BCP Council will not be joining the government’s controversial Safety Valve scheme after the Department for Education did not accept its plan.

As reported, the council was invited to join the scheme in July of last year.

It aims to manage education deficits through reforms and strict cost-saving measures, as the authority is faced with an estimated education deficit of £63million.

But, the plans were met with strong opposition from parents and campaigners, culminating in two protests, a petition, and a councillor motion which was supported with a consensus at a full council meeting.

The council was due to receive feedback on its 15-year plan under the programme in February, but it has now been informed that the DfE could not enter into an agreement based on this proposal.

Read more on the Safety Valve programme:

Cathi Hadley, BCP Director of Children’s Services said she recognises the increasing demand for support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).  “This process is ongoing and involves continued dialogue with the Department for Education (DfE),” she said.

“We have been informed that Ministers have decided that the DfE could not enter into an agreement with BCP Council at this time, based on our most-recent proposal. “This does not mean BCP Council has been rejected from the Safety Valve programme.

“We remain committed to working with the DfE, teachers, parents, children and young people to deliver a solution that protects education provision for all going forward.”

Cllr Richard Burton, portfolio holder for children’s services, said that getting adequate funding for SEND is a national problem.

“We are simply not allowed to pay off the deficit from council tax revenue or from our reserves and a realistic solution to this needs to be found,” Cllr Burton said.

“The current SEND funding system does not work for councils, or, more importantly, the young people who trust us with their education. The government funding for this service is simply not enough to pay for the cost of providing the service to all those children and young people who need our support.

“While the safety valve could help us address this issue, we have been clear we would never sign up to an option that would jeopardise the education provision for any of our children. 

“We put forward a proposal to the Department of Education (DfE) which would balance our designated schools grant deficit within 15 years. 

“Throughout the negotiation process that followed, it has been humbling to hear the young people directly affected by this issue speak passionately about the quality of their education. 

“This passion was also evident in the discussions at Full Council in February, during which councillors reached a consensus on a motion that gives us a clear direction going forward. 

“Now that the DfE has confirmed it does not accept our 15-year proposal, we will continue to engage with DfE and remain committed to reach a positive solution. 

“We all want the best for our children and young people who need that extra support to fulfil their full potential. We need to work together to find a solution that is right for them”. 

BCP Alliance for Children and Schools, which organised the protests against the scheme, said it was ‘delighted’ that the council would not be joining it at this stage.

Founder of the group, Rachel Filmer, said: “While we’re glad to hear that BCP won’t be joining Safety Valve at this time, we remain alert to the possibility that DfE could request an updated plan, which could still mean harsh cuts to statutory services.”

Campaigner and council petitioner Adam Sofianos added: “From Kent to Kirklees, from Surrey to Stoke, dozens of Safety Valve councils are seeing service cuts and failures, without solving their financial pressures. Safety Valve is not the answer for BCP, and it’s right that the process is paused.”