Agenda item

High Needs


31.1    The Forum received a detailed report and presentation on the Development of a Strategic Plan for High needs.  (For information – A copy of the presentation slides has been uploaded to the Council’s website, and a copy is included in the signed minute book).


31.2    Stewart King, the Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills, explained that the assumption was that the National Funding Formula for High Needs would go ahead on something close to the proposal set out in the December 2016 consultation paper. He made the point that Gloucestershire was a ‘loser’ on the National Funding Formula proposals.  As a consequence the likely position was a cash standstill over the period 2017/18 to 2020/21. 


31.3    The budget position for High Needs was not sustainable past 2018/19 and beyond with spending pressures/rising trends right across the High Needs block.   Officers emphasised that radical changes would be needed in how needs were assessed and met and how the available funding was prioritised.


31.4    The Forum noted that John Reilly, current interim headteacher at Laker’s Academy, would be employed by the authority full time from September, to work on developing the Strategic Plan for High Needs.  John Reilly attended the Forum meeting to share his initial thoughts. 


31.5    The Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills referred to the design principles for a new model for High Needs which were outlined at Annex B to the report.  He explained that if the programme was successful it would mean that needs were understood and plans were good; schools and other providers were confident and able to meet additional needs; and the county wide system would effectively support children in their local communities including those with complex needs.


31.6    The Forum considered different ways of managing High Needs within the context of rising demand with a strictly limited resource and very limited flexibility. There was a wide-ranging discussion on the ideas being put forward, and the following points were raised:  


31.6.1The number of children needing an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) was rising year on year as an increasing number of children were coming into the reception year with complex special needs.   It was reported that each EHCP cost £5,000, and there was evidence to suggest that the specific 1:1 teaching assistant support requirement in some EHCPs was not always effective in meeting needs. Officers explained that there was a need for a different approach and they outlined to the Forum what this could mean. 


31.6.2There was a degree of support amongst Forum members for pursuing the idea of reducing the number of EHCPs through the devolving of funding to schools via the Resource Allocation System (RAS) for needs as a whole.  However, there was recognition that if this approach was taken then the expectations of parents over the level of support for their child would need to be managed carefully.   It was also acknowledged that there would be some children who would still need 1.1 teaching assistant support. 


31.6.3It was anticipated that this approach would eventually result in there being approximately 1000 fewer EHCPs.   A member of the Forum did raise the issue as to how it would be ascertained that a child’s needs were being met without an EHCP.  In response, the Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills provided assurances that under this approach the needs of the child would still be understood. He added that there could be a design element within the RAS which would provide a threshold to identify when a child did need an EHCP.


31.6.4The Forum was informed of the plans for In-County (complex needs), the key areas of focus would be children with Social, Emotional & Mental Health difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The plan was to invest to extend the IRIS/Alternative Provision approach via individualised packages and connect across education, social care and health.


31.6.5The Forum discussed the vision for Alternative Provision.  The Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills explained that the plan was to significantly reduce the number of permanent exclusions to 0%.  This would be undertaken by having a bedrock of good, inclusive in-school provision behaviour and relationship management.  There would be an individualised package for each pupil; the support would be shorter and more intensive, and would have a strong focus on therapeutic interventions.  Schools would ‘own’/direct the alternative provision.  He reported that there was an emerging view that a single countywide model was not feasible, and that we need to explore area-based solutions.  Some Forum members expressed concern about how this would work, and reference was made to reasons why some children may not be able to attend mainstream settings.  It was acknowledged however that there would be a revised offer for students that did not fit mainstream, or who needed intensive support.


31.7    The Forum heard from Molly Macleod, Development Manager Restorative Approach, who gave an outline of the key features of the restorative practice approach.  This was an evidence based approach, which used a core set of beliefs, principles and a way of being with people that would build and maintain healthy relationships, a sense of community and a shared sense of accountability.  It was reported that evidence from elsewhere in the country, particularly in Leeds, indicated that the restorative approach greatly benefited schools in terms of behaviour management, which had a direct impact on reducing exclusions.   Pilots were taking place at a secondary school and two primary schools in the county. Linda Uren, Commissioning Director: Children and Families added that consideration would need to be given as to how restorative practice could be rolled out for a whole system approach. The Forum suggested that to start with, the restorative practice approach should be introduced into at least one primary school and one secondary school in each district. It was agreed that officers would discuss this with their primary and secondary colleagues. 

            ACTION: John Reilly/Stewart King


31.8   There was a degree of support amongst Forum members for the new ideas being put forward.  However, there were also some concerns expressed by Forum members about the risk of not being able to properly meet the needs of children with SEND/the quality of provision dropping as a consequence of the increasingly limited resources.


31.9    The Forum acknowledged that developing a High Needs strategy was a major piece of work.  In recognition of this the Forum asked to be provided with a plan showing the milestones/decision points in the High Needs programme, and also an outline of the projects taking place. 

            ACTION: Stewart King. 


31.10  It was also agreed that there would be a standing item on High Needs on each future Forum’s meeting agenda. 

            ACTION: Joanne Bolton


31.11  It was agreed that the Lead Commissioner for Education and Skills would speak to Clare Steel, Chair of GASSH, following the meeting, to discuss how representatives of special schools could be involved in any project groups. 

            ACTION: Stewart King


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