Yorkshire is failing to get the increases in funding it needs to meet the requirements of some of the region’s most vulnerable pupils and is missing out more than anywhere else in the country, headteachers have warned.
As a result of the way the Government is introducing funding reforms, pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND) are to miss out on millions of pounds, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
The “high needs” money for pupils with SEND would have been distributed to schools across 52 local authorities as part of the money they were due under the Government’s new national funding formula, which will be introduced next year.
But the increases will instead be capped at three per cent because the Department for Education (DfE) says that it needs to keep the introduction of the funding system “affordable”.
Valentine Mulholland, head of policy at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said the biggest worry was that some of the local authorities that faced the greatest challenges were missing out the most.
She said: “There are a lot of urban areas in Yorkshire that should be given quite a lot of funding, but they won’t be able to receive this because of the cap on what you can gain.
“In some way they are going to have to manage the demand they have for pupils with SEND.
“The Government has introduced a cap because it hasn’t got enough money to give the local authorities what they need, but the truth is we need more funding for these pupils.”
Data reveals that Sheffield should be given 18 per cent more, but will receive just six per cent over the next two years, while Barnsley should receive 14 per cent more but will also be handed just six per cent.
Kirklees would have received a 20.9 per cent funding boost if it were not for the cap, which reduces its allocation by £5.9 million. And schools in Leeds are losing out on more than £7 million.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families at Leeds City Council, said the authority “really needs the increase Leeds should have been given to be able to deliver the services we want to offer to children”.
Ms Mulholland added: “The Government has done a good job to get a formula that says ‘this is how much money should be given to local authorities depending on the needs they should have’, but they have not put enough money in to meet that need.
“Across the country the region that should be gaining the most is Yorkshire, but because of the cap local authorities can’t get that.
“Yorkshire is failing to get the increases it needs to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs – and is missing out more than any other area.”
The DfE had not responded to a request for comment last night.
While areas like Barnsley - one of the biggest gainers under the National Funding Formula (NFF) - are set to be better off, the schools are already operating on a reduced amount of funding.
And schools who have been advised to be “more efficient” by the Government, are already running on a shoestring, Valentine Mulholland, head of policy at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) told The Yorkshire Post.
She said: “The overall pot is less in real terms, but quite a lot of local authorities are going to do better out of the NFF, because it is much more focussed on deprivation.
“If you look at Barnsley, they would be around nine per cent better off over the next two years. Sheffield will be about eight per cent better off and York seven per cent. That is on the high side nationally I would say.
“But these future increases aren’t enough to make up for the level of real terms cuts that schools have seen since 2015.”
When looking at ways schools could make savings to tackle this, she added: “The Department for Education (DfE) basically says one of the issues is schools need to be much more efficient in how they employ staff and use utilities like gas and electricity.
“When speaking with school leaders in York last week, they pointed out that real terms cuts of eight per cent to their budgets already means that schools have had to do that.
“There wasn’t a person in the room who hadn’t reviewed staffing to see where they could make savings, or reviewed areas like gas, electricity and photocopying, or made cuts to maintenance budgets.
“You can do that for a year but it is getting to the point where buildings are starting to deteriorate.
“School leaders are having to make stringent cuts because of the situation we are in, but they are also having to decide what is going to damage the education of pupils the least.
Ms Mulholland said schools were being forced to get rid of teaching assistants and teachers and were also cutting back on the number of leaders in schools.
She said: “These cuts are really starting to bite now. On the whole schools are £3bn a year worse off than in 2015.
“The Government is putting a little but more money in over the next two years, but they are not making up for the cuts we have seen since 2015.”
In a recent survey carried out by the NAHT called Breaking Point, 72 per cent of school leaders said they were not sure how to make their budgets balance by 2019. “The Government has put money in, but not enough to take that fear away,” said Ms Mulholland.
“In theory the NFF is a slight improvement on the situation, which school leaders are pleased to see, but there is still a long way to go.”
Ms Mulholland said the union’s biggest concern was cuts to staffing, which could lead to more pressures on teachers, the loss of valuable teaching assistants who supported pupils with special educational needs and a reducation in curriculum.
The DfE said the funding formula being introduced by the Government, alongside the extra £1.3bn announced by the Education Secretary Justine Greening, would see funding distributed more fairly to each school.