Essex County Council hears that additional educational support could cost £13m over a four year span

Essex County Council. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA.

Essex County Council. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA. - Credit: ANDRA MACIUCA

The number of Essex children diagnosed with special educational needs who need additional educational support has risen, and the costs to help could be twice the forecast two years ago.

In May 2018, Essex County Council’s cabinet reimplemented the system of individual packages of educational support, such as tuition or vocational training, for children and young people who have been permanently excluded or who are unable to receive suitable education through illness or other reasons.

It was estimated the four year scheme, which started in April 2019, would cost £6.8million based on approximately 700 pupils.

In its first year (2019/20), 577 pupils were supported at a cost of £5million for year one – an increase of 180 percent in the number of pupils requiring the provision of alternative education from 2018/2019.

This unexpected demand for services exceeded forecasts. Based on current demand, it will cost £13.2million until the four year framework expires in 2023.

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A statement to cabinet said: “It is anticipated that this level of need and demand for services from the framework is likely to continue until ECC’s SEN and PRU (pupil referral unit) capital programmes delivers the necessary increased capacity in the Essex special schools and pupil referral units.

“The need for an increase in capacity has led to a programme for delivery of four new special free schools for autism and social, emotional and mental health and the development of a PRU estate which is fit for purpose. ECC are in discussion with the Department for Education regarding the construction of these schools and the target date for delivery is 2023.

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“Essex has seen a 62.9 percent increase in the numbers of pupils entering PRUs since 2018. This is more than double the increase across the eastern region and England and will be one of the key drivers for the project linked to students who are not in full time education.”

Cabinet member Ray Gooding told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, September 15 that the estimated increase in numbers was not linked to Covid-19, and this diagnosis would be funded and managed in a slightly different manner.

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