£6million boost for SEND school places in county budget proposals

Teacher helping schoolgirl using a tablet computer in class.

Suffolk County Council is planning another multi-million pound investment to help add more SEND places in schools. Stock photo - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than £6million is to be made available for developing further special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school places in Suffolk.

In its proposed budget for 2022, Suffolk County Council’s Conservative administration revealed it is planning to spend between £6.1m and £6.5m as part of a review in the spring term.

That will be phase two of a capital programme which has so far seen £45m of investment to create 861 places.

The latest cash was unveiled as part of the 2022/23 budget announcement that will be scrutinised on January 11 before a final decision by the council in February.

The council’s budget report ahead of that scrutiny meeting said the review would assess how successful phase one has been, spread and mix of new places and where gaps remain, which will inform phase two and how the cash is spent.

Deputy council leader Richard Rout, who is also cabinet member for finance and the environment, said: “This is on top of the £45m investment we are rolling out creating additional SEND places in Suffolk, and a further £6.5m we plan to set out later next year to create even more places.

“We announced the original £45m in 2019 and then there is an additional £6.5m required for what we call SEND phase two. That is flagged in our capital programme but it is not yet being deployed.

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“Phase two is for the specialist units beyond the 21/22 provision and more detail will be set out later in the next financial year, but it is something we are determined to invest in.

Suffolk county councillor Richard Rout

Cabinet member Richard Rout said more details about how the extra money would be spent will be revealed in the coming years - Credit: Archant

“We know it is a priority for Suffolk, we have heard that message loud and clear.”

The £45m SEND plan has used a mix of new special schools and specialist units attached to mainstream schools.

That aims to help pupils into education settings appropriate for their needs, and reduce out-of-county placements.

The first 259 places were delivered for the 2020/21 academic year and 334 places this year.

The remaining places will be split with 158 in 2022/23 and 110 in 2023/24.

Demand for specialist places has continued to increase, and follows a meeting of the education scrutiny committee meeting in which councillors urged the administration to allocate more funding for SEND improvements.

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