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Vulnerable children will not become 'casualties' of complex needs funding change, council vows

PUBLISHED: 09:58 14 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:58 14 March 2018

Norfolk County Council headquarters. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council headquarters. Photo: Steve Adams

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Council officers have vowed vulnerable children will not become "casualties" of a change in the way complex needs funding is handed out.

Norfolk County Council currently gives £9.4m to clusters - groups of nearby schools - to support children with complex needs.

But from September, the council will no longer give out the funding - and will instead ask schools to bid for extra cash they need to support pupils.

At the council’s children’s services committee on Tuesday, Labour councillor Emma Corlett asked for reassurance that the support and education of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) would not be disrupted.

Chris Snudden, assistant director for education at the council, said they would not allow “children to be casualties of any change in the system”.

She said: “We want all children with SEND in Norfolk to get the right support, in the right place at the right time.

“Although some clusters have been doing a fantastic job, using this funding to really target those children with the highest needs, we know that this hasn’t always been consistent across the country.”

There will be £5m available for bids, after the council agreed to cut the amount given to clusters for SEND from £9.4m in January.

The cluster model has been criticised by many, with some operating more effectively than others.

Ms Snudden said certain measures could be used to suggest the current system was not working - for example, she said while permanent exclusions were starting to drop, they were not reducing as quickly as desired.

Independent councillor Sandra Squire questioned, with many clusters having their own SEND coordinator, who would have the time or expertise to make the applications.

Sarah Shirras, chairman of the county’s Schools Forum, a council body made up of school leaders, and headteacher at St William’s Primary in Norwich, said: “This funding should be used to support children with the highest level of need and it makes sense for the council to administer the money, so that all of us working across education can be confident that it is getting to the children that need it most and is being used consistently and transparently.”

The council said Norfolk schools receive £36m for SEND from the government.

The new system comes on the advice of the Department for Education, and brings the council in line with the majority of other local authorities.

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