Review of new funding mechanism for SEN in mainstream by Sfusaro


									Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                            1


                            Executive Summary

                                        October 2008

                                     John Moore
                Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                   2

1      Introduction
1.1    The Hertfordshire Local Authority commissioned this review in April 2008. The brief
       was to undertake an independent evaluation of the implementation of the Special
       Educational Needs (SEN) funding mechanism and its impact to date.

1.2    The new mechanism established a formula for delegating to schools money previously
       retained by HCC through Statements of SEN for “less complex needs” and a process
       of bidding for individual pupil support known as „ear-marked pupil funding‟. At the time
       of reporting the new mechanism had been in operation for four terms only.

1.3    Schools are now expected to support more pupils with special educational needs
       through budgets that are delegated and devolved to them. They receive what is known
       as „predictable needs funding‟. This funding is based on the idea that the resources
       needed to support pupils with various types of SEN can be broadly predicted year on
       year using information based on pupils‟ prior attainment scores free school meal
       numbers and the total population of children on roll.

1.4    A smaller amount of money is retained by HCC for pupils with the highest level of
       need. This is known as „exceptional needs funding‟. £1.7m additional new funding was
       allocated to mainstream schools in the predictable and exceptional budgets for SEN.

1.5    Exceptional needs funding is allocated by a District Support Group, made up of a
       range of professionals, on the basis of recommendations put forward by Clusters of
       Schools, most often through a meeting of SENCOs.

1.6    The Schools Forum agreed to provide transitional protection. It is suggested that in
       2007-08 this ensured that every school received sufficient resources to meet the
       resource implications of statements that had been in existence at 31/12/2006.

1.7    The local authority prepared for the change by issuing detailed documentation on the
       new funding framework1, guidance to mainstream clusters 2 and information for
       parents and carers3. It also ran an extensive series of meetings and workshops open
       to headteachers, SENCOs, LA officers and other professionals and workshops
       specifically aimed at parents and carers.

1.8    These changes represent a multi-faceted arrangement, intricately related to
       Hertfordshire‟s broader SEN and Inclusion Strategy for improving provision for SEN.

1.9    This move is in line with the national picture and reflects government expectations.
       The principles of the change, therefore, were of less concern to the evaluation than
       the strategies employed to achieve them.

2      Methodology

2.1    Interviews and discussions were undertaken with a cross-section of stakeholders and
       key processes observed. A questionnaire was made available for managers and
       leaders in schools and Hertfordshire local authority services. A separate questionnaire

  New Mainstream SEN Funding Framework: Questions and Answers
  Guidance For Mainstream SEN Clusters About The Exceptional Needs Process
  Information for Parents and Carers: Frequently Asked Questions

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                             3
     was devised for parents. Voluntary groups were offered the opportunity to submit
     written comments. Questionnaire, interview and observation evidence was set against
     available statistical data.

3      Overview of outcomes

3.1    A change of this nature might normally be expected to take between two to three
       years to settle down. There is much that needs to be understood by schools, parents
       and others and it is inevitable that there should be a period during which the change is
       challenged. This review was undertaken relatively early in the process, when those
       involved in new decision-making forums at cluster and district level were exploring
       their role and schools were only just beginning to understand the longer term

3.2    As yet, key aspects of the change are not well understood. These are specific aspects
       of the formula such as prior attainment, the move from labelling children to describing
       their provision needs and how the District Support Groups operate. This lack of
       understanding presents an obstacle to the effective and efficient working of the new

3.3    Most professionals, however, are doing their best to implement the changes, and there
       is a high quality of professional response.

3.4    There is also evidence to support a change in thinking, even at this early stage.
       Children are less likely to be „categorised‟ in favour of discussion of their overall
       needs. Schools believe that they will have more control over their budget in the longer-
       term and for many this will allow more stability of staffing through permanent contracts.

3.5     A range of positive outcomes is identified. Cluster working and the ability to operate
       collaboratively and solve problems. Better budget management with stability of funding
       and greater ability to plan ahead. There is also the potential for early intervention,
       particularly as regards support in nursery and infant classes.

3.6    Removing the bureaucracy of Earmarked Pupil Funding is perceived as a benefit by
       those who feel that the previous process was cumbersome. The development of CPD
       opportunities, particularly for SENCOs is viewed positively and for some the closer
       working relationship formed with support services has enabled schools to deal more
       effectively with needs within their school.

3.7    This being said, there is a degree of polarisation in the views expressed concerning
       the benefits of the change. The overarching concern is whether, as a result of the
       change, pupils are receiving the support they need.

3.8    Areas of change where the majority believe as yet there is little evidence of impact,
       and therefore the greatest level of disagreement centre on the introduction of
       „predictable‟ and „exceptional‟, the formula and the processes underpinning budget

3.9    The key areas that have come to the fore and to which the LA will need to pay
       attention are:

3.9.1 The suitability of the current formula for distributing funds fairly, ensuring that all
      groups of special educational needs are included.
John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                     4

       3.9.2 The definition and criteria for exceptional needs and the accessibility of
             Exceptional Needs Funding.

       3.9.3 The balance of Predictable Needs Funding to Exceptional Needs Funding.

       3.9.4 The degree to which decision-making is consistent and ensures equitable
             distribution of resources across the LA at both the cluster and district levels.

       3.9.5 Monitoring of the system by the LA.

       3.9.6 The very wide degree of understanding about the change, leading to a wide
             variety of views as to what improvements should be made.

4      Funding mechanism
4.8    There is no clear consensus as to what an appropriate balance between the
       Predictable and the Exceptional Needs Funding elements should and there is a very
       wide range of understanding around the term „exceptional‟ which makes it difficult for
       cluster and district groups to operate consistently and equitably.

4.9    In considering the balance between PNF and ENF schools have raised two important
       questions „how best to deal with „critical mass‟, and „how best to deal with the „magnet
       effect‟. Some schools feel that they become well known for their support for particular
       needs such as autism or severe dyslexia but these are not reflected in the predictable
       needs budget.

4.10   Few believe that the current formula used to allocate predictable funding is

4.11   Prior attainment is widely viewed as inappropriate to a range of pupil needs that do not
       necessarily correlate with low attainment and as yet, not many schools are clear about
       the „gearing mechanism‟ applied to prior attainment.

4.12   There are concerns regarding the suitability of free school meals. Some argue for a
       „more informed‟ measure of deprivation using wider indices such as IDACI or other
       „basket‟ of indicators.

4.13   It is difficult to track the impact of specific budget elements such as those relating to
       the „predictable needs funding‟ as there is an expectation that schools will view the
       SEN budget in total. The evidence suggests, however, that schools still view PNF and
       ENF as somewhat discrete elements which they equate with the previous
       arrangements for funding Statements of SEN.

4.14   Smaller schools find it difficult to separate the predictable and exceptional elements of
       their budget. The „cost effective‟ ratio achieved by larger schools is not available to

4.15   Casual admission is a recurring theme. Some schools experience high numbers of
       new admissions within the year, some with Statements of SEN, and believe that
       current funding arrangements do not adequately support the immediate needs of
       these children.

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                 5
4.16 Overall, there is a disparity between the LA view of „winners‟ and „losers‟ under the
     new mechanism and those held by some schools. The LA takes a more „global‟ view
     of the SEN budget under delegation, whilst many schools identify predictable needs as
     a discrete element targeted at supporting pupils who might otherwise have been
     funded through a Statement of SEN or Earmarked pupil Funding. A significant number
     of schools believe that they have a reduced level of funding for the same level of need.
     There is a lack of clarity, therefore, about what is expected of the school in using
     various budget items in relation to meeting special educational needs.

4.17   The shift of emphasis in the control of the budget from local authority to schools has
       resulted in a change in how schools use their resources to plan for and meet children‟s
       needs. In some instances schools have risen to the challenge but in others practice
       still revolves around teaching assistant hours.

5      Decision-making Processes

5.8    There is a high quality of professional debate both at cluster and district level.
       Children‟s needs are dealt with sympathetically and thoroughly, given the evidence
       available. The arrangements for and experience of cluster working is positive.

5.9    There is also evidence of good practice developing in some clusters where
       experiences of supporting children are shared.

5.10   The predominant and to some degree „acceptable‟ way of expressing resource needs
       is in teaching assistant hours. The continued use of teaching assistant hours as a
       measure of exceptional funding encourages a „limited‟ view of provision.

5.11   Costing interventions against TA hours has the disadvantage of confusing or
       perpetuating „exceptional funding‟ with what has come to be regarded as „top up‟. A
       great deal of confusion exists around this concept.

5.12   The quality of information used to make judgements about ENF is variable, both at the
       cluster and DSG level. The practice of dealing with this variation is also variable.

5.13   Currently neither the cluster nor DSG has much information available from parents
       regarding their child. This is an area that could be developed further

5.14   There is also variability in the way meetings are conducted. Some allow resubmission,
       for example, while others do not. Some DSGs allow the cluster co-ordinator to present
       the case others do not. In some „local knowledge‟ is used in others it is discouraged.

5.15   In time, the meetings will settle down but observation would suggest that there is a
       need for guidance on meeting protocols.

5.16   There is a lack of key agency involvement in the decision-making process. Evidence
       brought forward to DSGs does not fully reflect the needs of the child in relation to
       therapeutic and other needs such as counselling.

6      Monitoring and Transparency
6.8    Monitoring of the system by the local authority is an area for further development.
       There is a significant lack of data in key areas, on the operation of clusters and how

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                        6
     effective schools are at deploying resources delegated to them for SEN. This latter
     point is of considerable interest to parents and carers.

6.9    Schools ought to be able to give an account of their spending on SEN and
       demonstrate how this meets the needs of the children in their school. Lack of
       transparency in how schools allocate resources to meet special educational needs is a
       major concern of parents and of many SENCOs.

6.10   Whilst there is increased confidence in the transparency of delegated budgets (PNF),
       more needs to be done to ensure schools that the retained element (ENF) is equitably
       distributed. It is not entirely clear who „owns‟ this budget.

8      Implementation (Issues and Impact)

8.1    It is the nature of change that there will be „teething difficulties‟ and adjustments. Too
       much change too quickly, however, creates uncertainty and a perception that „the goal
       posts are being moved‟ when in fact issues are being worked through as they are met.
       To some degree this cannot be avoided but in the absence of careful monitoring this
       could be viewed negatively.

8.2    Points of transition present a particular difficulty in relation to ENF. Who should apply
       and for what level of support is not always clear, sometimes leading to a district
       decision to offer support on a short-term basis.

8.3    Much of the evidence suggests that there has been an increased demand on SENCO
       time. Involvement in the CPD network, cluster meetings and attendance at the
       SENCO support group is making it difficult for some SENCOs to participate, even with
       the money allocated to each school for supply cover.

8.4    The shift in decision-making has meant a more direct contact between schools and
       parents and many schools feel unprepared for this.

8.5    Inevitably some schools question whether there is enough money in the overall pot of
       SEN as do parents and carers. Some schools would like to see rewards placed into
       the system for schools trying hard to meet their pupils‟ special educational needs.

8.6    There is evidence to suggest that some support service members have made a
       „strategic shift‟ in the way they work with schools. Some report less involvement in
       panel meetings and greater contact with schools.

8.7    Views on the impact of the change on pupils learning vary. Around a half believe that
       there is an overall reduction of support for pupils with special educational need. Just
       over a quarter experience more effective provision within mainstream and just under a
       quarter perceive a balance of both positive and negative impact, depending on the
       circumstances of the pupil. Good monitoring arrangements that included data on pupil
       progress would help determine the true position.

9      SEN Statutory Framework

9.1    In line with government expectations the number of statements issued by LAs across
       the country continues to decrease, particularly as increased delegation reduces the

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                             7
     reliance on statements to access resources. In Hertfordshire there has been a
     reduction in the number of Statements resulting from assessments from 405 in 06/07
     to 261, with a corresponding reduction in the number of requests proceeding to
     assessment from 413 to 277 over the same period.

9.2    Many professionals, both within schools and the LA are uncomfortable with equating
       the Statement of SEN to resources rather than treating it as a „protection‟ for the child
       and family, particularly at times of transition. Many feel that there is no real distinction
       between pupils with a Statement of SEN and those without and are confused as to
       where a Statement of SEN fits within the current process. The LA needs to clarify its
       position on this.

10.0 Conclusion
10.1   A key question has arisen as a result of this review, which reflects national concerns.

       To what extent can the full range of special educational needs be met through formula

10.2   The new funding mechanism introduced by Hertfordshire attempts to address this but
       the question remains as to whether the division between what a school might
       reasonably „predict‟ and what might be considered exceptional. The evidence
       suggests that further work needs to be done to establish this.

10.3   Particular areas of concern are those where there is national growth such as Autism
       Spectrum Disorder and Behaviour, Emotional and Social Development, particularly as
       regards issues of mental health, or sensory and communication based impairments,
       and whether these are reflected adequately in the formula.

10.4   It has been part of the overall strategy of the LA to make resources available without a
       Statement of SEN in favour of earlier and quicker forms of intervention. There is clear
       evidence that it has succeeded in providing more money overall to schools to support
       special educational needs. It has also (throughout the period 06/07 – 07/08)
       significantly reduced the numbers of requests for Statutory Assessment, the numbers
       proceeding to SSEN and the number of Statements resulting from assessment. What
       is less clear is whether this has led to the earlier and more flexible forms of provision
       predicted. The monitoring systems are not yet in place to verify this.

10.5   It may well be that some forms of special educational needs do not, for reasons
       explored in the main report, align themselves well to formula allocations. Although
       there has been a significant reduction in the number of Statements of SEN issued for
       the period 06/07 – 07/08 the numbers of SSEN issued for Autism, BESD and Visual
       Impairment has increased. There may be good reason for this, but this will need
       further investigation to ensure that the change has not disadvantage any particular

10.6   To some degree, it can be argued that the adopted proxy indicators do work at the
       broader level of SEN, if this is taken to mean the one in five children who will at some
       time in their education experience special educational needs. The further they move
       from that position to meet the needs of children with more pronounced needs then the
       clearer the explanation needs to be for its rationale.

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                   8
10.7 Hertfordshire has set out to make changes that will significantly impact on the way
     schools view and support pupils with special educational needs, in favour of greater
     immediacy of support at school level. There are many indicators throughout the report
     that demonstrate that schools have engaged with this agenda. There are many
     positive features of the change that will prove useful and important in moving on. It is
     likely, however, from the evidence gathered for this report that there will be greater
     acceptance and support for the change if:

        The LA makes clearer and more widely known the position it takes on the
         „coexistence‟ of the new funding scheme with the implementation of the statutory
        The adjustments and in some cases reduction in predictable needs budget over
         time through transition and other arrangements can be viewed as less severe.
        The level of funding allocated to exceptional needs is viewed as both sufficient and
        The predictable needs formula and subsequent levels of allocation are more
         readily equated in the minds of schools and parents with the range and severity of
         special educational needs experienced on the ground.

10.8   It is a sign of general support for the principles behind the change that only 11% of
       participants in the review are in favour of moving back to the previous system. As a
       result, there is a wide range of suggestions for improvement and this reflects the
       diversity of views expressed throughout the review.

10.9   The largest number of suggestions for improvement centre on the need to clarify the
       definition of „exceptional‟ and for the production of further guidance and/or exemplars
       to enable more objective decision-making. This would also help to address
       consistency and transparency.

10.10 The next largest concern the formula, a contingency to cover casual admissions, and
      developing a link between actual numbers of SEN and the PNF.

10.11 It should be noted that parents and carers, as might be expected, have somewhat
      different priorities for improvement amongst which are greater targeting of funds to
      individual needs, improved accountability for school spending and improved
      information to parents and carers.

10.12 It is inevitable in a review of this sort that people will focus on the negative, and it
      could be argued that those who have gained most and are more comfortable with the
      change are least likely to be involved. There are many aspects of the change,
      however, that have found favour and these, coupled with the suggestions for change,
      could form the basis for further improvement.

10.13 All in all, there is a need to move forward quickly but with the support of all those who
      are directly affected to address the issues raised in this report, including parents,
      carers and voluntary organisations. Considering carefully the suggestions put forward
      by those participating in the review whilst maintaining and extending the positive
      benefits identified earlier. By:

 Addressing the recommendations set out below,
 building on cluster working and the ability to operate collaboratively and solve problems,
 supporting schools to better manage the SEN support within their school and improve

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                  9
 providing greater stability of funding and even greater transparency of budget,
 reducing bureaucracy further by stemming its growth within DSGs,
 improving the effectiveness of support services to help schools take greater responsibility,

10.18 The following recommendations are proposed as a means of supporting this process.
       The full report suggests a series of actions for the immediate, short-term and long-

11     Recommendations

The Local Authority should:

1. Address the high level of variability in the way decision-making processes operate
   countywide through the clusters and District Support Groups.

2. Clarify to schools, parents and others what the current state of play is regarding the new
   funding mechanism and „re-communicate‟ key aspects of the change more locally through
   an agreed communication strategy.

3. Develop a monitoring strategy that ensures consistency of operation of the mechanism
   and holds both the LA and schools accountable for all SEN related budgets.

4. Consider a means of regularly updating the needs of schools through a monitoring return
   that would satisfy schools that everyone is contributing information fairly.

5. Consider whether the argument for allocating a set percentage of the budget against
   particular groups of need is sound. Consider whether all need type groups are adequately
   represented and the degree to which particular SEN such as ASD and sensory
   impairment conform to any general correlation with deprivation or prior attainment.
   Consider the degree to which pupil numbers can adequately reflect incidence of high
   support needs and most importantly whether these ratios can be applied successfully to
   smaller schools.

6. Make clearer its expectations of schools in relation to the whole SEN/AEN budget. Setting
   out its rationale for allocating budget through discrete headings on the one hand, and the
   expected practice on the other of treating all elements of SEN and AEN as part of a
   „global‟ school inclusion budget. It should reinforce this with clarity about the role of
   personalised learning in meeting special educational needs, Waves 1-3 of the national
   strategies and what it considers appropriate interventions „additional to or different from‟
   those normally dealt with through the National Curriculum inclusion arrangements.

7. Make clear that the predictable budget is not a direct replacement for „lower level
   Statements of SEN‟ or Earmarked Pupil Funding, but a new way of ensuring maximum
   flexibility in meeting children‟s additional support needs.

8. Make clear the interconnection between this aspect of its policy and other activity
   concerned with Hertfordshire‟s SEN and Inclusion Policy. A clear connection will also
   need to be made between this aspect of schools‟ funding and other related budgets
   concerning exclusions, the additional needs panel for pre-school, as well as the AEN and
   other related budgets.

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education
Executive Summary Draft 3 22nd October 2008                                                  10
9. Clarify the position of Statements of SEN within the overall funding structure and review
   its method of carrying out the Annual Review of the Statement.

10. Develop methods of improving information to parents and carers by providing regularly
    updated information packs and a „single point of reference‟ or „one stop shop‟ for queries.

John Moore: Consultant for Additional Support Needs in Education

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