The money is to be allocated across 2018/19 to 2020/21 and councils are expected to consult with parents, carers and schools on how it should be spent.
However, while welcoming the money, councils have said that planned changes to the high needs funding formula are set to reduce “council and school flexibility to make additional funding available” and want to know how this money links in with the planned changes.
The total investment announced by the minister for vulnerable children and families, Edward Timpson, is £215 million. It equates to at least £500,000 for every council, with half to receive at least £1 million.
A DfE explanatory note states: “These allocations will support local authorities to create new places and improve facilities at existing schools. This funding is primarily intended to develop provision for pupils with more complex special educational needs (i.e. an EHCP or a statement of SEN) in mainstream and/or special schools. However, local authorities are free to spend the fund on other education-based provision for children and young people aged from 0 to 25 where this meets local needs, such as early years settings or further education colleges.”
It means funds could be used on projects such as new specialised classrooms for children with emotional, social and mental health difficulties, expanding existing classrooms to increase their size for those using mobility aids, buying mobility equipment, or creating storage facilities for wheelchairs.
The DfE specifically stated that councils will be expected to consult with local parents, carers, schools, and others on how their funding should be used and will be “required to publish a short plan showing how they will spend the funding”.
However, the Local Government Association (LGA) is seeking clarification as to how the funding fits together with planned reforms to high needs funding,
As part of reforms to school funding, the government has set out a new formula to high needs funding using nine factors to allocate money to local authorities.
The nine factors are split into six blocks:
- Basic entitlement per-pupil (current proposals set this at £4,000).
- Population factor.
- Health and disability.
- Low attainment.
- Historic spend.
This will be distributed according to factor weightings, with 50 per cent of the available funding attributed to the historic spend factor and the remainder split between the other five blocks. The high needs block includes all place-led funding and money to support pupils in mainstream who need SEN support.
Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “This new money is a step in the right direction at a time when the demand for support from parents and families with SEND is rising.
“The original SEND reform programme was significantly underfunded by the DfE and we’re pleased that the government has listened to our concerns.
“However, it’s unclear how this one-off payment links with the DfE’s proposed changes to high-needs funding. This will reduce council and school flexibility to make additional funding available where there are rising demands for SEND support.”