County councils have warned they are in the ‘unsustainable’ position of having to shift schools money towards supporting children with special educational needs to meet statutory duties.
New research from the County Councils Network (CCN) found 21 county councils have overspent on their high-needs block over the past two years and a total of 22 counties project a further overspend of 5.1% in 2018/19.
The high-needs block is a Government grant to support children with special educational needs.
CCN calculated the projected overspend for the 2016-2019 period will be £175m.
This has forced many counties to ask their local schools forum or the Department for Education permission to move money earmarked for schools to meet their legal obligations to provide services for children with special education needs.
Eight out of the 22 councils have requested to transfer money so far, ahead of the 2018-19 school year, according to CCN’s findings.
Hampshire County Council has the highest projected overspend out of the councils who responded to the survey, projecting to spend £25m in the period 2016-19.
Kent County Council is expected to spend £23.6m over the same timeframe, whilst Surrey County Council projects at least £15m overspend at least.
‘There is a growing concern from county leaders that overspends on special educational needs will soon become unsustainable – over the past three years alone, our overspends have increased by 63% and are only projected to increase with demand,’ said Cllr Ian Hudspeth, CCN spokesman for education and children’s services.
‘It is regrettable that councils are only able to properly provide support to children with special educational needs by instead using funding intended for other pupils.
‘Quite simply, there needs to be more money in the totality of the system.
‘We are calling on government to urgently inject resource into the high needs block this year, and we want to work with ministers to come up with a sustainable long-term solution to meeting the increasing demand in special educational needs services.’