FUNDING announced by the government last month to support children with complex educational needs will only plug about 15 per cent of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils’ shortfall.

Despite being awarded a share of the £350 million announced by education secretary Damian Hinds on December 16, the three councils are still predicting they will have £4.6 million less than required this year.

As a result, and ahead of the new conurbation council agreeing its first budget, a proposal to use mainstream school funding to help plug the gap has been considered.

Local authorities’ ‘high needs block’ funding, aimed at young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) up to the age of 25, has been strained by pressures from the amount of money provided by the government.

On December 16, announcing the extra funding for councils, 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.

“Every school or college should be one for a young person with special educational needs – every teacher should be equipped to teach them and families need to feel supported.”

Of the £350 million he announced, £250 million was made immediately available to councils with the remainder pledge for the creation of extra spaces for SEND children at mainstream schools.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils have a combined high needs block funding shortfall of £5.4 million and received a share of just under £800,000 of the extra money.

In order to further close the financial gap, the councils are planning to transfer £2.4 million – the equivalent of about 1.1 per cent – from the general schools budget.

Schools across the conurbation were invited to give their views on the proposal to shift the funding before Christmas with more than half (58 per cent) preferring a maximum of 0.5 per cent be transferred.

Government rules restrict councils to a maximum use of 0.5 per cent of the general budget but Dorset councils have been given permission to use a higher percentage as long as schools have been consulted.