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South Gloucestershire special education funding 'is immoral'

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Image caption South Gloucestershire Council's education budget deficit is expected to rise to £12.5m

Changes to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) funding in South Gloucestershire have been branded "ludicrous" and "immoral" by parents.

The council has recommended plans to address a £12.5m deficit to its schools' budget.

One recommendation is to change the way assessments are made, that could lead to SEND pupils getting less funding.

South Gloucestershire Council said more local school places will be available for them.

The authority said it received the lowest per-pupil funding in the country, and is facing a £3m shortfall in funding for special educational needs.

It said extra costs were largely down to a rise in the number of SEND pupils, so pupils are increasingly found places further afield in "often costly" independent institutions.

A consultation last year looked at several options to tackle the shortfall, including transferring funding from mainstream schools to support pupils with additional needs.

However, after protests from mainstream schools, the council will not now divert money from other budgets to prop up SEND.

It will instead delay paying off its deficit and create more places for SEND pupils locally.

'Not justifiable'

Some parents of children with special educational needs said they were unhappy that a new way of assessing how much funding pupils get will potentially lead to a reduction.

Melaney Bennett said it "seemed ludicrous" and "did not make sense".

Another parent, Nickie Corr, said it was "immoral and not justifiable".

Council leader Toby Savage said the "entire system needs to change".

"We are spending far more than we should be, parents of special educational needs children are deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with the system, and the outcomes that those vulnerable young people are achieving are not consistently good enough."

He said plans had been put in place to increase the number of specialist places locally "to make sure we are not having to send very vulnerable children out of South Gloucestershire to far more costly institutions miles away from home".

The authority's total education budget deficit is expected to rise to about £12.5m by the end of 2018-19.

School pressures in South Gloucestershire were highlighted in the recent BBC Two documentary School.

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