Education for children with extra needs is heading towards catastrophe according to one expert.

The budget for children with high needs in Swindon is headed for an overspend for the fourth successive year and it might reach the point where a specific reduction plan is needed

But while members of Swindon’s School’s Forum – a body set up by the borough council which features council officers, teachers and head teachers and school governors - agreed to work on that plan, they feel the real problem is underfunding from central government.

Swindon schools have been overspending on their high needs top up budget for a number of years. In 2016-17 the deficit was £235,000, which rose to £947,000 at the end of March this year.

The projected deficit at the end of March in 2020 is £1.392 million on a top-up budget of £12.64m, only £100,000 more than last year’s.

Along with other spending, that means Swindon is close to being in deficit by one per cent of its overall direct school’s grant from the government of £184.7 million – which means it will have to draw up a deficit reduction plan - with cuts and savings required.

Members of the forum are not at all happy about the situation, which has been caused by a growth in the numbers of children in Swindon having education and health care plans – meaning schools must cater to their extra requirements.

Swindon Borough Council has more than 21,000 children and young people with such plans.

The chairman of the committee, Jackie Smith who is also chief executive of the Brunel special education needs multi-academy trust said: “If you have a fixed pot and you have more children than ever going in the pot the pressure is going to grow. There are not enough funds in our schools to cater for children’s complex needs.

“We are heading for catastrophe and I don’t know how we move away from that, but we have to.”

The forum agreed to create a group to work on a deficit reduction plan, and will also write to the government which has asked for evidence of spending on high needs pupils.

But trades unions representative Peter Smith said: “This is not business as usual. Nearly 2,000 head teachers marching on Parliament a few weeks ago, there was the SEND day of action in June.

“Maybe we shouldn’t just be saying to the government that they’re damaging education, we should be talking to the public, to parents saying the government is damaging education.”

A Department for Education Spokesperson said: “Our ambition is for every child, no matter the challenges they face, is to have access to a world-class education that sets them up for life. Funding for the high needs budget is a priority for this government and we know that councils and schools are facing pressures. Swindon received £31.2 million in high needs funding in 2019-20.

"The total amount that we allocated for high needs funding was £6.3 billion this year, compared to £5 billion in 2013. The Education Secretary has been clear we are working closely with the sector as we approach the spending review.”