Frequently-Asked Questions

What are the aims of BCPACS?

We established the group in January 2024, as a collective of parents, carers, young people, teachers, unions and other stakeholders. We formed in response to BCP's Safety Valve proposal, which would see significant cuts to school funding and to provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Stopping Safety Valve is our current focus due to the far-reaching implications, but we plan to continue working together on issues affecting local education and families.

What is Safety Valve?

It's a Government scheme which requires councils to reduce their spend on SEND services, by reducing those services. Participants must meet local cost-saving targets, in order to qualify for additional funding. 34 councils have been taken into the scheme so far, with more under review. Some are already failing to meet their targets, and are subject to additional monitoring and cuts. DfE have stated that involvement in the programme is "entirely voluntary".

You can read an in-depth explanation of Safety Valve and the implications, here.

Why are councils over-spending on SEND services?

Councils argue that funding from central government isn't enough to meet their legal obligations. The f40 group of councils is campaigning for an additional £4.6bn p.a. in funding for SEND services across England. As a result, councils have been spending more on SEND services than they receive in funding. The 10-year accumulated overspend across England is estimated to be over £2.3bn. These soaring numbers are separated from council budgets until 2026 - but as soon as the protection is lifted, all councils will be exposed to these deficits. Most would then be expected to declare insolvency.

My child doesn't have SEND - will Safety Valve affect mainstream schools?

Yes. Safety Valve will cause a range of issues for local mainstream schools which will all have a negative effect on children, families and teachers. The School Cuts website shows that BCP schools are already facing real-terms cuts of £8.4m in 2024/5, with an average cut per pupil of £176 (but as much as £451 per pupil).

As part of Safety Valve, BCP wants to take 0.5% from the Dedicated Schools Grant in 2024/5, and 1% per year after that - this means a £1.3m cut this year, £2.7m cut next year, and getting worse from there. These cuts may take some schools below the minimum per pupil funding level (MPPFL).

Schools, headteachers and education unions are clear that they cannot afford this. They are already struggling to fund the basics.

On top of this, BCP intends to place more children with SEND into mainstream schools, without sufficient funding to support their needs. This will cause issues not only for disabled pupils, but for all children in all schools across BCP.

Do you have a petition?

Yes, and more than 2400 people who live, work and study in BCP have already signed. You can add your name to the supporters here.

The petition will be heard at the full council meeting on 20th February, followed by a debate. Members of the public are able to attend, and to submit questions and statements. You can find out more on the BCP website. Agenda and information will be added to this page shortly.

Are you holding another protest?

Yes. We are holding a protest before the full council meeting on 20th February, at 6pm. You can find details on our Facebook event page.

All are welcome - please come and show your support!

Please note: BCPACS is a collective and the protest is not organised by an individual. This is a peaceful protest and we hold no liability - attendance is at your own risk.

Are councils meeting their statutory duties?

No. Councils are already breaching legal requirements, and many of our most vulnerable children are already being failed. In 2022-23, local authorities lost over 98% of all SEND tribunal cases. BCP itself is breaching legal timescales for issuing EHCPs in the vast majority of cases.

But Safety Valve doesn't change the law - in fact, BCP officers have recognised that it would actually make the council more vulnerable to legal challenges. There have been suggestions in the media, local authorities and government that parents are to blame for increasing "demand" and costs but that is not reality - parents are simply fighting for their child's legal right to an accessible education.

What is BCP Council's 15-year plan?

In July 2023, BCP were invited by the Department for Education to draft a Safety Valve proposal, in order to lower the overspend from £28m p.a. to £0, over a 15-year period. This relies on government funding most of the 15x annual overspends, forecast to be £239m in total. This would be the longest and costliest SV contract on record.

Would the 15-year plan save BCP from insolvency?

No. This was confirmed by officers in a committee meeting on 23rd January. BCP is already carrying over £63m in accumulated deficit. This is big enough to sink council finances in 2026, as soon as the protective override is removed. But the Safety Valve plan won't touch a penny of that legacy overspend - it only looks at future costs.

What would be the plan's effect on school budgets?

The proposal put to schools in January is to transfer 0.5% of funding in Y1, and 1% per year subsequently. This could take some schools in BCP below the Minimum Per Pupil Funding Level (MPPFL). This money wouldn't be spent on services - it would go into the deficit payoff pot. We understand the widely-discussed 11% diversion would apply only if the government refuses to co-fund future deficit payoffs.

What would be the plan's effect on schools?

Educators are concerned that resources are at breaking point, and the situation is untenable. They have stated that they're already unable to fully meet the needs of children with SEND, and further cuts at any level will exacerbate this and trigger more redundancies. Data collated on the School Cuts website shows that BCP schools are already facing a real terms loss of £8.4m for 2024/5, with some schools losing the equivalent of £451 per pupil.

What would be the plan's effect on SEND services?

The reduction of services is hard-wired into Safety Valve. Y1 would see EHCP approvals halved, with further reductions expected. This would be based not on need, but on quota. It would also target special school placements, services for 16+, and a range of other SEND services.

The proposal also makes a number of assumptions around reducing alternative provision and the number of exclusions, but as yet there's no detail on how this could be achieved. This increases our concern that, even if supported by the government, the 15-year plan could still be undeliverable, as has been seen in other areas.

How has this crisis affected SEND families?

At the recent committee meeting, we heard the testimonies of many young people and parents. They described the trauma of having their needs unmet, and in some cases being unable to access school altogether. In the current academic year alone, more than half of all EHCP requests have been rejected by BCP, and families are concerned that Safety Valve would make this crisis worse.

The effect on families can be devastating, with many parents unable to work, and many children deteriorating while they wait for the support they need. The barriers in bringing traumatised children back into education are huge, and the whole experience can cause lifelong setbacks.

What does BCPACS want?

We recognise that Safety Valve itself cannot save BCP from bankruptcy. The problem is too big, as MPs are starting to realise. And if the government doesn't take action nationally, then BCP will be one of dozens of English councils falling off the SEND tightrope.

To the government, we ask for measures to protect all councils from their deficits, and to address SEND funding, as a matter of national urgency.

To BCP Council, we are asking them to ensure their statutory and public sector equality duties are met, and for officers to consult urgently with those affected.

Our request for a meeting has been agreed - we will update afterwards. It has now been agreed our Safety Valve petition will be heard at the full council meeting on 20th February 2024 at 7pm.