Agenda item

School Funding 2020/21


32.1     Philip Haslett, Head of Education Strategy and Development, presented the report which provided an update on:-  the current forecast for the High Needs budget for 2019/20; the data and evidence to support a review of special school places in the county; the rate of permanent exclusion in the county; and on the progress in developing primary local inclusion clusters and the proposed projects. 


32.2    He reported that the pressure on the High Needs budget was continuing due to the increasing levels of Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) that were being identified which was resulting in a continued rise in the number of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP).  In 2015 the local authority maintained 2,245 EHC Plans or Statement of Special Education Needs, in January 2019 the figure was at 3,859.  If the trend of yearly increases was sustained at the current levels then the indication was that the local authority would receive an additional 350 plans a year, which would have a significant impact on the High Needs Block.


32.3    The current forecast showed an in-year overspend of the High Needs Block of £6,913,500.  This would move the overall deficit for the DSG to £9,502,400.  The Forum was informed of the main areas of overspend, and the plans for deficit recovery as outlined in the report.


32.4    Officers indicated that in 2020/21 Gloucestershire could expect to see an additional £6.13m allocated to High Needs funding.  However, this was not sufficient to bridge the current in-year deficit. The long-term plan outlined in the High Needs strategy to provide earlier intervention and support to meet need, prevent escalation and ensure access to mainstream education was critical.  However, given the continued rise in EHCPs, there would be increased focus on how there could be a short-term impact on the overspend. 


32.5    In response to a question on hospital education, Tim Browne, Director of Education, explained that this area, as with Alternative Provision in general, was experiencing an increase in demand.  In response to this growth in demand the hospital education operating model had been reviewed and services recommissioned.  The on-line learning provision was proving to be successful, and a telepresence robot – AV1 was being piloted.  This robot was helping children in hospital or being cared for at home to remain part of their school community, by virtually taking the child’s place in the classroom, enabling the child to participate in class.  If the two-year pilot project was successful then the scheme may be expanded. 


32.6    The Forum was informed of the outcome of an analysis of the current trends in both independent special school placements and referrals to special schools.  From the analysis the local authority had ascertained that additional special school places would need to be commissioned for 2020/21; and the focus on prevention through early intervention and support was critical to reduce the rising level of need in the system.  A new model was being developed to help fund and support this.


32.7    One key area identified in the analysis was that a significant proportion of the reason why special schools could not meet need, and an independent special school placement was needed, was due to key stage 3/4 boys with social, emotional mental health (SEMH) needs.  Officers acknowledged that this would need to be addressed as part of the planning of the future provision in the county.  The plans to build a new 75 place 11-16 SEMH special school, would only provide part of the provision needed.  In the short-term discussions were taking place with the existing special schools to determine whether they could accommodate additional pupils.  As a result of the increase in demand, the equivalent of a new special school will be needed, whether by expanding existing schools or a new build, in addition to the planned 75 place SEMH special school.


32.8    It was acknowledged that given the growth in children with SENDs requiring a special school place, any new special school would need to have clear admission criteria, so that allocations could be managed appropriately. 


32.9    The Forum agreed that engagement with the Gloucestershire Association of Special School Headteachers (GASSH) should take place to explore how additional special school places could be commissioned for 2020/21; and to understand more fully why the needs of some pupils could not be met by maintained special schools and put in place support to enable them to be met in county, rather than more expensive independent special school provision.  It was noted that officers would begin this process by meeting with GASSH on 22 November 2019.

ACTION: Philip Haslett

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