More places created in schools for children with special needs and disabilities to save money

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Children in school

Seven Hampshire schools have been selected to increase their provision of placement for children with special needs and disabilities (SEND) in a move which could end up saving cash-strapped Hampshire County Council around £2.5 million.

Over the last few years, all local authorities with a statutory duty to provide school places have seen an increased demand within the SEND sector. According to Hampshire County Council data, the authority estimated that by 2030/31, around 28,000 children will have education, health and care plans (EHCPs) if unmitigated.

The council said demand has put extra pressure on local councils due to a lack of sufficient provision within Hampshire schools, which has led to an increase in placements within the independent and non-maintained sector (INMSS). With the expansion of the seven schools, the county council aims to build on “good quality” Hampshire school provision and meet the needs of children and young people within their local area.

By doing so, it will reduce the local authority’s dependence upon INMSS and will aim to “keep pupils as close to their home community as possible”.

The expansion will result in an extra 64 placements across seven schools in Lymington, Fleet, Andover, the New Forest, Totton, and Alresford.

The total revenue cost of £1.378m for the resourced provision places compares to an estimated £3.917m for the same number of places in independent and non-maintained special schools using the average SEND-only funded day placement cost.

By having the resourced provision, which allows SEND pupils to get extra support, in its school, the council hopes to avoid spending £2.539m.

Natalie Smith, children’s services assistant director, said: “We are all aware that there is a lack of sufficient specialist provision within Hampshire schools, which can lead to children having places in independent non-maintained schools, which are more expensive. The quality is more difficult to assure ourselves of, and often they are further away, so transport costs are higher, and children have to travel further.

“So we are keen to increase local provision.”

Councillor Steve Forster, executive member for education, said: “It is really good to see all of this coming forward. Potentially, they all allow for resourced provision to be delivered very quickly, predominantly before the next school year, September 2024.

“The whole point of this is, although some of these are small, they are low cost and speedily delivered, and they complement the work we are doing around other provisions for special education needs.”

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