Tory-run North Yorkshire Council has accused the Department for Education of “extremely slow” action and unfair funding of school spaces for vulnerable youngsters with special educational needs.
An officers’ report to leading members of the council highlights the government awards the county just 61% of the national average figure for special schools building schemes.
At the same time, the council faces a shortfall of about 100 places from September and 350 places over the next three to five years.
The report states using DfE data and criteria for specialist provision funding, North Yorkshire ranked 118th out of 150 councils.
Officers said this academic year had seen “a very marked increase” in requests for pupils to be assessed for SEN.
So while 700 new assessments had been a reasonably stable level for a number of years, forecasts of the likely number of requests for this year were between 980 and 1,090.
In addition, the report states resources available to the council to invest in key maintenance projects have reduced significantly in recent years, so North Yorkshire Council only receives about £6.3m to maintain 200 schools.
Exacerbating this, all of the council’s applications to secure government rebuild programmes at its special schools have been unsuccessful.
Officers said capital funding from the government for high needs pupils had been “significant but disappointing in comparison to other authorities”.
Pupils in Kensington and Chelsea get five times more
They said they had “significant concerns” about how the DfE allocated £88 per pupil in North Yorkshire compared to £483 per pupil in Kensington and Chelsea.
The report states several schools are in pressing need of repairs and Welburn Hall School, near Kirkbymoorside, has been identified as being “at risk of catastrophic buildings failure”.
However, the report states the authority has insufficient funding to tackle “significant concerns about the suitability and condition of our special schools”, adding its “overarching priority with the limited capital resource envelope available is to respond to create more classroom spaces”.
The report adds although the DfE approved the council’s bid for funding to create a Special Free School four years ago, the latest estimated opening date for the school was 2025.
The officers wrote:
“Whilst we were successful in securing the Selby Free School through the DfE Special Free School programme, DfE’s delivery of the school has been extremely slow.
“This is disappointing given that the 100 places that the school will create are urgently needed to address overlap capacity shortfalls and provide access to a local provision to families from the Selby area.”
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A government spokesperson said delays in delivering the proposed new Selby school had included reaching agreement with the council for its contribution to the access road and abnormal works, and an unsuccessful procurement of a contractor to build the permanent school.
The spokesperson said it had strived to distribute high needs provision capital funding fairly and efficiently between local authorities based on both their size, and their share of estimated growth in demand for high needs provision between academic years
“Every child deserves to have access to education that meets their needs. Our recent improvement plan will reform the support system for children with special educational needs and disabilities, prioritising earlier intervention and creating consistent high standards across the country.”