Council announces ‘harmful’ special needs funding cuts without consultation
Cuts which will affect children with special needs in Devon’s schools and colleges have been described as “harmful”.
On Wednesday – just two days before many schools break up for the summer holidays – Devon County Council (DCC) announced from September 1, significant funding cuts are being implemented for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across Devon.
Devon Live asked DCC why the cuts have been made; why it was announced two days before the start of the summer holidays; why there was no consultation; what alternative provisions will be in place for the children affect by the cuts, if any, and how much the cuts will save the council.
“We therefore have to ensure that the high needs budget does not continue to overshoot. In consultation with headteachers and governors, a decision was made in the past week to concentrate our support from January 2018 on vulnerable children who have a statutory plan in place. All schools will be able to choose to apply for a statutory assessment of each child’s needs and no funding will be withdrawn until any non-statutory school plans have been reviewed. This means that by December 2018 we expect to have a single, transparent system of funding our most vulnerable children.”
The announcement has sparked anger not just because of the impact it will have on children’s education and job losses, but also because of the timing of it just before schools and colleges break up for six weeks.
In a letter sent to headteachers of all Devon mainstream schools by Dawn Stabb, DCC head of education and learning, it states that to date, Devon has been unique in providing a non-statutory route for schools and colleges to access SEND funding. However, due to increased need and entitlement it need to bring its high needs spend back within budget and that the continuation of the element three funding is “no longer sustainable”.
Hannah Rose, a teacher at Bradley Barton Primary School, said: “These changes will affect all children in all schools in Devon. Furthermore, there has been no consultation regarding these changes with any party, least of all those who matter most, the families of, and children with, special educational needs.
“The local authority’s duty is to, ‘when carrying out their functions, to support and involve the child and his or her parent, or the young person, and to have regard to their views, wishes and feelings’, as stated in the SEN code of practice, section 8.3.”
Hannah is calling for the changes to be independently reviewed and, if necessary, legally challenged.
Dawn from DCC said: “The local authority recognises, following discussions at Schools Finance Group (SFG), that this has been a difficult but necessary decision if we are to avoid the budgetary challenges of last year. We ask for your support and understanding in implementing this new way of working to avoid ongoing significant overspend within the High Needs Block.”
Produced using material from Devon Live