New multi-million-pound deal to improve education support for children with SEND in Norfolk
16 March 2023A major new deal is set to provide £70 million in additional funding for education services and support for children and young people with SEND.
The deal provides vital extra investment for the council’s new six-year Local First Inclusion SEND Improvement Programme and is the result of an agreement Norfolk County Council has negotiated with the Department for Education (DfE).
Local First Inclusion will provide significantly more advice, support and funding for mainstream schools and introduce 15 new school and community support teams to give early help and support to both parents and schools.
It also means the council will develop dozens more special education classrooms, known as specialist resource bases (SRBs) and alternative provision at mainstream schools as well as building two more special schools.
Cllr John Fisher, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “It’s a huge milestone to have this funding agreement in place.
“Together with additional annual investment the council has pledged for SEND, it provides the financial foundations for us to deliver our ambitious Local First Inclusion programme.
“The programme aligns with the Government’s recently announced SEND improvement plans, which together with our proven track record for achieving real change, puts Norfolk in a great position to substantially improve services and support for the education children and young people with SEND.”
Martin White, Chair of the Norfolk Schools Forum, said: “I welcome this significant support from the DfE for the ambitious Local First Inclusion programme in Norfolk. “This investment, together with that from Norfolk County Council, will support inclusion and have a positive impact on outcomes for all children across the county”
The county council will be investing an additional £5.5 million a year for six years totalling £33 million. The DfE has agreed to invest £28 million this year followed by £6 million a year for four years, provided the council meets progress targets, and £12 million in the final year of the programme, totalling £70 million overall. The county will also receive £135 million from Government core SEND high needs funding this year.
This new joint investment by the DfE and the county council means that by 2029 Norfolk can ensure the right mix of mainstream and special educational places for the needs of children and young people with SEND. It will enable the council to move towards a balanced budget, providing a sustainable and effective system so this group of youngsters can flourish in their education.
The first school and community support teams are due to start work in June this year, with most established by September. Recruitment for more than 100 additional advice and support roles for schools is already underway and a team of school leaders is already in place to work with council leaders.
Norfolk County Council currently has a forecast deficit of £73.6m in its high needs SEND budget. There are 40 councils in England which also have high deficits. Our deficit has accrued because of the increasing number of children and young people needing specialist provision or additional support at school and the need for a change at a national level in the way SEND is funded.
The long-awaited Government response to the SEND Green Paper, which set out plans for improvements to the system of SEND support nationally, has now been published and aligns closely to the council’s Local First Inclusion SEND Improvement programme and the Norfolk Area SEND Strategy.
The DfE and Norfolk County Council agreement is officially known as the Safety Valve Agreement but is known locally in Norfolk as Local First Inclusion.
Find the full details about the agreement on the Government’s website.