GROWING financial pressures will see mainstream schools again asked to give up some of their funding to support children with extra needs.

The deficit for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s “high needs block” budget has grown to almost £11 million due to an increase in the number of youngsters on education plans.

Under plans drawn up by BCP Council 0.5 per cent will be taken from mainstream schools to reduce the funding gap by £3.9 million. This is the maximum transfer allowed without government approval.

However, the suggestion has been opposed by schools who have instead called for the council to fill the deficit itself or lobby for more national support for children with special educational needs.

Last year 0.5 per cent of mainstream schools’ funding was diverted to high needs. Even with this, deficit was expected to grow by £5m.

The deficit in the high needs block is now expected to be £10.8 million at the start of the next financial year in April.

“This is higher than predicted earlier in the year as the rate of education health and care plan assessments has accelerated further above budget in recent weeks,” a report published ahead of the Thursday meeting of the area’s schools forum says.

“This means that the significant increase in high needs places locally is not reducing the overall annual budget gap.”

It is proposed that 0.5 per cent of the mainstream school budget be taken to help reduce this – the same as was done last year.

This was put forward in a consultation with school leaders held in November and December but was opposed by the majority.

“The [local authority] needs to demonstrate leadership, management and budgetary control to reduce the funding gap in each year,” one anonymised response said. “They need to essentially work within a budget for each element of the high needs block.

“There appears to be an attitude that spending more than is budgeted is acceptable because we can be bailed out by a transfer from the schools block. This needs to stop.

Others called on the council to step up its efforts to lobby the government for more funding.

Despite the opposition, the schools forum is being recommended to approve the transfer at its meeting on Thursday.