Members received a draft report that sought to set out how Havering’s allocation of funding from the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) High Needs Block was deployed to support and place, in appropriate provision, pupils and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities and pupils with challenging behaviour requiring intervention or alternative provision.
The inadequacy of funding to local authorities through the DSG High Needs Block was a national issue, with an increasing number of local authorities reporting year end overspends of their High Needs funding and attempts of some to take remedial action having been the subject of judicial review.
There were a number of competing pressures on high needs funding, which included:
· An increasing number of pupils and students requiring Educational Health Care Plans within a growing pupil population;
· An increase in the complexity of need of children requiring placement in Havering schools;
· The revenue costs of funding a new special school for Social, Emotional and Mental Health and Autism Spectrum Disorder;
· The revenue costs of more additionally resourced provisions in mainstream schools;
· Funding that recognised the pressures on schools with high numbers of pupils with Educational Health Care Plans;
· The need for additional support within children’s early years;
· An increase in post 16 provision up to the age of 25;
· Pupils with medical needs but no Educational Health Care Plan; and
· Additional training for school staff for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
In 2018-19, the Government introduced a National Funding Formula (NFF) to redistribute allocations to local authorities for high needs, with the aim to have a fair, transparent and predictable funding system. Based on the application, Havering received an increase in funding of 8.2%, however there was a cap of 3% which had limited the additional funding that Havering would receive. Although this additional funding eased some pressure on budgets, Havering continued to under-fund almost all areas of high needs provision.
The government also provided all local authorities with Special Provision Capital Funding over three years starting in 2018/19, to be used to improve facilities for children and young people with high needs and for increasing the number of places available.
The three special schools in Havering were currently funded £10,000 per place and an element 3 top up per pupil form the commissioning Local Authority. The new free school would be funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency at £10,000 per place x 60 places and element 3 top up funding from the Havering’s high needs block. 26 pupils were identified who could have attended this new school and these children and young people were currently attending a range of independent or non-maintained provision averaging at just over £63,000 per place per year.
The three secondary schools and three primary schools in Havering which had an Additional Resource Provision (ARP) were allocated £6,000 (element 2) per place with additional top up funding (element 3) of a further £6,000 per place. In addition, a further ARP was expected to open in September 2019. Members expressed concern that with the expanding primary provision, there was a lack of secondary places for transition and were advised that the Local Authority were in discussion with some secondary schools regarding additional provision.
Mainstream school funding was at £14 per hour for the number of hours above 11 in a pupil’s Educational Health Care Plan x 39 weeks. The number of hours being agreed in plans was increasing due to the complexity of needs.
There were a number of pathways in the borough for post-16 placements depending on need, including Havering College, which caters for students with a range of additional needs across its mainstream curriculum; Ravensbourne Sixth Form; Corbets Tey @ The Avelon for those who had finished Key Stage 4; Routes for Life, delivering courses for 19-25 year olds; and Dycorts would be developing a post-16 provision.
There were also independent and non-maintained provisions out of borough placements used by Havering residents including Treehouse, East London Independent, Hopewell, Woodcroft and The Belsteads, with an average cost for each provision ranging between £53,500 - £99,000. Some of these provisions provided for residential placements with an education element. The cost to the local authority for out of borough placements was £3,173,508 in 2017-18, which increased to £3,715,611 in 2018-19. The objective was to increase the local provision available, which would be the less expensive option.
In 2018-19, there were 385 children with additional needs and disabilities in early years across the borough.
The Olive AP Academy in Havering provided a facility for secondary aged pupils who had been permanently excluded and these placements were controlled through the secondary In Year Fair Access Panel. With regards to primary provision, there was no longer a primary Pupil Referral Unit and referrals for support would continue to be challenged through the Primary Inclusions Network.
In 2018-19 Havering’s High Needs allocation was £20,923,000 (after recoupment) and the forecasted overspend was £2m. It was projected that by 2022/23, there would be an additional 94 children and young people with Educational Health Care Plans, an increase of 6.5%.
The Forum received data on when young people were assessed and the decision taken whether or not to issue an EHC plan. It was suggested that an analysis be undertaken to determine if there were a trigger point. It was further suggested that more recent data be used for the report and the projection data for 0-5 year olds, to include data showing the change in demographics of pupils with EHC plans moving into the borough.
There would be a significant review of Special Educational Needs by the local authority as a priority, with particular attention to the decision making process.
The High Needs report would continue to be updated and presented to Overview and Scrutiny Committee to raise the profile of Havering’s position.