Overspend set to force cuts in special educational needs services

Michael Rosen, executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council.

Michael Rosen, executive director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Submitted

Spending on services for children with special educational needs could be cut by 10pc to help tackle a projected £6.3m overspend this year.

Barry Payne, chairman of the Wherry School Trust.

Barry Payne, chairman of the Wherry School Trust. - Credit: Archant © 2009

That option is one of eight being considered to cope with the financial pressure on the high needs block of school funding in Norfolk.

Yesterday's Children's Services Committee meeting at Norfolk County Council heard the forecast overspend was largely due to extra demand for places at special schools, and Michael Rosen, executive director of children's services, said: 'This is an issue that needs some urgent attention.'

A paper to last week's Norfolk Schools Forum said the forecast overspend had 'risen significantly' and added: 'This must be addressed urgently and it requires the consideration of a number of options, many of which carry significant risks.'

Options under consideration include reducing funding for specialist resource bases at schools – which provide extra services for children

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in mainstream school who have a high level of needs, and placing limits on funding for complex needs schools.

The list also includes a 'salami slicing' option – a 10pc cut across all special educational needs spending in the schools block and high needs block, which the document said had 'the potential for a whole range of unintended consequences'.

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The commentary warned that some of the options could be counter-productive, and 'result in the need for even more specialist provision in the future'.

Barry Payne, executive headteacher of the Parkside School in Norwich, for children with complex needs, questioned whether the overspend was a result of unrealistic budgets being set in previous years, which did not keep up with rising demand on services.

He said: 'I'm not sure the implications of what will happen as a result of this has been thought through.'

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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