Candy Holder, Head of Pupil Services gave an introductory presentation on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
In the presentation and discussion the following points were made:
• The SEND Code of Practice provided statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to the Children and Families Act 2014.
• The Code applied to all children and young people with SEND age 0-25.
• Where the text used the word ‘must’ it referred to a statutory requirement under primary legislation, regulations or case law.
• All relevant bodies (including local authorities, governing bodies and all schools and settings) must fulfill their statutory duties towards children and young people with SEND in light of the guidance set out in the Code.
• When considering an appeal from a parent or young person, the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) (‘the Tribunal’) must have regard to the Code of Practice. The Tribunal expected Local Authorities and schools to be able to explain any departure from the Code.
• The key principles of the Code were: 1)Full participation of parents, children and young people in assessment, planning and review, 2) Collaboration between Education, Health and Care Services, 3) A focus on inclusive practice and 4) Supporting successful transition to adulthood.
• The Children and Families Act 2014 secured the general presumption in law of mainstream education in relation to decisions about where children and young people with SEND should be educated, and the Equality Act 2010 provided protection from discrimination for disabled people.
• Where a child or young person had SEND but did not have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan they mustbe educated in a mainstream setting.
• The School Admissions Code of Practice required children and young people with SEN to be treated fairly. Admissions authorities: 1) must consider applications from parents of children with SEN but not an EHC plan on the basis of the school’s published admissions criteria as part of normal admissions procedures; 2) must not refuse to admit a child with SEN but without an EHC plan because they did not feel able to cater for those needs; 3) must not refuse to admit a child on the grounds that they did not have an EHC plan.
• Where a child had an EHC plan, the child’s parent (or the young person if over 16) had the right to request a particular school, college or other institution to be named in their EHC plan and the local authority mustcomply with that preference and name the school or college in the EHC plan unless to do so would be:
• unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or SEND of the child or young person, or
• incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources.
• In mainstream schools, school-based provision was called SEND Support. Schools were expected to follow a ‘graduated approach’ to SEND Support intervention that took the form of cycles of ‘assess, plan, do, review’ as an ongoing process to make sure provision was meeting identified needs. They should also consult relevant external agencies, make use of assessment tools and materials, record observations and evidence of progress.
• For children with significant or complex needs, where levels of support and intervention did not lead to expected progress, schools or parents could request a statutory Education Health and Care assessment. If needs were assessed as beyond a level that could be met from resources normally available to schools, an Education, Health and Care Plan might be issued.
• The national model had three levels of funding for SEND, with Elements 1 and 2 paid through school budgets, and Element 3 directly from the local authority. All schools received funding for each pupil as part of their delegated funding - the Age Weighted Pupil Unit (AWPU) or Element 1. Support which was in addition to/different from the general was covered by another source of funding which was part of a school’s delegated budget, known as Element 2. For children with more complex needs, Element 3 ‘top-up’ funding (i.e. to top up already available Element 1 and 2) funding was managed by the local authority, normally through an EHC plan.
• The local offer included schools for physical and sensory need, social, emotional and mental health, communication and interaction and learning and cognition. Where a child had more specialist needs, these could be provided out of borough.
• Islington had ‘SEN Support in Islington’ handbooks for: 1) the Early Years and Primary Local Offer, 2) Secondary and Post 16 Local Offer, 3) Advice, Guidance and Expectations and 4) Behaviour.
• There were currently 1,509 children with an EHCP, 178 of whom had no additional education top up. Of the remaining 1331, the total Islington cost (mainstream & special) was £14,609,451. This related to 991 children/young people at an average cost of £14,742 per pupil and the total out of borough cost (mainstream & special) was £5,225,996. This related to 334 children/young people at an average cost of £15,515 per pupil. Of these 334 children/young people, 44 (13%) were looked after children at a cost of £775,993 (£17,634 average cost per pupil) and 140 (41%) were in Further Education.
• Of the 255 children/young people in out-borough mainstream education, 117 (around 50%) were in Further Education colleges.
• Of the £2,383,607 spent on out-borough special provision, 31 children/young people (2%) were in independent schools at a cost of £1,164,565 with an average cost of £35,566 per pupil). However Islington’s spend was lower than comparators.
• Of those in out of borough (mainstream and special provision) 193 (57%) were attending school / college in adjacent boroughs (Camden, Hackney, Haringey). Another 44 (13%) were Looked After Children.
• 22% of Islington resident children/young people with SEND attended schools out of borough. 25% of non-SEND children/young people attended schools out of borough.
• 40 county councils in England were warning of a £1.3bn SEN deficit which threatened to derail their finances and undermine capacity to support recovery efforts after the pandemic.
• The SEN Green Paper was expected in mid-July, but this would no longer be the case. The Minister of State for Children and Families had stated that systemic change was needed and acknowledged issues with the current system. She stated that work would continue and proposals for public consultation would be published as soon as possible.
• A SEND Strategy 2018-21 was in place and there was a Self-Evaluation detailing progress to March 2020, prior to the Covid disruption. A needs assessment (March 2021) and an Impact of Covid-19 Self-Evaluation (June 2021) were informing the development of an updated strategy.
• It was important to create a local system that could be trusted. There was a need to look at provision due to increased need and complexity. There was also a need for inclusive practice as this was not currently fully embedded across all settings. Fairness and equity were therefore of high priority in considering whether the system could be funded differently.
• In response to a question from a member about Element 3 funding and how Islington compared to neighbouring boroughs, the officer advised that Islington was in the top quartile of local authorities and funded to a higher level than neighbours.
• In response to a member’s question about how life chances could be improved, the officer advised that culture, ethos and philosophy were important. It would be a challenge to ensure consistency of practice across provisions but work would be taking place on this in the next few months.
• In response to a question about the evidence that was helping to create a local system, the officer advised that this would be made available to committee members during the course of the scrutiny review.
• A member raised concern about the disparity between boys and girls with autism. The officer advised that Islington’s average of girls to boys was better than the national average. However, often girls presented as adolescents and sometimes this manifested as self-harming or eating disorders.
• A member raised concern about disparity in relation to ethnicity and was advised that Black African groups were overrepresented early and this reversed at secondary school. There was double the average number of EHCPs amongst Black Somali young people. Work was taking place with Somali groups and consideration was being given to whether diagnostic tools were accurate. It was recognised that trauma and inherited trauma could also be factors in the overrepresentation.
1) That the presentation be noted.
2) That the Scrutiny Initiation Document (SID) be approved.