Home » DENBIGHSHIRE: Schools struggling with finances for additional learning needs, says councillor
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DENBIGHSHIRE: Schools struggling with finances for additional learning needs, says councillor

Denbighshire County Council

DENBIGHSHIRE headteachers have reported it is a ‘real challenge’ to support children with conditions such as autism and ADHD with current finances, said a concerned councillor.

Now a detailed analysis of the situation is set to return to Denbighshire’s performance scrutiny committee after a debate at Ruthin’s County Hall.

Speaking at the performance scrutiny committee, Cllr Martyn Hogg questioned whether a report presented to councillors gave a true picture of how schools were managing.

Councillors were updated on progress made in meeting Wales’ Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and Education Tribunal acts and what actions the authority and its schools had taken in meeting statutory requirements.

The committee was told what support and provisions were being put in place at schools for ALN, including training, support, and guidance, as well as how this affected school budgets.

This prompted Cllr Hogg to question the report and its ‘vibe’ and the financial support schools are getting to support children with neurodiverse conditions such as autism and attention-deficit disorder.

Mr Hogg said the report did not acknowledge the ‘real challenge’ schools were facing.

“I would say that I got a slightly different vibe to the mentions of feedback in the report when I talked to heads,” he said.

“Specifically on funding, they (the headteachers) seem to think funding was a real challenge.

“Eighteen schools in Denbighshire are now in deficit, I believe, and I think the ALN is quite a pressure on funding resource.”

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Cllr Hogg then asked if teachers were required to diagnose children with additional learning needs, questioning how schools could manage a child waiting for a diagnosis of such a condition without additional financial support in place.

Cllr Hogg requested an analysis of school finances detailing if ALN funding was covering these costs.

Cllr Gill German is the cabinet member for education and said professionals were diagnosing additional learning needs, not teachers, but said schools were managing children individually, even without a diagnosis in place.

“I think there is distinction between diagnosis and catering to the needs of the child,” she said.

“The needs of the child are there regardless of the diagnosis. Each school has an additional learning needs coordinator who is always there for advice, and of course, within the authority, we are there with support as well if a teacher is not sure.

“In practical terms, for example, there are many children who benefit from having a visual timetable throughout the day because they find that’s a comfort because they know exactly what’s coming next.

“So those kind of things are part and parcel of classroom teaching now that you recognise where a child might be uncomfortable where there’s something that you feel needs addressing and you’ve got the tools in your toolbox to do it, regardless of what the name (of the condition) that’s put on it.

“But just to make absolutely clear, there’s no element of diagnosis that goes on in schools. It is meeting the needs as they present to us.”

A more detailed report will now be returned to the committee, including analysis of whether funding was meeting schools’ ALN needs; feedback from teachers; and information about the involvement of educational psychologists.