The new Secretary of Education is being urged by Richmond Council to put special needs education (SEND) at the top of his agenda amid an increasing funding crisis.

Cllr Robin Brown, Lead Member for Finance and Resources, has written to Gavin Williamson to ask he use his newly appointed role to put SEND at the top of his agenda.

The councillor also congratulated the new Secretary of Education and indicated that he understood the difficult financial position councils are in, which hinders meeting the need for SEND services.

In the letter Cllr Brown wrote: “In the current financial year, the latest forecast is for a deficit on the high needs block of £5m and a net deficit of £4.5m.

“We have received approval to make a transfer from the schools block to the high needs block of £0.6m and this is already taken into account in the forecast.

“Earlier this year, Richmond's deficit recovery plan was discussed with our Schools Forum.

“Our SEND Futures Plan is forecast to help mitigate growth in costs through a focus on early intervention, mainstream inclusion, a widened further education offering and promotion of independence on the transition to adult services. We will also be investing in local special school place provision.

“However, despite these actions, in the absence of improved funding we forecast that the in-year high needs deficit will increase to £7m by 2021/22 with an accumulated DSG deficit of £25.7m by the end of that financial year.”

Cllr Brown has invited Mr Williamson to visit the borough so that he could witness the amazing work that is being done to support the borough’s most vulnerable pupils.

The invitation would also allow the newly appointed to hear from families, teachers and service staff to understand why funding for special needs education is vital.

The Cllr added: “It is time the Government stepped up to the plate and backed the young people of this borough and beyond.

“If the Secretary of State comes to this borough and talks to our teachers and our parents and our service members, he will find a group of people who all want young people with special educational needs to get the support they deserve.

“He will see for himself that despite cut after cut from central government we, together with our schools and parents are continuing to deliver quality SEND support.

“But he also needs to understand that the government can no longer continue to rely on local authorities, teachers and families to cover up their deficiencies when it comes to SEND.

“There is no time to waste. Mr Williamson needs to put the SEND funding crisis at the very top of his agenda.”