FUNDING for children with special educational needs and disabilities is to get a £4 million boost – although the figure has been called into question.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed to ‘top-up’ funding for Early Years settings, primary, secondary and special schools by £4.1 million for the forthcoming academic year.

Top-up funding is the additional money allocated to a school to support it in making the necessary provision for a child or young person with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

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Carole Thomson, chair of Oxfordshire Schools’ Forum, criticised the council for how much money is being made available.

She said: “Cabinet should be aware that the consultation process in connection with this agenda item has fallen well short of that required by the local authority’s constitution.

“Schools must pay the first £6,000 of additional support required under an EHCP.

“Top-up funding is required to be paid to schools by the commissioning local authority and should reflect the costs of additional support to meet the individual pupils’ needs.

“Yet in Oxfordshire, even with the additional allocations paid last year, schools are funded on the basis of teaching assistant hours, calculated on the basis of an incorrect hourly rate.”

The county council’s deputy leader, Liz Brighouse, said there is a ‘massive problem’ for SEND funding in England.

She said at the cabinet meeting: “This paper is simply to try and move forward something we’ve already got in place, and I would agree that we really do need to be listening to our schools and Schools’ Forum at how we take it further than that.

“We’ve got a massive problem in relation to special educational needs and disabilities, and we have consulted widely on a new strategy – involving our schools and various other bodies, talking to parents, talking to children and coming up with a strategy which we hope will encourage and support schools.

Oxford Mail: Oxfordshire County Council’s deputy leader Liz Brighouse. Picture: Ed NixOxfordshire County Council’s deputy leader Liz Brighouse. Picture: Ed Nix

“There’s a real, real issue around this whole area of our provision, and we do need to invest heavily in it.

“In England, there is a massive problem for funding in terms of special educational needs.

“As an authority and a new administration, we are absolutely committed to building our own special schools so that we don’t have to send our children out the county.”

A report prepared for councillors noted: “The outcomes for children and young people with SEND in Oxfordshire are not good enough.

“In addition, for the past five years, spending in Oxfordshire on children and young people with SEND has exceeded the available budget.”

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This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

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