Special Needs Cash Concern

Almost £300m was spent on special educational needs in Wales last year, but it is unclear whether the money was put to best use, the auditor general for Wales warned yesterday.

In a report commissioned by the Assembly Government, Auditor General Jeremy Colman said there was no clear link between the amount councils spent and the outcome.

Launching the document Mr Colman warned, “Some councils are doing things right, but there is still a general need to tighten up the way funding is planned, monitored and reported.”

Despite local education authorities spending between 10% and 16% of their total education budgets on SENs there is no clear link between the amount individual councils spend and the quality of SEN provision, his document shows.

The report shows budgets vary between £444 and £790 for each pupil in maintained schools.

SEN budgets rose by 10.4% between 2005-06 and 2006-07 and spending is growing much faster than budgets for other school provision, the report shows.

It highlights examples of good practice in the way SEN funding is planned and managed in Neath Port Talbot, Cardiff; Swansea, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Conwy, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent. But it warns that councils need to improve financial reporting, data collection, monitoring and evaluation and collaboration.

Early work is under way at a few councils to evaluate the effectiveness of some types of SEN provision.

The document makes seven recommendations to Welsh councils and two to the Welsh Assembly Government, including how to tackle these issues.