The Local Authority (LA) undertook a consultation on a proposal relating to the High Needs Block (HNB) funding for April 2020 onwards. This consultation ended on the 10 July 2019. The HNB is the funding provided by the government for the LA to support pupils with SEND, Alternative Provision and a range of SEND services.
The consultation contained a range of proposals relating to SEND provision, largely concerning:
- Funding for special schools
- The level of support allocated to SEND advisory services
- A new model for supporting Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)
- Plans to support pupils who are in need of Alternative Provision (AP)
- Plans to support pupils who are in need of Schools Resourced Provision (SRP)
All responses to the consultation are being collated and carefully considered, and will inform the next stages of the process, along with any final decision. The Council very much recognises that this remains a sensitive, complex and challenging issue, and one which many Local Authorities are facing.
The Council has decided to delay taking a decision on the current proposals so that further engagement can take place with key stakeholders and to allow for further dialogue with the Government regarding the funding arrangements for SEND.
Reason for the proposed changes
The Local Authority is required to consult annually with the Schools Forum (made up of heads, school representatives and governors from across the Borough) on financial issues relating to arrangements for pupils with SEND, in particular the places to be commissioned by the LA and the arrangements for top-up funding.
For the year 2020/21 the high needs budget given by the government to Waltham Forest will be approx. £29.5M. From this budget all special schools receive their total funding. The additional funding for EHCPs is also allocated from it, as is the funding for SEND support services, etc.
The current funding levels are based on historical decisions, and have not been reviewed for over 8 years. Given that the number of pupils requiring support has risen significantly in Waltham Forest, the system is now unsustainable based on the current levels.
An ‘Inclusion group’, established by the Schools Forum, has met to discuss and propose a way forward. The group has agreed the proposal as detailed in the Schools Forum report.
The proposal was that there will be 4 new funding levels - Level 1, 2, 3, and 4, (instead of the current ‘letters’ banding system):
- Level 1 would be £5,000
- Level 2 would be £15,000
- Level 3 would be £21,000
- Level 4 would be £43,000
These figures are on top of the funding schools already receive per child with SEND.
In consultation with their schools forum, local authorities make decisions about the delegation of funds to schools, which for primary and secondary schools is on the basis of a local formula, and on the spending of funds held centrally, most of which is used for making high needs provision. These spending decisions are most effective when there is a strong partnership between the local authority and the institutions providing education.
The schools forum is one way in which partnership working can be strengthened, particularly with schools. However, local authorities should engage with all of those providing education in their area, including early years settings and post-16 institutions, as well as parents and young people, in fulfilling their statutory duties to keep the services and provision for children and young people with SEND under review, as required by the Children and Families Act 2014.
Frequently asked questions
Why is this grant overspent?
Historically Waltham Forest has spent more on SEND than other LAs. We have recently been looking at how other local authorities spend their grant and we have found some differences to the top up levels for EHCPs, which has shown that Waltham Forest has spent more over the years than other similar areas. The average first level top up across London is £3k. Waltham Forest has been allocating almost £9000.This is now unsustainable given we have seen a 20% increase in EHCPs and this continues to grow. We now have 1997 EHCPs.
What does the Schools Forum do and who is on the Forum?
The Schools Forum is a statutory body, which advises the local authority, and in some cases makes decisions relating to financial issues in the borough, including schools’ budgets and the high needs block of funding for children and young people with SEND. The local authority must consult the Schools Forum annually. The Forum consists of headteachers and governors of local authority maintained mainstream and special schools, academies and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). For this consultation they are acting as an advisory body.
What are the main proposals?
The main proposals were developed by a sub-group of the forum, The Inclusion Group, consisting of a range of headteachers from local schools, representing all phases of education, and borough officers. The proposals include:
- a renegotiation in two main contracts with Hornbeam (Home and Hospital Tuition) and Whitefield Trusts (SEND Success)
- reviewing the funding for Alternative Provision - this is for children who need a different curriculum to enable them to get back into mainstream education
- reviewing the ‘banding’ system, which is additional funding given to schools to support children and young people with EHCPs
How would the proposals change what’s happening now?
The proposals will not change the processes we currently use. This is solely about the way we allocate our SEND funding to support children and young people.
How will the changes affect my child and his/her school?
The changes will affect the level of funding allocated to each school. It will be then be down to the individual school to manage their resources to best meet the needs of pupils with SEND.