The Forum received a progress report on the independent review of high needs provision in Halton.
This was further to the report submitted to the October meeting of the Forum on the progress each of the three workstreams had made. Previously December 2019 had been set as a target for the completion of each of the three workstreams. However, given a number of local developments, the scale and complexity of the task and the need to ensure participation by all stakeholders in the proposed redesign and the sustainability of any future changes, the date for completion had been reviewed and the revised indicative target date was now March 2020.
It was noted that the findings would then be reported to the Senior Management Team of the Council for consideration after which a report would then be produced for: the Executive Board of the Council; the Health and Wellbeing Board; and the SEND Strategic Board. If the recommendations in the report were agreed, formal consultation on the revised arrangements would then be undertaken.
It was reported that there had been a number of issues that had emerged as part of the review and redesign which Schools Forum may wish to consider and take a view on, so that changes could be made for the 2020-21 financial year. In summary these were:
a) the proposal that funding of the Psychology Service be transferred to the High Needs budget and cease to be a traded service;
b) the proposal for full funding to all schools (which would see a significant increase for all) with no transfer to High Needs; and
c) the proposal for a different way of funding the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).
The report provided details of these and Forum Members discussed them in detail, with Officers providing responses to queries made.
A decision was requested regarding the funding of the Educational Psychology Service at this meeting; the Forum agreed that the current traded element of the service could be funded through the High Needs budget so that all schools could access support. Schools would also be provided with the opportunity to buy additional Educational Psychology support and should sufficient requests be received, additional staff would need to be employed.
With regards to the PRU proposal, the Forum was advised that this would be presented at the Halton Association of Secondary Headteachers (HASH) meeting in February and the outcome of this would be reported to the February meeting of the Schools Forum. The Forum was advised that there would be no transfer from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block in 2020/2021. A letter would be sent to all schools informing them of the reason for this change and strongly encouraging them to invest in increasing support for children and young people with SEND.
RESOLVED: That Schools Forum
1) notes the report;
2) supports the progress of the revision and redesign of High Needs;
3) agrees to the funding of the Educational Psychology Service; and
4) requests a further report be submitted at the next Schools Forum meeting.