£130 million given to Cambridgeshire and Norfolk councils to boost SEND funding

Hundreds of new specialist places will be created for children like Amy Credit: ITV Anglia

Councils have been given millions in funding to help in the fight to fix the broken special education system.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been given a so-called 'safety valve' payment of £60 million, while Norfolk County Council receives £70 million.

Pressure on school places for children in Cambridgeshire with additional needs could be eased as part of the deal as almost 600 new school places will be created in the next three years.

The council faces a deficit of £58 million, and say without the money they would have to make widespread cuts in its support for children with SEND.

Cllr Maria King, vice chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children and Young People Committee, added: “It is great news we will now be able to deliver hundreds of extra school places for young people with SEND and we can now commit to balancing our budgets going forward.

"We do call on government to continue its support and to address the challenges that we are facing in the provision of SEND service both locally and nationally.”

Amy Pinder and mum Keris Credit: ITV Anglia

Amy Pinder has a place at the Samuel Pepys School in St Neots.Amy is autistic and was non verbal. After getting her place, she's now thriving and is beginning to speak.The Samuel Pepys has 120 children aged from 3 to 19 with often complex needs.

Amy's Mum Keris says it was a struggle to get her a place:"We were offered places in mainstream schools and places like that and Amy wouldn't have coped with that so to be offered a place especially in a school like Samuel Pepys -  it means everything. Amy wouldn't be able to have an education if she couldn't come here."

In Norfolk the funding will provide extra local support over the next six years.

Martin White, Chair of the Norfolk Schools Forum, said: “I welcome this significant support from the DfE for the ambitious Local First Inclusion programme in Norfolk.

“This investment, together with that from Norfolk County Council, will support inclusion and have a positive impact on outcomes for all children across the county."

Norfolk County council say the money will  also allow them to develop dozens more special education classrooms, known as specialist resource bases (SRBs) and alternative provision at mainstream schools as well as building two more special schools.

However, some are sceptical as to how much difference the funding will make.

The number of requests for Education, Health and Care Plans in Cambridgeshire - a document which sets out a child's needs and the support they'll get – have more than doubled from 3,429 in 2016 to more than 7,000 currently.

Reacting to the announcement, former Principal of Impington Village College Robert Campbell said: "The analogy I would say, is that if a boat is holed below the water height, unless you do something with that hole, the boat is still going to be at risk of sinking.

"You can be chucking the water out and pumping the water out, and the introduction of more funding feels like it's a stronger pump to get the water out the boat, but if it's not the systemic problem, unless we attend to all that the hole is still there and it doesn't get plugged and it doesn't get patched up."

Cambridgeshire says it has historically received less funding per child for education than other areas.

The council say it will use the new funding to create 463 new special school places. There will also be extra support for 105 pupils at mainstream schools by September 2026 through a programme of expanding current sites and building new schools.

The council has also applied to the free school programme for two new special schools in Fenland and Gamlingay.

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