Councils will be required to increase special school and alternative provision budgets by 3.4 per cent next year – a victory for Schools Week’s ‘SEND robbery’ campaign.
Schools Week investigations have revealed how cash-strapped local authorities kept millions of pounds in previous school funding rises from special schools.
Government previously promised that cash from the additional £400m high needs funding announced in last month’s Autumn statement would be passed on, but did not provide details.
Conditions attached to the grant, published today, now state councils “must make an allocation that is equivalent to 3.4% of the estimated total grant funding of the school”.
While councils have the ability to reduce the number of places used for calculating a school’s allocation where they think it “does not accurately represent the school’s real position”, this can only be done with the education secretary’s consent.
Councils must also consult schools before finalising their allocations. Schools this applies to include special schools and pupil referral units that councils maintain, as well as all special and AP academies located in their area.
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts which lobbied government officials over the issue, said the impact of “poor funding for SEND and AP is felt right across the system.
“We know that many local authorities are stretched financially and faced with very difficult funding decisions, so we welcome this ringfencing to protect funding for pupils.”
The 3.4 per cent increase also comes on top of the minimum funding guarantee that is already in place for 2023-24.
Councils must ensure special schools’ top-up funding has increased by three per cent from what it was in 2021-22. However councils can apply to exclude “some or all” of their schools from this.
This relates to the extra funding for schools announced at the 2021 spending review.
‘Rise won’t fully alleviate challenges’
Susan Douglas, chief executive of the Eden Academy Trust, welcomed the new requirement for councils to pass on the cash which was “essential at a time when special and AP schools are facing such significant funding challenges”.
But she added: “These will not be fully alleviated and resources will still be incredibly tight but this should ensure greater fairness across the system.”
Details of the extra funding for mainstream schools was also published today. The increase equates to a per-pupil funding rise by between 5.2 per cent in London to 6.1 per cent in the north east.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies said the overall funding increase would return real-terms spending per-pupil back to 2010 levels.
But a recent report added that “no net growth in school spending per pupil over a 14-year period still represents a significant squeeze on school resources”.
Pupil premium funding rates will also rise by five per cent.