Agenda item

FUNDING FOR SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS AND DISABILITIES, AND THOSE WHO NEED ALTERNATIVE PROVISION – CALL FOR EVIDENCE CONSULTATION RESPONSE

Minutes:

Report ED18085

 

The Schools’ Forum considered a report which provided an outline of the Local Authority’s draft response to the DfE consultation on funding for special educational needs and disabilities and those who need alternative provision.  The Local Authority’s draft response had been developed collaboratively across services with the Council’s Education Directorate.  The deadline for submitting responses to the consultation was 31st July 2019.

 

The Director of Education encouraged every school and provider in the Borough to contribute and respond to the consultation which addressed a key issue.

 

Members of the Schools’ Forum raised the following key points concerning the Local Authority’s draft response:

 

Funding for SEN through schools funding formula

 

It was suggested that the answer to question 4 needed to be strengthened as the cohort of children with increasingly complex needs (specifically ASD) placed in mainstream settings was a group that historically ‘fell through the net’ as their needs did not neatly fit into criteria.  This placed a growing burden on schools supporting this group of children.  Acknowledging the pressures facing schools, the Director of Education highlighted that autistic spectrum conditions were a key priority for the Council’s SEND Governance Board.

 

The £6,000 threshold

 

The Head of Schools Finance Support explained that having read the consultation a number of times her understanding of the explanation provided in relation to this issue was that any proposal to increase or decrease the threshold would be cost neutral across the DSG.  There would be no additional funding, instead funding would be shifted between blocks.

 

Members of the Schools’ Forum stressed that this clearly demonstrated why schools were in the position they were in in terms of funding.  The DfE did not appear to acknowledge or accept that more money was needed.

 

A Member noted that the £6,000 threshold had been in place for a considerable length of time.  One key result of this was that overtime its value in real terms had diminished – schools now received less for £6,000 than they did 20 years ago.  The Member questioned whether there was any value in schools publishing how their notional funding was spent.  It was also not clear how the historical figure of £6,000 had been decided upon.

 

The Schools’ Forum discussed how the notional funding was allocated.  It was noted that a working group had been reviewing this issue and had planned to create some guidance/best practice that could be circulated to schools who had to demonstrate that their notional funding had been fully utilised before drawing down further funding from the Local Authority.

 

The Vice-Chairman suggested that one of the problems with the format of the consultation was that opportunities for detailed response were limited as not every question included a comment box.  Funding for SEN was a key issue facing every school and it was essential that this message was clearly communicated to the DfE.

 

It was agreed that the response should reflect that the £6,000 threshold had not been increased as well as providing examples of how levels of need have increased.  As a result of this increasing level of need more money was required and the level of funding required should be identified and distributed through notional funding including prior attainment and special needs.

 

Funding for pupils who need alternative provision (AP) or are at risk of exclusion from school

 

The Schools’ Forum noted that the Local Authority’s response proposed an additional funding block for Alternate Provision.  Members endorsed this approach but did however stress that more money was required because without this it would simply amount to ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.

 

A Member also suggested that it would be helpful to weave in comments around the benefit of respite provision in reducing rates of exclusion.

 

In addition the Director of Education suggested that it would be helpful to comment further about the benefits delivered by the Local Authority’s Primary Outreach Service and the positive impact it had on levels of exclusion.

 

Improving early intervention at each age and stage to prepare young people for adulthood sooner

 

In relation to question 25, the Schools’ Forum felt that it would be beneficial to highlight that each point of transition was equally important in terms of the stress or trauma for children with SEN.  The Director of Education further noted that there was a responsibility to provide services from birth up to the age of 25 and it was therefore equally important to consider the transition beyond tertiary education and ensure that there was support and pathways in place for vulnerable individuals.

 

Other aspects of the funding and financial arrangements

 

The Schools’ Forum agreed that it was important to draw out and emphasise the following points:

 

-  Funding was not sufficient and the short-term nature of funding arrangements made it difficult to secure appropriate longer term arrangements;

-  Funding needed to provide security.  Currently Local Authorities were not able to guarantee that places were secured for their children;

-  The importance of knowing where children were and the importance of the import/export process and how it worked.  A Member suggested that there had been a benefit to the old recoupment process as school eventually received funding.

-  In terms of ensuring good value for money; it was not clear whether funding itself ensured value for money, instead it was the way in which funding was used that delivered value for money.  Value for money was driven by the ability to utilise economies of scale and with continued uncertainty around funding it was not possible to fully utilise economies of scale.

-  Issues around the cost and expense of tribunals.

 

As there has been support for the Local Authority’s draft response and consensus amongst Members of the Schools’ Forum it was agreed that following the meeting the response would be updated with any changes clearly tracked.  The Clerk to the Schools’ Forum would then recirculate the response for Members of the Forum to endorse outside of the meeting.

 

It was agreed that a joint response should be submitted on behalf of the Local Authority and the Schools’ Forum.  The Head of Schools Finance Support thanked Members of the Schools’ Forum for their input.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

  1. The consultation response be updated with any changes reflecting the suggestions made by the Schools’ Forum clearly tracked;

 

  1. The consultation response be recirculated to the Schools’ Forum for comment and approval outside of the meeting;

 

  1. That a joint response from the Schools’ Forum and the Local Authority be submitted to the DfE by 31st July 2019.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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