Agenda item

SEND Sufficiency Phase 4 update

To consider an update on progress across Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Sufficiency Phase 4 following the annual cabinet update for CYPS Safety Valve Agreement.



The report provided an update on the progress across Children’s and Young Peoples Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Sufficiency Phase Four, following the annual Cabinet update for Children’s and Young Peoples Services Safety Valve Agreement. The Commission was familiar with this work having received reports on the Sufficiency Strategy and Written Statement of Action at previous meetings.


The Chair invited Nathan Heath, Assistant Director, Education, and Inclusion to introduce the report.


The Safety Valve Agreement update was provided to Cabinet on the 24 April 2023, which informed of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transformation Work conducted in Rotherham. The Safety Valve Agreement was a financial plan provided by the Department of Education, to support the deficit in the High Need Grant. This allowed continued growth in Rotherham for SEND requirements. The Council had also taken the opportunity to transform SEND services aligned to the Written Statement of Action, which was provided as part of a previous SEND inspection.


Within the report, contextual information is outlined showing Rotherham’s current situation in relation to SEND. The SEND Sufficiency has reported to Scrutiny three times previously throughout previous phases. Phase One was focused on creating additional school places for children with SEND requirements. Phase Two was focused on learning to work closely with partners, to develop mainstream and integrated resource bases.


It was highlighted that attendance at Scrutiny from representatives of Wales High School was very positive, with the school being recognised as a model of best practise regionally. It was also advised that the developments at Newman School in Whiston was on track to be completed in July and this remained a positive new provision which would be accessible from September 2023.


Key areas that drove challenge within Rotherham were social, emotional and mental health as well as autism and communication which was outlined in the report. As part of the proposals submitted to Cabinet in September, it was agreed that an additional one hundred resource bases in Rotherham would be created. These would become available from September 2023 and focus on a partnership approach between the Local Authority, the Department for Education and schools across the Borough.


There has been a shift in movement from Phase Two where the Council worked in partnership with schools, to Phase Four where due diligence would be completed and the opportunity to support the development of schools would be offered. As a result, the expressions of interest from schools have been very high, which means that children and young people with SEND requirements that were attending schools, would have an opportunity to stay in a mainstream school setting for longer.


The profile of provision that the Council was seeking to create was focused on areas of need, by creating additional places. This includes forty additional places across social emotional or mental health and forty additional places across communication and interaction.


The resource base was a dual purpose focused around aligning and equipping Rotherham schools to meet the needs of their pupils, whilst also emphasising that SEND was a mainstream requirement. There was a strong recognition that placing children in educational settings outside the Borough did not align with good financial management or strong educational outcomes.


In October, Children’s and Young Peoples Services put forward to Cabinet the proposal of creating an accessibility fund. This was proposed because of previous situations where very complex young people with SEND requirements, have been unable to have their individual needs met within a mainstream educational setting due to inaccessible buildings. Therefore, a proposal was put forward to Cabinet to create two accessibility funds across the next three academic years, to provide schools with the funding to make any required capital adaptions to the building.


The key element to this phase was partnership working with SEND parents, carers and young people providing lived experience, which has guided and underpinned the services planning. This would remain a key emphasis throughout this phase.


The Chair invited the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Transformation Project Lead to give a presentation.


·       The presentation explained that a resource provision was attached to a mainstream school providing specialist therapeutic input and support for pupils with a specific SEND need type.

·       The development of resource provision through SEND Sufficiency Phase 4, would increase capacity for this provision, following an initial eight resource provisions developed during previous rounds of SEND Sufficiency.

·       There was eighty-five young people accessing resource provision across Rotherham with primary and secondary provisions across the need types of communication and interaction, moderate learning difficulty, speech and language and hearing impairment.

·       The key strategic aim set out for Phase Four was to enhance mainstream SEND capacity to meet a wider level of need across all schools and mitigate the need for children, young people, and young adults to be educated in settings outside the Borough and promote inclusive practice.

·       SEND Sufficiency Phase Four would create ten additional SEND resource provisions within mainstream education settings creating a minimum of one hundred additional SEND places over the next three academic years.

·       Expressions of interest were sought to identify schools that were able to host a resource provision. In total fifteen schools completed expression of interests which matched well and, in some cases, exceeded the intended schedule of provision.

·       A multi-agency selection process identified schools to be taken forward into a period of due diligence; this included assessing the provision model, capital funding requirement, location factors and place planning so we had an equal spread across the borough.

·       Governance and approvals are provided by the SEND Sufficiency Board. This is a multi-agency board with mixed specialisms and the Department of Education, as part of the school’s significant change process. As part of planning, the first additional places would be profiled for September 2023.

·       Context was provided around Rotherham families living with SEND requirements. The majority of the eleven thousand children and young people with SEND requirements are in mainstream schools due to a lack of capacity within specialist schools.

·       There was a recent Rotherham Parent Carer’s Forum member survey which highlighted that SEND provision was a top priority, with preparation for adulthood being a close second.

·       A case study provided from Wales resource provision was detailed to members. The provision opened in September 2020 and offered a rolling intake. The provision included investment to build purpose-built facilities such as sensory rooms and a bespoke entrance to the school. The places were allocated by the SEND Place Planning Panel.

·       The aim of the Wales resource provision was to provide an academically challenging curriculum that was bespoke to each child, matched by communication and social skills support, to provide reasonable adjustments to enable students to integrate into all aspects of mainstream school life and to equip students to successfully gain GCSE or equivalent qualifications by end of key stage four.

·       An individual case study was provided from the school representative of a year nine child who had a place granted in Wales in September 2020. The child was provided with an enhanced transition program, bespoke intervention to address gaps in learning and a bespoke timetable to gradually build time in mainstream school. This child then went on to access sixty five percent of a mainstream timetable, which was an increase from zero in year six.

·       The service was informing the Local Authority School’s Accessibility Strategy, with the strategy consisting of three core aims which are as follows;


-        To increase the extent to which SEND and/or disabled pupils can participate in the curriculum.

-        To improve the physical environment of schools to increase the extent to which disabled pupils can take advantage of education.

-        To improve the delivery of information to disabled pupils and their parents and/or carers through the Rotherham Local Offer.


·       There was co-production work completed with young people as part of the Local Authority School’s Accessibility Strategy update. The Council were working alongside Guiding Voices to ensure members were continuously involved in shaping funding opportunities beyond the strategy update.

·       The next steps were to encourage schools to update their Accessibility Strategy on their school website and to encourage mainstream schools to be able to support a wider level of SEND provision need. There was also a focus to create a more sustainable high needs system where pupils can be educated locally wherever possible, through Accessibility Funding.


The Chair thanked the officers for the presentation and invited questions, this led to the following points being raised during discussions:


·       In the process beyond due diligence, names of the schools that have expressed interest would be made available to the Improving Lives Select Commission.

·       As part of the due diligence process, accountability would be held to the inclusion strategy, in relation to bullying, behaviour policies and school attendance. The Council would equip schools struggling in these areas also.

·       Engagement had been completed with all Rotherham schools, with a clear emphasis that the expression of interests could come from any part of the education system. There had been a range of stakeholder events completed, assuring accessibility for all head teachers. These events had been followed up by individual discussions with each school leader, including face to face visits.

·       The next phase was to develop the outreach by creating a network of resource bases that would share best practise.

·       Wales High School offered a number of BTEC and vocational qualifications, alongside GCSE qualifications.

·       Members were invited to visit Kimberworth Place, to see the great achievements made there.

·       In Phase Four there would be a slight imbalance between primary and secondary school places being made available, with sixty secondary places and forty primary places being offered.

·       Thomas Rotherham College had won a contract to supply a sixteen to nineteen resource.

·       All the provisions discussed today were not dependent on a diagnosis, they would be based on school views and other professional views.

·       There was currently three thousand and fifty-four children and young people with educational health care plans in Rotherham, this figure includes people up to the age of twenty-five.

·       There was currently work ongoing around a distinct place planning profile, to project future number and to monitor and these numbers across time.

·       The provision enhanced the offer for the whole school and not only for the children that attended, but this was also supported by sharing best practise across the system with a partnership approach.

·       There would always be a need for specialist provision and independent specialist provision. The government’s response to the green plan placed a strong emphasis on provision of need and all schools would have to have an offer to meet needs of pupils, with SEND provision being a mainstream need.

·       The priority for the Council was making sure every child had access to the best education provision, which would be mainstream where possible or alternative provision if deemed more appropriate.

·       Across the whole education system, staffing retention and recruitment was a high priority. There were challenges due to the rising cost of living and pay increase pressures.

·       Guiding Voices was a group of young people with experiences relating toSEND. Lived experience and feedback was captured from this group regularly. The Council acknowledged that there was still continuous improvement to be made regarding capturing lived experience, in relation to lessons learned and this was a priority.


The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member, officers and partners for their contributions,


Resolved: That


1.     Members of the Improving Lives Select Commission accept the report and note the progress made on Special Educational Needs and DisabilitiesSufficiency Phase Four.

2.     That consideration be given to the inclusion of SEND provision in the 2023/2024 Work Programme.

3.     That the location of the SEND provision and presentation be circulated to members of the committee.

4.     That arrangements be made for committee members to visit resource hubs and schools and meet with parent carers and children and young people as appropriate.

5.     That a further update on progress be provided.


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