Agenda item

High Needs

Minutes:

5.1      The Head of Education Strategy and Development provided an update on the High Needs financial forecast for 2024/25.  He explained that at the Schools Forum meeting in July 2023, a forecast deficit budget was set at £12.819M.  In early forecasts there has been some movement in expenditure in a number of budget lines. The key variances were:

 

Ø   Mainstream secondary EHCP costs - £165k rise due to rise in average cost of plans.

Ø   Special school top-up funding and special school bespoke packages - £230k & £290k due to increase in complexity of need in special schools.

Ø   Alternative Provision – Glos Hospital Education - £179k due to increased referrals and opening of a new school.

Ø   Education other than at school - £200k due to increased demand.

 

5.2      Overall, the forecast was showing a variance to the planned deficit budget of £906k to £13.7M.

 

5.3      It was reported that the number of children supported by a EHCP was continuing to rise, predominantly through requests for new plans for children aged 0-10.  The latest dataset included updated national and statistical neighbour comparator data for January 2023.  This showed that despite the continued growth, Gloucestershire still had proportionally less EHCPs per 1000 than both comparators and the rate of growth had also been slower.  Locally the rate of growth between January 2022 and January 2023 was 2.5 per 1000, compared to 2.6 nationally and 3.5 per 1000 for statistical neighbours.  Therefore, Gloucestershire was not an outlier in terms of the level of need coming through the system and was in line with what was happening nationally.  The current trend was in line with the assumptions that underpinned the budget forecast.  At this stage, variance in expenditure was predominantly driven by the cost of placements, rather than a further change in EHCP growth.

 

5.4      The Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that the local authority had now completed the final stage of the Delivering Better Value (DBV) in SEND Programme grant application.  As part of the final stage of assurance, the DfE had asked the local authority to review 5 areas where they believed there was potential for further mitigation that could have an impact on the 5-year plan. The local authority had submitted the outcome of this review to the DfE; it was hoped that the local authority would receive the grant funding within the next few weeks.  The 5-year financial model and the DSG management plan would be presented to the Forum at the November 2023 meeting. 

 

5.5      He reported that none of the mitigations identified were able to fully address the rising deficit that was accumulating.  The local authority in its engagement with the DfE would continue to make it clear that locally there were deep concerns about the in-equity of funding.

 

5.6      In response to a question, the Head of Education Strategy and Development explained that internal conversations had taken place regarding the expansion of mainstream school resource base provision for children with additional needs.  This was an area that the DfE was keen to drive forward.  However, locally there were concerns around how the resource bases could be managed within the current system and the impact they could have on the wider mainstream.  Schools that had an attached resource base were often perceived to be more inclusive and consequently had a disproportionately high number of children with additional needs.   The resource base model was working well in some areas and officers were engaging with those local authorities to obtain a clearer picture of how it was operating, before any future proposals for expansion were developed.  The local authority was also seeking the views of schools on this issue.

Supporting documents: