It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies.
It is no coincidence that I also speak on behalf of the city of York. The council’s estimated spend on the high needs budget is £1.15 million, yet the Government’s high needs funding is just £393,000, leaving a shortfall of £760,000. However, we know the need is much greater, as many children do not get diagnosed early enough and often wait years for diagnosis, and many children do not reach the levels for which funding is awarded.
Those shortfalls are experienced throughout the education system, from nursery school—nurseries now have to subsidise childcare costs—to primary and secondary school. I know, from a visit I made to a secondary school in York, that children are sometimes placed in isolation. That causes some of them emotional harm, but the school does not have the capacity to support them. Often, the stigma stays with them all their lives.
Some children are moved to other schools, but that does not address their special educational needs. I am sure if research was undertaken on off-rolling children, it would show that a high proportion have neurodiversity-related needs. Those children become more vulnerable, more at risk of exploitation and more likely to end up in the criminal justice system. Those children are failed.
If I may say it again in this debate, York schools are the worst funded in the country. We have the worst attainment gap in the country. We have the highest rise in class sizes. SEND is seriously underfunded. Children with SEND in York experience among the longest waiting times for diagnosis, and our SEND budget deficit is three quarters of a million pounds. I ask the Minister to pause for a moment to make the correlation between those statistics.
Next year, the overspend on the budget will be £1.3 million, and the following year it will be £1.9 million. Although the education, health and care plans have been extended to the age of 25, no additional funding has been put into the budget and there are no additional resources to support the 51% increase in demand. I ask the Minister to review the budget and ensure that schools are adequately supported to provide vital support for those young people right through their schooling and also in early years, through children’s centres and Sure Start schemes.