Education cuts hit special needs

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SCHOOL places for children with special educational needs are to be cut in order to make savings.

Wigan Council’s Children and Young People’s Services is reviewing support and funding for pupils to save more than £300,000 this year.

At the moment, children with special educational needs can attend one of six special schools or one of the six mainstream schools which have resources to support them. As there are currently more places than pupils, the number required over the next four years will be cut.

There are 642 places commissioned at special schools, with only 582 pupils on roll.

As a result, places in special schools will reduce to 619 and in resourced schools the number will drop from 74 to 50. The cuts will save £389,704 in 2011-2012 and £553,717 in subsequent years. But the Evening Post recently reported that according to SOS!SEN, the independent helpline for special education needs, nearly 20 per cent of Wigan’s current 17,000 plus pupils are now classed as having special needs.

Over the past five years the number of pupils with special needs has risen from 8,680 to 8,740.

However, the number of pupils who have been given a formal statement of special education needs (SEN) in the same period has dropped from 1,110 to 725.

As a result of redesigning staffing levels and requests for early retirement or voluntary redundancy, a further £474,044 will be removed and will be relocated within the council’s budget. A further review will take place in 2011-2012.

Despite losing Montrose Special School, and contradicting figures from SOS! SEN, the review found: “Overall, Wigan is seen as a good authority in respect of support for children and young with SEN.”

Elaine Baulcombe, service manager for Special Education Commissioning, said; “We have reduced the number of children statemented and have done a lot of work with parents to keep them informed. The number of children and young people attending special schools is now close to the national average.”