North Yorkshire’s mainstream schools set to lose money to fund high needs pupil education

County Hall, Northallerton.

North Yorkshire’s mainstream schools budgets are set to be put under extra pressure as a council revealed it is pressing the Government to be allowed to transfer millions of pounds from them to ease a funding crisis surrounding high needs pupils.

North Yorkshire County Council is expecting a decision by the Department of Education in the coming days on how much money it will be allowed to move from mainstream primary and secondary schools to help plug the projected £5.7m overspend on high needs.

The authority, like many across the country says Government funding for high needs “is simply insufficient” and although there had been “a notional uplift to the North Yorkshire area allocation, the actual cash amount for the local authority has actually decreased when compared with 2017/18”.

The high needs funding crisis has been exacerbated by an unprecedented increase in young people classed as having high needs.

To tackle the overspend, the local education authority has already agreed with the North Yorkshire Schools Forum to transfer 0.5 per cent of school budget funding – £1.7m –  to cover high needs pupils’ costs.

Before the funding transfer was agreed, the council had warned the majority of schools would be in financial deficit in three years due to rising teachers’ salaries and static Government funding.

A council spokesman said: “This agreement was reluctant as members of Schools Forum are aware that schools are facing general funding pressures but there was understanding of the local authority’s position on this matter.”

However, the council has warned limiting the transfer to 0.5 per cent would leave the council facing having to find £4.8m next year from mainstream schools funding.

In a bid to reduce the additional high needs funding requirement from the council next year to £3.1m, the authority has asked Education Secretary Damian Hinds for permission to double the amount of school budget funding it transfers to high needs to one per cent.

The request comes despite a pre-Christmas Department for Education announcement that an extra £125m this year and in 2019-20  for maintained schools and academies to pay for “additional teaching and other support” for pupils with special educational needs.

Mr Hinds said: “We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support.”

The council’s education boss, Councillor Patrick Mulligan, was unavailable for comment.