Agenda item

High Needs Block: Update on Progress

To provide a detailed briefing regarding actions being taken to address the High Needs Block deficit budget and the strategies being implemented to secure financial probity of this funding in the future.


The Forum considered a briefing paper regarding actions being taken to address the HNB deficit budget and the strategies being implemented to secure financial probity of this funding in the future.


Cheryl Eyre explained that change was required as the HNB grant was insufficient to meet the needs of children and schools. Furthermore, the LA could not continue to spend at the same rate.


Cheryl Eyre explained that there were six project workstreams: governance framework and processes, building relationships, service and process review, data, developing the market for SEND / AP and support, and commissioning.


Governance framework and processes

Emma Shenton and Mike Carne were leading work on improvements to Capita ONE. Historically, the SEN team had just worked with spreadsheets, and it was difficult to have a big overview. Capita ONE captures everything and would centralise the information, making it easier to communicate information as well. Work was needed to integrate Capita ONE into the Council’s system.


Building relationships

There was an ongoing need for work to be done around relationships as there had been issues of non-communication from the SEND team to stakeholders. Regular SEND meetings with Headteachers and SENCOs had been scheduled.


Service and process reviews

Cheryl Eyre explained that there was full backing of the council to recruit the right people with right salary to the SEND team. The Chair expressed that the job descriptions need to be achievable. Cheryl Eyre agreed with this and explained that the job descriptions had been re-written and recruitment was due to commence in January 2022.


Nichola Jones had developed new systems to address the backlog of incomplete EHCPs and was meeting daily with members of staff to drive this at pace. Staff were finding this challenging as they were not used to reporting back. Cheryl Eyre explained that 80% of the team were interim staff. The Chair expressed that this was problematic as they would have no allegiance to Bracknell Forest and no knowledge of the local area and market. However, Cheryl Eyre explained that the SEND team would not be expected to have a knowledge of the local area and market as this was held by the other teams such as the Educational Psychologists. The SEND team were responsible for driving the process by working through systems and this did not require a knowledge of the local market.



Cheryl Eyre had been working with Finance and the SEND Team to develop projection data for trends with the most recent 5 years now available. It was hoped that this would enable the team to start modelling demand projections moving forward.


Developing the market for SEND / AP and support

Six new Specially Resourced Provisions (SRP) had opened in primary schools, with more to be created, especially in secondary schools. Cheryl Eyre thanked the HNB subgroup for their work around creating the SRPs. The existing Service Level Agreement (SLA) had been subject to further refinement, including legal support to ensure that it was clear and met the needs. Cheryl Eyre was now confident that the SLA and surrounding process for the SRPs is strong.


Work was being undertaken by the Headteachers Working Group to develop the Banding Matrix and look at the process, and Paul Clark would work on funding at the appropriate time. This work was all joined up with a clear agenda. Cheryl Eyre explained that the BFC policy did not permit top-up funding for SEND children who didn’t have an EHCP. Cheryl Eyre thought that was unhelpful and that there should be top-up funding for SEND children without an EHCP, but there needed to be a consistent process. Once EHCPs were in place, this generally moved beyond top-up funding and parents often considered moving to independent placements. This was not a sustainable position, and there was an ongoing need to establish more complex provision in the Borough. However, there may always be a small number of complex cases whose needs cannot be met in the Borough.



Commissioning had no role in SEND until 2020 and previously the team were spot-purchasing places. This meant that schools were sometimes charging different amounts for identical provisions. Commissioning was now working on value for money placements, due diligence, and monitoring outcomes.


HNB subgroup

The Chair requested a discussion around the future of the HNB subgroup that had been commissioned as part of the Schools Forum, as it appeared that other groups were naturally forming. However, if the subgroup were to be disbanded, this needed to be a formal assent by the Schools Forum. The Forum felt that the critical pieces of work which had been started by the subgroup needed to be carried forward. Jenny Baker had been chairing the subgroup and expressed a willingness to continue.  The Chair suggested that the subgroup could be convened as and when needed. Cheryl Eyre requested an update of the subgroup to be presented at the next meeting of the Forum.


Action: Jenny Baker

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