Pupils with SEN requirements can look forward to new and improved facilities in schools across England, as the government unveiled a £215 million fund for schools to adapt their premises for pupils with special needs.
Schools Week reports that each local council will receive at least half a million pounds in funding for specialised classrooms, lifts and other modifications over the next three years.
Councils are permitted to use the money in any mainstream school, including academies, grammar schools, special schools and FE colleges in their areas, subject to consultation with institutions, parents and carers.
Response to the Department for Education’s announcement was cautionary, as some school leaders wondered how the funding will fit in with proposed cuts to pupils with SEN requirements.
The biggest beneficiary will be Hertfordshire council, which will receive £6,591,674 between 2018-19 and 2020-21. Kent, Surrey, Essex and Birmingham councils will also get large handouts, while Knowsley, Poole and Blackpool are among those areas getting the minimum payout of £500,000.
Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council in London, and chair of the Local Governmnet Association’s children and young people board, said:
The original SEND reform programme was significantly underfunded by the DfE and we’re pleased that the government has listened to our concerns. However, it’s unclear how this one-off payment links with the DfE’s proposed changes to high-needs funding. This will reduce council and school flexibility to make additional funding available where there are rising demands for SEND support.”
Suggested uses for the funding by the government include expanding classrooms, purchasing mobility equipment and building new storage facilities for wheelchairs.
Other uses put forward included building specialised kitchens, to teach young people skills for independent living, building sensory rooms and hygiene suites, and expanding existing special units attached to a school.
Edward Timpson, the children’s minister, said the investment would enable local councils to “build new classrooms and improve facilities for pupils, ensuring that no child is left behind”.