Extra £3m funding for vulnerable children released after headteacher concerns
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Funding for the county’s most vulnerable children has increased after concern over the figures saw an extra £3m released by the council.
Money for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is generally split into three parts - a basic per-pupil amount, funds dedicated to SEND provision and a third budget which effectively sees provision ‘topped up’ where needed.
Earlier this month, Norfolk County Council published figures for top-up funding for children with education, health and care plans (EHCP), with funds in three bands based on need. Schools apply for the extra funding from the council.
But the figures sparked concern among heads, and saw the county’s headteacher association Educate Norfolk tell the council to “urgently reconsider”.
In a letter to heads, its chair Jonathan Rice said the body had “shared [their] surprise at how low the figures” were, and said it could have “serious consequences” for children.
The figures were soon revised, with an extra £3m released over five years - increasing the figures, in band one, the lowest level of need, from £674 for one year to £1,350.
For band three, the highest level, for children who need support throughout the school day including lunch, the amount rose from £2,611 to £4,044.
In a message to headteachers, the council’s children’s services team said it had received 1,690 banding forms, with 43pc of those for the highest level - roughly 700 children.
They said the steep amount of applications and feedback from Educate Norfolk led to “urgent revisions”.
A spokesperson for the council said an initial level of funding had been set, but that they had received a higher number of requests than planned, particularly in band three.
“The local authority is required to meet SEND need and we have allocated funding to do this,” they said.
They said the money was funded by the government so would have “no impact on other children’s services budgets”, and said it tied in with plans to increase both the number of special schools and the provision available in mainstream schools.
The council is exploring the possibility of building four new complex needs schools as part of the work.