Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Knives out

The School's Forum, made up mostly of Governors and Head Teachers, met last week. It was provided with a report by Council officers on SEN funding (here). The general thrust was that costs for High Needs Low Incidence (HNLI) statements (what the Council describes as for children who need over 20 hours of 1:1 teaching assistant time per week) are increasing at an unsustainable rate and has directed the Schools Forum to look at ways of reducing this budget, by looking at mechanisms for reducing both HNLI funding but also to look at SEN funding more generally.

This is the second time it has asked the Forum to suggest ways of reducing this budget in the last two years.

Details include:

2.4  It was therefore decided that an examination should be made of all SEN budgets, not only that for mainstream High Need SEN statements, to see to what extent the unavoidable growth could be contained within the quantum of funding for SEN. 


9.3  It will be vital to press on with work through the support and outreach services to enable schools to meet needs without recourse to statements, and simultaneously to tighten the processes of prescribing entitlement to statements (i.e. set the bar higher for schools to demonstrate that all available resources have been accessed and utilised).

9.4 The Forum may also consider it necessary to revisit the work of the High Needs SEN task group, established by the Forum in 2010 to develop and propose mechanisms for allocating resources whilst containing growth. For example:

i) Accelerate the reduction in the hourly rate of funding provided for High Needs statements taking account of revisions to the pay and conditions of support staff, if they are implemented following consultation.

ii) The “Top Up” Model of Funding for mainstream High Needs statements,

iii) Further consideration of the possibility of capping the overall budget for High Needs mainstream statements

9.5 It is very important to remember that when any changes are considered to the resourcing of SEN statements that the SEN Code of Practice precludes the application of specific criteria for levels of support or the adoption of blanket policies not to specify provision. Each case has to be considered on an individual basis.

9.6 Any proposals significantly to change the allocation system would in all likelihood be subject to public consultation as well as the usual consultation that the Forum would undertake with schools.

The Council plans to reduce the entitlement to a statement whilst simultaneously working within the SEN Code of Practice. That will be a neat trick. A small crumb can be found in the final paragraph. The last time the Council tried a major funding change they - let's put it generously - "forgot" to follow government guidance and did not consult properly, resulting in a hasty retreat. Let's hope this time they give parents and children a proper chance to have their voices heard.

For information on how to appeal a refusal assess, download IPSEA's pack here.

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