AN £11.5 million boost for services that help Bradford pupils with complex needs has been described as a “game changer.”

For years the Bradford Schools Forum, made up of heads of local schools, have bemoaned what they saw as inadequate investment from the government for the Bradford “high needs block” - the pot of cash used to fund pupils with disabilities and special educational needs.

They said that while need was rising in the district, the per pupil funding from government was not increasing to meet Bradford’s needs.

But at the most recent meeting of the forum members were informed that a recent government announcement meant Bradford would get an extra £11.51 million in the coming years.

In recent years funding for Bradford’s High Needs Block had become so strained that the Forum had agreed to transfer £2 million from the Schools Block - which funds mainstream schools in the district, to the High Needs Block to maintain essential services.

At Wednesday’s meeting in City Hall, Schools Finance officer Andrew Redding told members the “very good news” about the new funding, which he admitted took him by surprise.

He said: “This is a very significant increase in funding.

“It puts us in the top 15 local authorities in the country for funding.

“It came as a bit of a surprise - I had to double check the figures when they came in.

“It is a game changer. The high needs block is in a much more secure position than it was.”

The government announcement means that in 2020/21 Bradford’s High Needs Block allocation will rise from £69.66m to £81.17m.

In total it will mean the block gets a 17 per cent boost in funding by 2021, although Mr Redding said future rises in funding beyond that were not likely to be as dramatic.

Due to the boost, the committee will not need to transfer another £2m from the Schools Block in the coming year.

Earlier this Summer the Forum had written to Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, criticising the lack of adequate funding.

At Wednesday’s meeting members were also told that funding for mainstream schools would also be going up.

However, he warned school leaders to remain cautious, as some of these costs may be offset by planned rises in teaching salaries in the coming years.

Councillor Mike Pollard (Con. Baildon), who attended the meeting, said: “The updated situation regarding funding for Bradford schools, as a result of the Chancellor’s recent Spending Review announcement, is very significantly better. Especially good news about the High Needs Block, where we sit in the top 15 Local Authorities in the country for increased funding – no less than 17 per cent uplift in per pupil terms.”