Children with special needs at risk of being turned away by schools, LGA warns

The Local Government Association (LGA) has cautioned that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are at risk of being turned away by mainstream schools due to a lack of funding and rising demand.

In response to the government's consultation on the high needs funding formula for schools the, LGA has urged the government to provide adequate funding towards educating SEND children.

Citing analysis of Department for Education (DfE) data, the body indicated that the past four years had seen a substantial increase in the number of pupils with SEND who attend a specialist school setting, up from 5.6 per cent in 2012 to 8.5 per cent in 2016.

The LGA warned that if councils do not receive sufficient funding to cover increasing SEND costs, they will not have the resources to allocate extra funds to highly inclusive schools that take higher than average numbers of pupils with additional needs. Equally, it added that mainstream schools may find it difficult to accept or keep pupils with SEND because they cannot afford to subsidise the
provision from their own budgets, as they are already under significant pressure.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "There has been a historic underfunding of high needs funding and a significant increase in the number of pupils with special educational needs or disabilities in schools.

"The government should provide additional funding to meet this need, otherwise councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties and children with high needs or disabilities could miss out on a mainstream education.

"Whilst the additional funding announced earlier in the year was a step in the right direction, it was never enough to meet the needs of the increasing number of SEND pupils. 

"Councils are doing all that they can to make sure children with SEND get the support and opportunities they need to flourish, but are experiencing increasing demand for all services.

"Proposed changes to schools and high needs funding could also make this problem even worse, taking away the freedom for councils to top up high needs funding from other budgets if necessary.

"The reset of the High Needs Funding Formula is the perfect opportunity for the government to ensure SEND pupils get the support they need to succeed at school."