SCHOOL budgets looks set to be slashed by 11 per cent by BCP Council, a meeting heard.

Money typically handed to mainstream schools could be taken away from their budgets and handed over to special needs schools. 

The move, BCP Council has said, would close a £28.9 million gap in education estimated for the 2024/25 budget. 

But also to balance the budget and cut costs, needs assessments done on children and young people to determine whether they are eligible for extra support are also to be reduced. 

Potentially, hundreds of SEND children (those with learning difficulties and disabilities) could be sent to a mainstream school who in the past would have been sent to a specialist school. 

Bournemouth Echo:

Crucially, this would happen without any extra funding for mainstream schools as part of it would be relocated to SEND services. 

Sharon Muldoon, BCP’s interim director of education and skills, said it was “very clear” the authority was not able to provide a balanced budget in five years – a condition as part of the safety valve. 

BCP Council was invited to join the government programme in July and is an agreement to secure extra funding to tackle the financial deficit linked to support given to special needs children and young people. 

Read more: £780k required to clear backlog in BCP ECHPs for young people

Read more: BCP Council invited to Government's 'safety valve' programme

It was said at a children’s services scrutiny meeting that the proposal which would have potential to work the five-year plan would involve reducing the needs assessments, meaning fewer children will reach the threshold to go into specialist care. 

However current forecasts show meeting the target to provide a sufficient budget in five years is looking bleak. 

Ms Muldoon told a children’s services scrutiny meeting last week that BCP Council has a higher portion of SEND children under its care than neighbouring authorities. 

Cllr Richard Burton, portfolio holder for children’s services, warned the council faces bankruptcy in the form of a section 114 notice by the end of the year if the finances are not sorted. 

He said: “The statutory override [of the safety valve] falls away on March 31, 2026.  

“This means in settling the budget for the financial year 2025/2026, it will need to recognise that the override will not exist at the end of that period and will not be able to set a legally balanced budget for that financial year as at the end of the period it will have a native reserve position. 

“Consideration in respect of a section 114 report will be needed as a minimum in late 2024 if the matter has not been resolved before that.”