Agenda item

High Needs Funding

Tammy Marks to provide update on High Needs funding 



·  Information / Decision: High Needs Funding papers


TM outlined the impact the 2014 reforms have had. Southampton has experienced a significant climb in pupils with needs requiring additional support and special school placement but the funds are not sufficient to addressing the high needs. TM shared an additional High Needs Block Budget Pressure Briefing paper, illustrating the actions taken by the Southampton SEND Service to reduce pressures in the High Needs Block budget. Since the reforms, the number  of pupils with EHC plans has increased from 802, 2.1% of the school age population, pupils to 1552, 3.5% of the school aged population, in January 2019, with approximately 50% of pupils with EHC Plans in Southampton going on to require a placement at a special school. The SEND Code of Practice extended the educational support for 0 to 25 years for those assessed to require it. In theory, this meant that there was a 9 year child-age extension with limited additional funding. This is a national issue that has led to numerous tribunals and high court hearings.


The Local Authority strategy for reducing and avoiding costs is to make local provision for SEND and reduce the number of placements in independent specialist placements. Southampton was labelled as a pathfinder by the government which meant that new assessments from the government were trailed on Southampton schools. To cater for the growing needs there are plans for a major reconfiguration of special schools in the city which includes, expansion, new builds and re-designation to ensure that our local offer is fit for purpose for the future complexity of needs.


Table 2 of the spreadsheet shows Southampton has had a big climb in number of EHCPs allocated to children in mainstream schools. The figures illustrate more support for pupils with high needs and progress on the ‘in education’ measure. Based on the number of pupils who have been placed in special school over the past 2 years, the paper illustrates that if expansion had not have taken place in Southampton Special schools, and on the assumption that half would have been placed in mainstream and the other half in independent (170 % 2 = 85 independent special school places)  it shows the cost to the Local Authority for the expansion has been £2,125,000 for the whole 170 places, whereas for just half of these placements in independent specialist schools the cost would have amounted to approx. £5,950,000. This represents a total cost avoidance of £3,825,000. There would also be additional costs to the other placements in mainstream schools for top up funding, as well as increased pressures on mainstreams schools to place the most complex children in the city in their settings.


SP asked if there is any intelligence that supports the increase in places such as where the children have gone had they not gone to these out-of-area provisions. TM estimated approximately 50% go to an out-of-area placement and 50% of pupils were in mainstream education. TM explained that 100% of the plans had special school named, so the sums are modest and in reality could be doubled in terms of what the cost avoidance has been. There is a statutory expectation to deliver education to pupils with highly complex needs with EHCP’s and the Local Authority would rather the children are in good special schools in Southampton than out of area.


When questioned about what the reduced number for Compass placements included TM responded by saying the figure fluctuates although it is less than mainstream. DW referred to part-time timetables causing an issue as they were funded on 100 FTE. The Local Authority managed to reduce part-time timetables by 50% in the last year. However, pupils with high needs are expected to increase. The aim is to recycle the money back into the system and to work on including pupils back into mainstream education by looking at what is offered and addressing the needs of the individual pupils.


HK considered how a special school was used by mainstream schools in the past whereas now it is a short term placement. TM confirmed a vote in a previous meeting cleared this up. HK asked if the £32,000 investment in secondary schools to develop individual plans for pupils disengaged with learning is equivalent to the proportion to that saved. TM explained that a proportion was recycled to increase places at the SEMH Schools in the city, whilst the remaining amount was being reinvested into mainstream schools to support individual pathways to support educating pupils who have disengaged from traditional learning pathways.


MS questioned the number of primary special provisions compared to number of secondary special provisions. SP added that the next primary cohort will effect the next secondary cohort. TM explained that the LA are looking at both interim and long term options. TM stated that even if we create enough local special school places in the city, we cannot simply move all children out of the independent sector. They have EHC Plans naming that provision in statute and any changes made to placements should only be made where the child’s best interests and outcomes are at the centre, in co-production with parent carers. The Local Authority took an opportunity in 2018 to place children in the city who would have been sent out-of-area to a specialist provision and was preparing them for transition into their next phase of education as this is a natural phase transfer. The average cost of a placement at the setting in the city was £20,000 and average cost of an independent provision out of city is £70,000. For just three children, this represents a cost avoidance of 750,000 over the next 5 years.

TM explained that other pupils who have hit the ceiling on their education and development, where the Local Authority can evidence that they have reached their educational outcomes, the Local Authority is proposing to cease EHCPs and transitioning them to adult services. Parents can legally appeal decisions for their child to remain in these provisions. A specialised provision for high needs pupils with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) where by Adults Services and the CCG have agreed to jointly fund Avenues at Rose Road. The average cost to education for this provision is £21,000 a year, which is comparative to £100k per year in an independent setting for pupils with these needs. Based on that, there is a cost avoidance of £650,000 per year. The outcomes of keeping children in the city instead of out-of-area placements has been very positive so far. TM explained that the Local Authority makes decisions in conjunction with the child and their parents.. The pupil outcomes are what are important and the Local Authority want pupils in good and outstanding local schools.


SP thanked TM for the updates around the high needs blocks and asked, about the pressures that cause the deficits to still remain and what more needs to happen. TM explained that whilst the new funding announcement will close the gap for 20/21 – the pressures have been increasing year on year with no match in funding.

In 2018 the SEND strategic review was published. There were 52 recommendations made to develop a financially sustainable model that achieves best outcomes for children with SEND and their families. The recommendations have been grouped alongside from the 2017 CQC and Ofsted SEND Area Inspection recommendations as an action plan that is governed by the SEND Partnership Forum which has multiagency representation.


(Action TM/AR) SEND Strategic Review Report Link to be circulated with the minutes.


There is proposals for a major reconfiguration of the needs in the city. As the complexity of needs for children has dramatically changed from 10 years ago the special schools are not able to compete with the independent schools as they need a lot of investment in terms of building and facilities. 


By 2024 the proposal, if agreed will lead to additional placements, and secondary schools catering for pupils with additional complex needs. There are proposals regarding new builds and redesigns and these will be going to public consultation in spring term. There is a need for capital investment from the Local Authority.  It was thought that there should be a more equal distribution of special needs in mainstream education and to ensure that there is not too many pupils with high needs in a limited number of schools.  A concern was raised that some schools are lacking in the inclusive practice and others need to be protected so they do not become special schools. TM reassured that there is a real focus on this at present and direct action is happening for the schools who are perceived to be not inclusive.


MS thinks that historically there have been a small percentage of schools that are not inclusive and Southampton and there is a need to ensure that each school is inclusive. MS added that national data suggests that free school meals are linked to the number of SEND students in schools. TM stated that if there is feedback from parents saying that they have been told that this is not the school for their child because it does not deal with their child’s needs sufficiently, that this is non inclusive practice and will be address. CG added that Ofsted will look at the full gamut of pupils. SP considered that it is in the Schools Forum’s interest to follow what TM suggests and work on it. Southampton schools are some of the most inclusive schools in the country.TM stated that the Local Authority wants to support the schools with high needs pupils and they are going to be creative to get everyone to where they need to be. AP stated that there are pupils in special schools who could cope in mainstream and others in mainstream schools who could move to a special school where their needs would be better supported. TM stated there will always be pupils in mainstream schools with complex needs because the parent has the right to make a preference for their child to receive mainstream education and in these cases all reasonable adjustments should be made. When asked about the proactive steps that could be taken to protect schools with overwhelming numbers of plans, TM stated the schools should contact her to discuss individual cases.


HK stated that his school has taken more excluded students than other schools, where they deal with pupils with complex needs through 1:1 support, specialist teaching and appropriate curriculum. The school would struggle to support more students with very high needs. TM stated that she has spoken to the non-compliant schools and has had discussions with Ofsted about how to challenge these schools.


When RS questioned the timescale and the budget impact, TM thinks the target for 2024 is achievable if finance and approvals are given next year. TM stated it would be a phased introduction to relocate students to different schools. There would be three to four years’ worth of growth and to move pupils when the new site is ready. There are contingency plans in place. The biggest risk factor in the next few years will be placement of pupils with SEMH. SP questioned who would have the oversite and responsibility to evaluate the spend of the funding and budget needs. TM confirmed it was her responsibility.


JD and HK thanked TM for sharing her update around High Needs Funding.


TM was questioned by RH about working with other Local Authorities, she confirmed that she is in contact with other Local Authorities to discuss individual student needs. In the South East framework, Southampton can ensure that all Local Authorities are charged the same. TM explained that where a new special school is commissioned all Local Authorities must seek the views from neighbouring Local Authorities as to the commission of places. 


(Action) To gain the views from the schools through consultation.


The vote was moved to Item 9