April 2018

The know zone

  • Bold fashion statement
    Reckoning that pupils who sported designer handbags could be less likely to succeed than their purse-free peers, one headteacher describes what led to her decision to de-accessorise in the classroom. More
  • Un-social media?
    With more and more social media platforms becoming available, and with the rise in the number of news reports on how social media is affecting children's mental health and wellbeing, we asked ASCL members to share their thoughts on this. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Empower yourself
    Val Andrew explores the theme for this year's ASCL School Business Leaders' Conference - 'Empowering Agile Leadership'. More
  • Next steps to higher learning
    Schools now have a statutory duty to allow further education (FE) colleges and other providers on to their premises to talk to their pupils. Here, Kevin Gilmartin examines the so-called 'Baker clause'. More
  • Pregnancy and maternity
    We have seen an increase in member queries on pregnancy and maternity, but before you stop reading, thinking, "This so isn't for me," says Sara Ford, please be aware that the issues being raised need to be understood by anyone managing staff. More
  • Speak up
    We must start talking more about SEND funding and stop using the complexity of this provision as a barrier for not doing so, says Julia Harnden. More
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We must start talking more about SEND funding and stop using the complexity of this provision as a barrier for not doing so, says Julia Harnden.

Speak up

The high needs funding block is required to support provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) from birth to the age of 25. Funding is allocated to local authorities as part of the dedicated schools grant (DSG). In 2018/19, the high needs block will represent about 14% of education spend; thatís about £6 billion.

How that money is used at local level will be a combination of core and place-led funding for mainstream and special schools and top-up funding. Put like that, it sounds straightforward, but we know that is not the case. We need to talk about it more. If we are serious about inclusion and equality, then surely we all have a duty to develop our understanding of how effectively these limited resources are being deployed?

According to government statistics, over 1.2 million of our pupils have special educational needs (see https://tinyurl.com/y8l46po7). In recent years, there have been changes to terminology used and to the instrument that sets out exactly what a child or young person needs to effectively support them. There can be no doubt that reforms set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Code of Practice are there to improve life chances. However, without adequate funding and transparent accessibility to provision itís quite possible that for some school and college leaders, the problems have only intensified.

So where do we start?

The SEND funding system should efficiently allocate financial resources on a needs-led basis, be flexible and responsive and support inclusion.

The National Funding Formula (NFF) for high needs will distribute funding to local authorities using a basic pupil amount of £4,000 per special school place and a basket of factors including historic spend, deprivation, health and disability, and prior attainment.

Historically, about three-quarters of local authorities have moved funds from the schools block into the high needs block to meet the rising demand for provision. Under the NFF reforms, local authorities are limited to moving 0.5% of the schools block into high needs. Where schools forums could not agree to this transfer or where more than 0.5% transfer is needed to meet demand, local authorities must apply to the Secretary of State. Emerging evidence suggests that about one-third of authorities initially made such requests. This is not a good start and presents risks to all types of provision.

Top-up funding is the funding required over and above the core or place funding that an institution receives.

It is widely acknowledged that the current system for determining the criteria and values for top-up funding is inconsistent across the country, and that the 2018 NFF for high needs does not address this.

Many local authorities use a banding system to allocate top-up funding but some do not. Research undertaken by the Isos Partnership in 2015 highlighted the issue of inconsistency, with evidence indicating that across different authorities the top-up value for the same pupil could range from £4,000 to £23,500 (see https://tinyurl.com/oj8g2gc).

What may be the reasons behind such inconsistency?

  • Lack of consistent expectation around core provision
  • Existing provision and accessibility to it
  • Local practice regarding how banding frameworks are structured

The needs of children and young people with SEND are complex and enormously varied but the current system leaves these vulnerable children and young people playing a game of chance according to where in the country they happen to live. In its research, Isos proposed setting a framework of national principles or standards for the effective operation of top-up funding. It would be a start.

Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) are for children and young people whose special educational needs require more help than would normally be provided in a mainstream setting. The plan can include health or social care needs that will affect their education.

What is not always clear are which aspects of provision should be funded by education and which should be funded by the NHS. When the funding purse for education overall is buckling under the pressure of rising demand and scarce resources, it cannot be right that the high needs block is presumed to be the Ďfunder of last resortí. The DfE and the Department of Health should work together to provide clear guidance on where the funding for different elements of the EHCP originate from. It would be a start.

If a national formula for the high needs block is going to work, we must find more equitable means of targeting funding to need.

Julia Harnden
ASCL Funding Specialist