Update: EA and HCAN Policy Committees - December 2017

Educational Achievement and Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees

The Educational Achievement and the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees met in Manchester on Friday 22 September. The Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board joined the group to discuss the rising numbers of care orders, greater use of special guardianship orders (SGOs), adopter recruitment and the development of regional adoption agencies. Discussions then turned to the expanded role of the virtual school head under the Children and Social Work Act (2017) to promote the educational achievement of children who have left care via adoption, SGO or child arrangement order. A consultation on draft guidance will take place later this year and final publication is expected in April 2018. The committee raised concerns about capacity and funding - some early estimates suggest the cohort the virtual school is working with could double or even treble in some areas and expectations are unclear about the levels of support potentially on offer at this stage.

The group then turned to progress on the implementation of the SEND reforms, identifying where the challenges and barriers remain in the system. All transfers to education, health and care plans (EHCPs) must be completed by 31 March 2018. Members voiced concerns about the government’s apparent prioritisation of quantity over quality and noted the ongoing demands placed on the workforce. Whilst there is a sense that the new arrangements, which require genuine co-production, are positive, the group agreed that there have been a number of unintended consequences of these reforms and costs are escalating as a result. LAs now hold a duty to provide for children and young adults with SEND up to the age of 25, however this is not resourced either via revenue or capital funding and accessing suitable post-16 provision and/or post-19 provision is a pinch point in many areas.

The committee felt that national education reforms have done little to support the inclusivity agenda in schools - home schooling numbers are going up as are fixed term and permanent exclusions which is impacting on SEND budgets as alternatives are often high cost and pressures on home-to-school transport budgets are mounting. Similarly, there are significant pressures on the capacity of the specialist school estate due to increased demand and a lack of capital investment, recent allocations from the DfE are wholly insufficient to address this issue. There are a number of national policy agendas which interface – integrated personal commissioning, personal budgets, transforming care etc which need to be brought together, not only locally but nationally by the Departments of Education and Health as well.

A rep from the DfE then joined the group to discuss elective home education. The numbers of children who are currently home schooled are unclear and the group suggested the national pupil database could usefully be interrogated to provide an indication of the numbers of pupils being off-rolled. The group raised a specific issue around SEND funding for children who are home schooled, there is a short guidance document on the .gov.uk website but LAs felt this required clarification with regards to meeting costs as queries frequently arise.

Little is known about the views of children and young people who are home schooled or their outcomes, the group also noted that more could usefully be done by Ofsted to look at the informal / illegal exclusions which result in children being educated at home as part of its school inspection activity. The group then turned to the issue of the ‘suitability’ of the home learning experience (which is open to significant interpretation). The importance of ensuring positive outcomes for children and supporting them to thrive was stressed.

The committee also reviewed a near-final version of the Association’s elective home education survey. The survey was circulated to all DCSs w/c 2 October for completion on school census day (5 October). The final deadline for responses was 27 October. The results of the survey have been shared with the ADCS members and key partners and stakeholders.

Outside of the committee meeting, the Chair of HCAN met with DfE officials to discuss the current and future challenges relating to the implementation of the SEND reforms. The importance of continued financial support by way of the SEND implementation grant was stressed along with other points raised by the committee

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