Agenda item

High Needs Block (inc Banding Tool update)


The Forum considered the regular report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Families and Communities which forecast an overspend of £8.2m for the financial year 2021/22.  This was due in part to the increase in number of EHCP’s which had increased by 65% in the last five years and the use of the Independent sector.

It was reported that at the end of the last financial year the DSG reserve had gone into deficit by c£2m and it was expected that this would deepen given the expected overspend in 2021/22.

It was reported that this was a national concern, and the Local Authority would continue to lobby for extra funding.  The Government had added an extra £325m to settlements for 2022/23 which would give Staffordshire an extra £4m.  Despite this significant additional Government funding, increasing Staffordshire’s High Needs Budget to £115m (c 14%), it was felt that this was insufficient to close the gap and it was likely that a further overspend would arise in 2022/23. 

Officers informed the Forum that Government had written to the LA to ask if they wished to withdraw their request for additional funding given the £4m increased budget.  It was intended that the request would stand and not be withdrawn.

Work to implement of the new Education Banding Tool (EBT) continued in line with the original implementation plan. However, to ensure the successful implementation of the EBT, it had been agreed to delay the start date until April 2022.

With regard to the Prudential borrowing, it was estimated that the amount would continue to decline until 2037.

Following a question on what was being done to reduce demand for Independent sector placements, Members were informed that a SEND Contracts Manager had been appointed and it was their role to look at attendance reporting, holding the contracted independent providers to account and improve relations and efficiency in the system. 

Home educated children was highlighted as an area of concern, particularly the ability for some parents to deliver a full curriculum.  This would continue to be accessed.

The Forum was informed that following a recent Secondary Heads meeting it was felt by those present that there was a need for more alternative provision and funding into PRU’s in order to keep children in mainstream schools.  It was questioned why the PRU’s were underspent and if they were accessible enough on a part time basis.  Officers felt that there had been more investment in PRUs in recent years, with part time placements available across all PRU’s.  There were also 31 providers across Staffordshire who offered a wide range of alternative curriculum need/provision which are all detailed on the Local Offer.  Part of the PRU underspend was due to Covid restricting movement.

It was suggested that the Lesley Calverley and Carolyn Knight, along with Kirsty Rogers (Maintained Pupil Referral Units) and the Chair, Richard Redgate (Academy Pupil Referral Units) be invited to the next meeting of the Secondary Head Teachers group to discuss the type of alternative provision that was available and or needed.

It was asked if there was any data which showed the net number of EHCPs and the predicted change as pupils got older and left education provision (0-25years).  It was explained that the net number of EHCP’s had increased by 400 per year but there were individuals who left the system but at various ages.  This information was available if needed.

The Chair felt that there could be enough capacity in the Special schools to reduce the need for expensive independent sector placements, but in order to provide that, the children with less complex needs, needed to be better served in mainstream schools.  The effectiveness of the Hubs needed to be evaluated to ensure improved outcomes could be achieved.  A question on the comparison with the forecast spend for 2021/22 compared to 2020/21 and the allocation of funding to the various sectors was asked, the point being that mainstream schools needed to be funded appropriately if they are to support and keep children in that setting. 


a)   The High Needs Block budget update 2021/22 and latest forecast outturn be noted.

b)  the update on the latest DSG government settlement be noted.

c)   the latest update on the development and roll out of a new Education Banding Tool be noted.

d)  Lesley Calverley; Carolyn Knight; Kirsty Rogers (Maintained Pupil Referral Units); and the Chair, Richard Redgate (Academy Pupil Referral Units) be invited to the next meeting of the Secondary Head Teachers group to discuss the type of alternative provision needed.



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