Derby City Council Cabinet will be discussing on Wednesday 13th July a proposal to change the administration of the Schools Top-Up Funding for the education of children with SEND. The report being presented states in s 1.4 in relation to the pilot study
“Parents have been consulted via an Equality Impact Assessment and were positive in their feedback”
Danielle Lind who is the Chair of the Derby Parent Carer Forum ( DPCF – statutory body accountable to the Department of Education, which represents the interests of parents in the City whose children have SEND) has confirmed that she was neither invited nor consulted. This is despite DPCF being regularly engaged with the Council in the overall SEND provision in the City. She also expresses reservations with the proposal now tabled which need to be resolved before this can be implemented.
The cornerstone document for ensuring that children with SEND have their legal right to an appropriate education is the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This is a statutory requirement and represents a “contract” between the Parent and the Council and defines the specifics of the additional measures that the Local Authority must deliver to ensure that the Child has an “appropriate access to education”. It is enforceable through Judicial Review. The Council have a legal responsibility to gain parental agreement to an EHCP within 20 weeks of it being requested; the current average is 45 weeks. The Top-Up funding, that this proposal addresses, covers the situation where the cost of those additional measures exceeds the basic £10,000 per child. Previously, the school could access this money only on completion of an EHCP.
The new proposal removes the requirement for an EHCP, to access the additional finance, except for those children needing the most highly specialised, expensive, support. This is designed to streamline and speed up the availability of funding for the school. The Cabinet Paper states that this idea was piloted however very little tangible and convincing evidence has been provided which demonstrates why this was successful. For those children, with “significant needs in a mainstream context” the funding will be allocated by a collection of schools, grouped in a way that has not been well-defined – this is known as “locality cluster funding”
What the report does not clarify for this locality funding is:
- How it works in practice?
- Which schools are involved?
- How much money is allocated to this “pot” and how was that calculated, and what happens when it runs out?
- If there is no EHCP then how does the school know the extent of the required Special Needs?
How is the money allocated to the different localities?
- An earlier report suggests that it will be based on
- Pupil Numbers – provided that it recognises that the smaller the number the more additional funding is required.
- Prior Attainment – not clear whether this is pupil or school, and why is this relevant to the future?
- Deprivation – there is little correlation between deprived areas of Derby e.g. Normanton and high incidences of SEND.
Perhaps this proposal would be manageable if there was no history of parents having to continually fight hard to secure their child’s legal rights. Sadly this is not the case. There are far too many incidences of parents who feel that their child is being seriously disadvantaged by the adversarial nature of Derby City Council; to the extent that some have no schooling at all! Many Parents are not well-equipped to continually fight – their energies are expended on looking after their child. This is why groups such as the DPCF are important – the very group that was excluded from the consultation.
Waiving the need for a statutory assessment to get access undermines the human rights of the Child and the Parent. There is a real risk that the correct provision will be heavily compromised. Although the proposal does allow an EHCP to be requested – it is easy to see how the trade-off between speed of funding and time to agree an EHCP will drive parents to accept an illegal “waiver”.
This proposal anticipates saving money. This is in the context that the overall SEN provision is inadequate, that EHCP’s are taking over twice the legal maximum to be completed, that many parents are complaining about how the schools are failing their children, and in too many cases, that children are not attending any form of schooling due to the failings in the system. Where will the savings come from – the report implies it’s an “act of faith”.
- There has been no consultation with the statutory Parent/Carer body in Derby
- No evidence has been presented as to why the pilot was successful
- The proposal is focussed on improving the process for allocating funds, for the benefit of the Council and the School, but not how the child’s rights will be protected.
- There are many questions outstanding as to how funding will be distributed amongst the localities to ensure an objective, equitable split and not one driven politically.
This proposal should be rejected as there is not sufficient detail to form a conclusion that this protects the Child’s rights
There should be a proper consultation with Parents, and Parent groups.
The detail should be more thoroughly explored
A proposal which facilitates advanced funding in anticipation of an EHCP and which achieves both objectives would be a more progressive solution.