Special needs pupils hit by cuts - union

SPECIAL needs pupils will be hit hardest by the combined effect of savage public funding cuts and the drive to create academies, union leaders have warned.

Schools were largely protected in George Osborne's comprehensive spending review (CSR) last week, with the main budget rising from �35billion to �39bn over the next four years.

But it is feared the academy reforms and a crippling 28pc funding cut for Suffolk County Council will leave vulnerable children to suffer the most.

Councils currently keep around 10pc of the government's school budget to provide services, including help for pupils with special needs.

However, if, as Suffolk County Council expects, every school eventually becomes an academy, funding for SEN pupils will be the sole responsibilty of headteachers.

Keith Anderson, NASUWT national executive member for Suffolk, said: 'At the moment, the local authority can hold back money so it can be targeted at those specific schools where there is greatest need. But at academies, it wouldn't be ring-fenced. It will go on other things.'

His comments come after it was revealed almost one in four primary school boys in the UK have special educational needs, with many suffering from behavioural and emotional problems.

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Last year, Suffolk County Council spent more than �7million – around a sixth of its schools budget – educating SEN pupils in independent schools. This figure has nearly doubled since the �3.8m spent in 2000-01.

Councillor Graham Newman, portfolio holder for Children, Schools and Young People at Suffolk County Council, said: 'We are committed to providing the best possible education for all young people in Suffolk, including those with additional needs.'