School forced to pay £270k for healthcare of disabled pupils

A school has been forced to pay £270,000 for nursing assistants to help three pupils with profound long-term disabilities because the local health agency refuses to cover the costs, according to the headteacher.

Sabrina Hobbs, head of a specialist academy in Shrewsbury, said her local clinical commissioning group (CCG) paid for the pupils’ healthcare at home, but expected her to pick up the bill when they were in school.

The Severndales specialist academy has been paying £90,000 a year over three years for three pupils to have nursing assistants, Hobbs told Schools Week.

The wraparound care is detailed in a continuous healthcare plan, which is separate to an education health and care plan (EHCP) and should not be covered by school budgets, she said.

“This is not about access to education. The pupils would need this support if they went shopping. We should not have to fund this from the education budget.”

Robert Halfon, the chair of the powerful education select committee, has warned many schools were having to pay “a lot for the health side of special educational needs”.

Halfon raised the case with Caroline Dinenage, the minister of state for care, at the committee’s inquiry into special educational needs on Tuesday.

Schools are paying a lot for the health side of special educational needs and can barely afford it

“It’s a lottery,” he said, adding some schools were “paying a lot for the health side of special educational needs and can barely afford it”.

He demanded a “ruling from the government that health authorities as part of their budget have to pay for this”.

But Dinenage claimed that earmarking CCG’s budgets would “fly in the face of them making decisions for their own areas”.

Halfon said the situation was “not fair on schools”.

A spokesperson for Shropshire council said it had tried to intervene to support the school.