Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities
Members were informed that Staffordshire had seen a continual rise in permanent exclusions and was 0.06% percentage points above the national published figure of 0.10% in 2016/17. With the increased demand on Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) placements following a permanent exclusion, and due to the small number of pupils who had been successfully reintegrated back into a mainstream education, Staffordshire had an unprecedented number of Key Stage 4 pupils whose needs were being met in a PRU, with their education being funded 100% from the High Needs Block. This had limited the PRUs ability to provide time limited intervention placements and had put an increased pressure on the High Needs Block. Further options had therefore been progressed in ensuring a sustainable funding system for subsequent years to support schools and academies to be inclusive when admitting a permanently excluded pupil and for the Local Authority to meet its statutory duties in providing education for permanently excluded pupils.
Other Local Authorities had a Cost Recovery option in place and therefore a consultation on recovering an element of the costs of permanent exclusions from excluding schools and academies had recently been concluded across all education sectors. Within this consultation, schools and academies were asked their views on the proposal that for education provider who permanently excluded a pupil, in addition to the portability/exclusion charge as detailed within the Schools and Early Years Financial Regulations, a further charge would be levied to recover a proportion of the cost of the education provision made for pupils who were permanently excluded. It was recommended that the charge would follow the excluded pupil and used to either support reintegration back into a mainstream school or to offset the cost of appropriate alternative education provision if applicable.
Members were informed that the costs for preventative placements would increase from April 2019 to bring them in line with the funding provided to them by the Local Authority for pupils who are on the PRU’s single roll, but more importantly to bring them closer to the national funding levels attributed to placements within PRUs.
Members considered a detailed analysis of the responses which had been received by over 80 schools and academies to the consultation. Whilst the majority of these did not agree with the proposal it must be noted that this was not an option for the Local Authority to make a profit out of a permanent exclusion but to acknowledge the burden upon the High Needs Block following a pupil’s permanent exclusion. They also considered funding forecasts based on three different values of cost recovery.
It was suggested that a task and finish group should be established form Schools Forum members across each sector and the Local Authority, including the Educational Psychologist Service, to consider funding options to promote inclusion and avoid permanent exclusions. However, members expressed concern that there were already a number of working groups looking at similar issues and agreed that it was important to be very clear about what the group wanted to achieve, with defined vision and direction. Members agreed that the Local Area Review Action Plan could provide a collective vision for direction for the group. Officers therefore suggested that they bring a written Statement of Action from the Local Area Review to the next meeting of the Forum in March.
RESOLVED – That:
a) It be noted that the Local Authority is considering funding options available to reduce permanent exclusions across the County;
b) A written Statement of Action from the Local Area Review be brought to the March meeting of Schools Forum; and
c) The increase in the cost for preventative placements in PRUs from April 2019 to align the costs of dual roll and single roll placements be noted.