Chesterfield school teacher slams Derbyshire County Council over funding for special educational needs

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A Chesterfield school teacher and governor have slammed Derbyshire County Council for not providing enough funding for kids with special educational needs.

Sharon Smith, a teacher at Brampton Primary School in Chesterfield, said the school has a £54,000 shortfall in funding for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

She said that the school is given a flat rate of £6,000 per SEND pupil and is given enough funding for four children.

However, Brampton has a much higher than average number of SEND pupils, with 13.

Without the required funding, the school may not be able to accept any further SEND pupils.

She called the situation “scandalous”.

Ms Smith said: “We have 13 SEN children needing a one-to-one teaching assistant.

“This number is much higher than average  because we have a good reputation. Students travel from Belper, Bolsover and Matlock.

“However, Derbyshire Notional SEN funding is linked to local area deprivation and pupil numbers but there is no link to the number of SEN children.

“So Brampton  with 13 SEN children gets the same Derbyshire SEN money as a school in a similar area with no SEN children.

“This is unfair on our school budget.”

She claims that some schools are placed at a “financial disadvantage”.

Similarly, Sharon Davis, who is a governor at the school and has a 10-year-old son who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is a full-time wheelchair user, says that funding for SEN support is not allocated fairly.

At Derbyshire County Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, February 6, she said: “The reality direct from the chalk face, is that schools are making teaching assistants redundant because Derbyshire Notional SEN Funding does not take into account the number of children on an EHC plan (a legal document drawn up by the county council which ensures children with SEN are given adequate support and funding at their school).

“Brampton primary has children with an EHC plan who travel from Bolsover, Belper and Matlock because the school has an inclusive philosophy as well as expertise in supporting children with complex needs.

“Brampton supports SEN children from all over Derbyshire but is given the same SEN money as a school with no children on an EHC plan.”

Ms Davis felt that soon, schools will be “unable to afford SEN children” and mainstream schools may “discourage them from attending” in future.

In response, Councillor Alex Dale, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people, confirmed that each school was allocated £6,000 per SEN pupil.

However, he did refer to a cap on how much money each school can be given.

To help cover gaps such as this, he said, funding was also available from the authority’s high needs block and that schools with 10 pupils with EHC plans would get more money than schools without pupils on EHC plans.

Coun Dale also said that SEN funding at the authority had increased from £1 million to £18.2 million in the last couple years and that the top 10 per cent of schools – by proportion of SEN pupils – would receive more funding.

He said: “I have been to Brampton and met with you and the head and I do agree it is a particularly challenging situation.

“It does seem that the school has become a victim of its own success.

“What we can do is look to see if there are any exceptional circumstances in which we can offer any further funding support.”

Coun Dale confirmed that this would be done “as soon as possible” and that Brampton’s SEN funding had been increased by 3.5 per cent in recent years.