West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

A long term view of the HNB Budget and impact of the SEN Strategy (Jane Seymour)

Minutes:

Ian Pearson introduced the report, which had been written by Jane Seymour and Michelle Sancho, and aimed to provide an indication of the saving opportunities arising from the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Strategy 2018-23 and in particular the Invest to Save projects recently agreed by the Schools’ Forum. It was an initial report and a more detailed report would be brought back to the round of meetings in June 2020. 

Ian Pearson explained that the report gave some background information on the SEND Strategy, which aimed to help reduce costs to the High Needs Block (HNB).

The proposed invest to save proposals were detailed from page 61 of the report and tied in with the Objectives included within the SEND Strategy.

Objective 1 aimed to develop capacity within mainstream schools to meet the needs of children with SEND. This included the implementation of the Therapeutic Thinking approach and increasing the Vulnerable Children’s Grant. The ways the increased grant money would be used was detailed under section 4.8 of the report.

Ian Pearson continued by explaining that the report looked at each of the five Objectives within the SEND Strategy in detail and areas where potential savings could be made.

Ian Nichol queried if there were metrics attached to each of the objectives within the SEND Strategy to show how it was being measured. Michelle Sancho reported that there were action plans in place which included timescales and deliverables for each objective. There plans had been developed with partner organisations and were currently out for consultation. Michelle Sancho highlighted that there were outcome based targets included within the report.

Ian Nichol felt that targets needed to be set so that progress could be successfully monitored. It was important to be able to ensure corrective action could be taken if required. Ian Pearson reported that the information would be brought back to the Schools’ Forum on a regular basis so that progress could be monitored. The main aim of the SEND plan initially, had been to improve provision for high needs rather than deliver huge savings.

Reverend Mark Bennet referred to the deficit recovery plan that would likely be required by the Department for Education (DfE). Ian Pearson reported that it was likely that a three year plan would be requested using a proforma. The plan would need to address the deficit across the whole of the Dedicated School Grant (DSG). Whatever approach was decided regarding a deficit recovery plan, it would need to be agreed by the Schools’ Forum.

Reverend Mark Bennet queried what information would be taken to the next Heads Funding Group. Ian Pearson explained that a degree of detail had been provided at the current round of meetings and this would be fleshed out for the next set of meetings in June 2020. The deficit recovery plan, discussed earlier in the meeting, would need to be submitted to the DfE by the end of June and therefore this would also need to be given consideration at the next round of meetings.

Keith Harvey stated that the Forum had just agreed a deficit budget for the High Needs Block however, queried if this deficit could end up being less than expected. Ian Pearson stated that this could depend on how schools responded to the additional support being provided to schools and what special in house provision could be created in the short term. The number of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) would also be a key factor.

Chris Prosser raised a query regarding the proposed Therapeutic Thinking Officer. Michelle Sancho reported that if schools had not yet engaged in Therapeutic Thinking then the role of the designated Officers would be to visit individual schools and provide support with the aim of increasing engagement. So far more primary schools had engaged than secondary schools, so it was possible that something more bespoke was required for secondary schools.

RESOLVED that:

·         The Schools’ Forum noted the report.

·         A report on a deficit recovering plan for the DSG would be brought to the next meeting of the Schools’ Forum on 15th June 2020.

 

Supporting documents: