To consider a proposal to pilot a mechanism for children/young people to have prompt access to short-term additional specialist support from the High Needs Block without having to wait to go through an Education Health Care Plan statutory needs assessment to access Element 3 ‘top up funding’.
The Forum considered a report putting forward a proposal to pilot a mechanism for children/young people to have prompt access to short-term additional specialist support from the High Needs Block without having to wait to go through an Education Health Centre (EHC) plan statutory needs assessment to access Element 3 ‘top up funding’.
The report had been prepared in response to recommendations from the independent review of the High Needs Block, which amongst other things highlighted the lack of headteacher confidence in the current allocation of funding. A survey of school leaders had evidenced the need to develop increased confidence in the local SEND funding system across the school sector. Improved outcomes for children and young people with SEND in Bracknell Forest compared unfavourably with neighbouring Berkshire Authorities and the national average.
The January 2018 school census showed that there were 2,348 (11.1%) pupils requiring SEN support with 446 (2.1%) in receipt of an EHC Plan or equivalent. Costs of ‘top-up funding’ for Bracknell Forest mainstream schools have been steadily increasing from £667k in 2014-15 to a forecast £971k in 2018-19 (+45%). Also there was concern that not all children and young people were receiving the right level of support. A series of panels and processes existed to oversee children and young people at different levels and with different needs but there remained too many that ‘fell through the net’ or were not signposted correctly.
The report proposed the setting up of a pilot scheme to operate through to the end of the academic year which would establish a multi-agency hub to provide prompt, short-term and specified additional resource/support to children and young people through the High Needs Block in the form of ‘top-up funding’. The hub would work in partnership with schools to meet the needs of children/young people more promptly and effectively, provide access to specialists as required, preventing as far as possible the need for further escalation. It was proposed to select five schools to work with during the spring term and a further five during the summer term to carry out the pilot so that this alternative approach could be evaluated in terms of improved outcomes and value for money. It was proposed to bring in outside specialists to set up the pilot and to assist in building up a commissioning market, with the schools to be selected from among those currently assessed as underperforming.
The Forum welcomed the proposals to introduce a pilot scheme and recognised that, whilst there appeared much promise in the proposal, it was better to begin in a small way and build gradually, learning as the pilot progressed. It was the Council’s intention, following a successful pilot, to roll out the scheme to all schools for the 2019-20 academic year. There was, however, a concern that selecting underperforming schools to participate in the pilot was not necessarily appropriate. The Forum considered it would be far better to select schools for the pilot from among those where there were the most children and young people with an unmet need.
ACTION: Jackie Ross to ensure selection of schools into the pilot project would be those with significant unmet pupil needs and not overall school performance as implied in the report.
After further discussion it was RESOLVED, that taking into account the comments of the Forum as to the selection of the schools toparticipate:
1) To AGREE the pilot mechanism for children/young people to have prompt access to short-term additional specialist support from the High Needs Block without having to wait to go through an Education Health Care Plan statutory needs assessment to access Element 3 ‘top up funding’
2) To AGREE in principle that any identifiable costs from the proposal are financed from the SEN Strategic Reserve.
3) To AGREE that the proposed project is reviewed before the end of the summer term to determine ongoing sustainability.