Wokingham Borough Council has reached an agreement with the Department for Education to invest government funding in development for services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The grant has been awarded as part of the government's ‘Safety Valve’ programme which covers the financial years from 2022/23 to 2028/29. This is in addition to the two new SEND schools the council were awarded funding for earlier this month.
Wokingham Borough Council is one of a number of local authorities with a significant deficit in the High Needs Block (HNB), built up over more than five years, which funds support for pupils and students with SEND who need extra resources and support to take part in education and learning.
With the number of children needing additional support at an all-time high and growing steadily, the programme will give significant financial support and structure to remodel and further develop services, ultimately making it better for children and their families, and more sustainable for the future.
Improvement in four strategic priorities
The Safety Valve programme will last until the 2028/29 financial year and includes improvement in four strategic priorities:
- Improve early intervention and prevention and increase local capacity
- Invest in local specialist provision to improve the range available for pupils with SEND
- Work with partners to improve the way the council commissions SEND services
- Review and improve the way the council manages its SEND services
The programme will focus on investing in a range of improvement activities which will have long lasting impact with the aim to meet needs at the earliest opportunity and create a sustainable SEND system for children and young people and their families in the borough.
What it will include
Activities include improving the information available to children and young people with SEND and their families to help them find the right help and support; expanding and increasing the SEND special schools in the borough, including building two new SEND schools; and working with partners to target support earlier and ensure SEND need is picked up early and appropriate support available right away.
Also included will be a review of home to school transport for SEND children and young people, improving the specialist support available to schools and improving how young people prepare for adulthood.
Further detail, including what this means in practice for children and families, will be released over the length of the programme. The council will be launching an area dedicated to SEND improvement, which will host updates and consultations, early next week on its engagement website, Engage Wokingham Borough.
Getting back on the front foot
Councillor Prue Bray, executive member for children’s services, said: “We know that nationally SEND services have been struggling to meet the needs of all children in the best way possible over the recent years. In Wokingham Borough, we have the same challenge. The fact is a significant deficit in the budget running to several million pounds has meant we have been unable to target and improve our offer as much as we would have liked.
“This is more excellent news. Just a couple of weeks ago we heard that we will be getting two new SEND schools and now we’ve been accepted onto the Safety Valve Programme, and will receive around £20 million over the lifetime of the programme, which will help us to remodel our spending and improve the SEND services we offer to children and young people.
“The Safety Valve Programme will now give us the opportunity to get back on the front foot and give our children and young people with SEND the support and education they need and deserve.”
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