfer of up to £1.8m from other areas of school funding. However, the increased demand is expected to create an overspend of £8m.

In a consultation document, the council said: “With increasing demand in all settings, particularly for special school and independent school places, the high needs block is overspending.

“The increased spend is caused by rising demand, rising need and rising expectations alongside continued and sustained pressure on resources.”

The consultation document added: “The population of Oxfordshire grows at approximately two per cent but the increase in the number of high needs learners is growing at 22%.

“There is an increasing gap between funding and spend.”

The latest national funding formula for schools allows local authorities a grant that is split into segments: early years, schools and high needs. The latter supports education for SEN learners aged two to 25.

In the 2019-2020 year, authorities will be allowed to transfer up to 0.5 per cent from one segment to another, which Oxfordshire council now plans to do in order to help the high needs segment more.

The council is also looking at building new schools to meet the rising demands in places for SEN pupils.

A council spokesperson said: “Oxfordshire County Council is committed to ensuring that the SEND provision offered across the county meets the needs of all children.

“The council has seen a significant increase in requests for education, health and care needs assessments and special school placements over the last few years.

“This increase is reflected nationally and costs are the subject of discussion across many local authorities.”

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