Cash-strapped primary schools across Bucks asked the council for more than £600,000 of additional funding as they struggled to cope with a range of budget issues last year, including staffing costs.

However Bucks County Council (BCC) was only able to dish out £278,603 of the money requested in 2017/18, according to a Schools Forum report.

A total of 19 primary schools maintained by BCC, which were not identified in the report, submitted bids collectively adding up to £600,742 for a share of the £474,879 contingency fund – a pot of cash set aside to help schools facing financial difficulties.

Reasons for the bids include “unforeseen” staffing costs, additional costs arising from safeguarding issues as well as pupil premium funding, usually paid by government, for traveller children who arrived in the area after the census date.

However five requests were rejected as they included bids for funding for special educational needs (SEN) provision – which does not fall into the panel’s remit.

At a meeting of BCC’s Schools Forum on Tuesday, June 12, questions were raised as to why there is no specific contingency fund for SEN provision – prompting calls for more clarity on the process for schools requesting additional funding in this area. 

The contingency panel report, published on the BCC website, stated: “The 2017-18 contingency meeting resulted in £278,603 being allocated to 19 primary schools…

“Unsuccessful applications included bids for special educational needs (SEN) related provision that are not eligible under the panel’s terms of reference.

“These SEN applications were referred to the SEN team for their consideration. The unused balance of £195,834 (after administration costs) has been added to the dedicated schools grant reserve.”

Director of education at the county council, Sarah Callaghan, warned there are “significant pressures” within the high needs budget, however agreed there is an increased demand for SEN funding.

She said: “Obviously we have got significant pressures in terms of SEN spend, and if a number of applications have been made regarding SEN, then how are we going to manage that?

“So I am wondering if we consider how we move forward in terms of meeting demand within the budgets we have available to us. There is obviously a need emerging there.”

Speaking at the same meeting, head teacher at Cressex Community School, David Hood, stated an “exceptional meeting” of the contingency panel was held in in July last year to settle any unresolved claims from the previous financial year – after the final meeting was cancelled due to a “lack of funds”.