Further to Minute No. 30 of the meeting of the Rotherham Schools’ Forum held on 13th January, 2017, consideration was given to a report, presented by the Principal Finance Officer, stating that as part of the Government Department for Education’s move towards national funding formulas for the Dedicated Schools Grant (replacing the largely historically based allocations that apply currently), the High Needs Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant was moving towards a national formula from 2018/19. The report stated that, unlike the Schools Block, this will be a national funding formula at local authority level, rather than at school level. The report stated that the Department for Education’s consultation on this matter would end on 22nd March, 2017. A summary of the Local Authority’s draft response to this consultation was included as an appendix to the submitted report.
The Schools’ Forum also received a presentation from the Head of Inclusion concerning the High Needs block of funding. The presentation and subsequent discussion highlighted the following salient issues:-
: high needs sufficiency provision;
: the Council’s special education needs service and the early years’ service have both been the subject of peer review in recent months;
: a conference, lasting two days, is being arranged for school leaders and will examine the strategic vision for schools and special schools;
: Rotherham’s school pupil population continues to increase and at the same time the proportion of children with special needs is increasing at a higher rate;
: the increase in the number of children requiring education, health and care (EHC) plans may, in part, be explained by the modernisation of the special educational needs (SEN) system, replacing the SEN statements with EHC plans;
: the increase in the number of Rotherham children requiring education, health and care (EHC) plans will soon bring Rotherham up to the national average;
: there has been a reduction in the number of children in Rotherham schools whose specific needs are being met in school;
: additional places for children with special educational needs have been made available at the Newman Special School in Rotherham; by contrast, other services have been reduced or terminated (eg: closure of special needs provision at Rawmarsh Thorogate Primary School and at Flanderwell Primary School);
: almost all of the special schools in Rotherham have the capacity for expansion (the single exception being the Hilltop Special School);
: the Schools’ Forum requested clarification of the number of available pupil places in special schools;
: reference was made to the comparatively high cost of pupils with special needs who have out-of-authority placements;
: it is estimated that an additional 126 places for pupils with special needs must be available before the end of the 2020/2021 financial year;
: there was a possibility of a free school for pupils with special needs being opened within the Rotherham Borough area;
: the primary school being developed within the Waverley Community will include specific provision for pupils with autism;
: discussion took place on the need to reduce the High Needs Block budget overspend during the next few financial years.
Copies of the presentation slides would be distributed to all members of the Rotherham Schools’ Forum.
Agreed:- (1) That the report be received and its contents noted.
(2) That the Local Authority’s draft response to the Government Department for Education’s consultation be made available for all Head Teachers and they be invited to formulate their own responses and send them to the Principal Finance Officer prior to the responses being submitted to the Department for Education by the due deadline of Wednesday 22nd March, 2017.
(3) That the outcome of the Department for Education’s consultation on the High Needs National Funding Formula be reported to a future meeting of the Rotherham Schools’ Forum.
(4) That the following progress reports be submitted to the meeting of the Rotherham Schools Forum to be held on Friday, 16th June, 2017:-
(a) a progress report about the High Needs Block of funding and the action being taken to control the overspending; and
(b) a progress report about the expansion programme for primary and secondary schools and academies and the provision of additional school places.