A £3.1m scheme to increase places for children with conditions, including autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, at mainstream schools in Darlington looks set to be approved.

Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet will consider approving funding for 31 places for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs at Red Hall Primary School and Rise Carr College as part of a plan to tackle a £3m black hole facing the authority over youngsters with special educational needs.

The authority’s leading members will examine creating separate facilities for the high needs pupils at the schools days after Chancellor Sajid Javid announced the government would provide over £700m more to support children and young people with special educational needs next year – an 11 per cent increase compared to this year.

Government funding for Darlington’s high needs pupils for this financial year was £12.25m, for which an overspend of £1.4m has been projected. In addition, a £1.6m overspend has been carried forward from last year.

The council is facing soaring costs for high needs pupils partly due to increasing rates of children being diagnosed as having special needs. In addition, in 2014 the minimum age limit for councils to care for those with special educational needs was raised from 19 to 25.

The number of pupils given Education, Health and Care Plans rose from 385 in January 2013 to 683 in January 2018.

Councils across the country, including in neighbouring North Yorkshire, are battling overspends despite the government providing £250m emergency funding over two years for special needs education last December.

As part of a shake-up of provision for high needs pupils in Darlington, the previous Labour-run administration launched the projects to balance the books.

Councillor Paul Cruddas, the council’s children and young people portfolio holder, said having more places for high needs children at Darlington schools, rather than paying more to educate them elsewhere, would save an average of £43,000 per pupil, per academic year on the cost of an external placement at an independent special school.

He said creating the provision at the schools would benefit both pupils and provide better value for money for taxpayers.

Cllr Cruddas said: “As well as saving transport costs, it will save sometimes a couple of hours travelling a day for pupils, meaning more time for them at home and more time for their education.”

The schools were selected following a tendering exercise, however the council has had to issue a second invite for bids from schools to host a third unit, for children with moderate learning difficulties, after receiving no bids.

It is understood the council is keen to set up the third unit as soon as possible to save on transport costs.

The council has been working with the two schools to develop the projects and designs are now complete.

The Red Hall Primary project will cost £1.57m and be made up of two classrooms with a central communal area and three ‘break-out’ rooms.

The additional space will be an extension to the existing school building with a separate entrance for pupils but with direct access to the main school for staff.

The Rise Carr project will cost £1.52m and feature a separate building on the site made up of two classrooms, a communal area and four ‘break-out’ rooms. There will be a separate access for pupils, staff access to the main site will be via a covered walkway.

Subject to Cabinet approval of the schemes, the council is aiming to submit planning applications later this month and hopes to start building work at the schools in January to enable children to start at the units next September.