EDUCATION services for children with special needs in County Durham will be around £5m over budget this year because of spiralling demand.

Durham County Council is asking the Government for permission to use some of the funding allocated for mainstream schools for its special educational needs provision to plug the shortfall.

The council has forecast there will be a £5.1m overspend this year, while last year the service was £4.652 over budget.

The council expects to have exhausted its reserve for school funding by the end of this financial year.

Councillor Olwyn Gunn, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “This is not something we want to do, it’s something we have to do in order to try and alleviate some of this pressure on our special educational needs budget.”


There has been a significant increase in the number of young people who require high needs support, because of support being extended to adults up to the age of 25 and an increase in the the number of pre-school children being identified as having additional needs.

There are 833 people with special needs engaged in further education, up from 166 in 2015 while requests for pre-school support increased from 90 three years ago to 250 last year.

The council’s cabinet is due to meet next week to discuss options for how schools should be funded in 2019/20.

Changes are being made to end councils’ ability to set their own school funding formulas, moving to a national funding formula in 2020/21.

The cabinet will decide how to converge the formulas to make the transition easier for schools.

Cllr Gunn, who last month wrote to headteachers about the state of school funding, added: “I know that a lot of schools are facing increasing financial worries and I want to thank them for their continuous hard work, and amazing results, despite the constraints they’re under.

“Government funding has not increased in line with inflation and our schools have faced real terms cuts of around 15 per cent since the government’s austerity programme commenced.

“Had the government provided sufficient funding to meet these unavoidable cost pressures our schools would have on average £120,000 more funding per primary school and £600,000 per secondary school.”

“We understand the pressures all our schools are under. There is simply not enough funding being provided by government.”

A department of education spokesperson said:”There is more money going into schools than ever before, rising to a record £43.5 billion by 2020 – 50% more in real terms per pupil than in 2000.

“Every school attracts more funding per pupil through the National Funding Formula and high needs funding will rise to over £6 billion next year too.”