But schools still making good use of funds, says Auditor General for Wales
Special schools in Wales are making good use of available funds, but many councils have not reflected the changing circumstances that schools find themselves in when deciding on what funding and support to give.
That is the conclusion of a report, published today by the Auditor General for Wales. It was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government as part of a review of Special Educational Needs throughout Wales.
The report found an inconsistent approach to funding. There were cases of special schools providing services to pupils with similar needs but being funded at significantly different levels. Yet, despite this, schools are largely managing their finances well. For example, Estyn inspection judgements are positive in almost all maintained special schools. School managers work well with councils to monitor spending carefully and levels of reserves at the end of 2008-09 were, on average, a prudent 5.8 per cent of budget.
The report points to a number of weaknesses in the way councils are approaching funding. For example, few have compared the cost of their special school provision with that of other councils. Such analysis helps to ensure that spending on special schools represents good value for money in the context of the wider council budget.
Over the last 20 years, there has been an increase in the severity and complexity of the needs of pupils attending special schools. As a result of the combined impact of these changes, the basis on which resources are allocated to special schools in many councils is no longer appropriate.
While there are examples of good practice, which are highlighted in this report, many councils have been slow to reflect contextual changes in their budget allocations and funding formulae for special schools.
Today's report contains a number of recommendations to councils in Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government and maintained special schools, including:
Auditor General for Wales, Gillian Body, said today:
"There needs to be a fundamental review of the way special schools are funded in Wales. The current approach is inconsistent and not focused enough on what schools need - many of which are larger with more severe and complex cases than twenty years ago. While schools are generally making good use of the funds currently available to them, a revision of the system would help ensure that they can consistently meet pupils' needs across Wales."
Notes to Editors: