AN EDUCATION authority has predicted it will fail to balance its books on special educational needs provision by more than £5m this year, despite having overhauled the service to stay within budget.

As the National Association of Head Teachers said funding for schools supporting pupils with special needs and disabilities (SEND) was at crisis point, North Yorkshire County councillors approved measures to limit the effects of soaring demand.

The authority’s education boss, Councillor Patrick Mulligan told the executive committee the county had seen the number of SEND children and young people in the year to January rise by 14 per cent to 2,600, which was expected to rise by a further 30 per cent by 2022.

The meeting heard all North Yorkshire special schools were full, despite an increase in places, leading to more than 400 young people being placed in more expensive out of area and independent schools.

However, the £44.8m the authority received in High Needs Budget from the Government was “insufficient to meet current and expected demand”, leading to a projected £5.5m overspend this year alone.

The meeting was told while the council’s response was a five-year plan to reshape SEND provision, which “aimed to make the best provision possible with the funding we have”, the authority was continuing to lobby Government and had written to the North Yorkshire MPs to highlight the issue.

A Local Government Association spokesman said the unprecedented rise in demand for SEND provision was a national phenomenon.

To address the pressures in North Yorkshire for the coming five years, Cllr Mulligan said, measures such as more effective early intervention and long-term provision in mainstream schools would be vital.

Other parts of the plan include closer working between special and mainstream schools, strengthening of processes in preparing for adulthood and a reduction in the number of exclusions through closer working between mainstream schools and the pupil referral service.

Cllr Mulligan said: “The proposed plan has therefore been drawn up with great care to ensure the funding we have is spent in the best way possible for the most effective support.”

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government recognised rising pressure on High Needs Budgets, but claimed funding was increasing.

He said: “We have undertaken the biggest special educational needs reforms in a generation, including the introduction of education health and care plans, so that support is tailored to the needs of individuals and families are put at the heart of the process.”