Agenda item

Special Educational Needs and Disability

(All Wards)

 

Contact for enquiries: Claire Kirwan, Transformation Officer, SEN Service, Education Learning and Skills 0207 926 6678, CKirwan@lambeth.gov.uk   

 

Minutes:

The Chair, Councillor Liz Atkins, opened the item by noting that all children deserved to be the best they could be and Lambeth was committed to delivering support so young people could stay in the local community.  However, that aspiration was challenged by central Government’s imposed budget, increasing numbers of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) children, and raised community expectations that could not be met in current spending constraints.

 

Cathy Twist, Director of Education; and, Adam Yarnold, Lead, Special Education Needs & Disability, provided an update on the SEND Strategy and preparation for external inspection, noting that:

·           A local area inspection of services and partner work by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted was awaited in early 2019, and would review how Lambeth provided and commissioned SEND services.

·           The Children and Families Act 2014 changed eligibility criteria and support available, in particular expanding the age range for additional support from 3-19 to 0-25 years; and Lambeth was implementing its requirements, but budgets had not changed much since 2014.

·           The SEND Strategic Board was overseeing the Act’s requirements, self-evaluating, identifying areas for development, and implementing and monitoring outcomes.

·           Funding for SEND came from three sources: the Dedicated Schools Grant [DSG] (mainly via the high needs block); the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)’s budget; and, through the Council’s revenue grant.

·           Costs were increasing significantly and budgets nationally were challenged.

·           The paper also detailed how Lambeth assessed and met needs and outcomes, including with partners; areas for development and next steps; provided statistics requested by OSC; support and provision from early stages to adulthood; and, summaries of specialist education provision.

·           The paper also detailed funding to support travel assistance to and from school as well as the Children’s Services’ projection and reduction of a £4.5m overspend.

 

The Committee next heard from Christine Golding, GMB Education Convenor; and, Laura Liverotti, therapist at the Park Campus Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), who noted:

·           Last year’s cut to the outreach service, covering support and the transition between the PRU and mainstream, predominantly affected black and Afro-Caribbean boys;

·           Feelings of a lack of hope and concern that children would be unable to go back to mainstream schools;

·           Pupils most at risk in PRUs or mainstream schools were not always receiving the support they needed; and,

·           Pupils were not always receiving proper reintegration nor social skills preparation for bigger classes, their self-esteem, reactions to their previous attendance at PRUs, and positive visions for their future.

 

In response to questions from the Committee, the Deputy Leader (Children and Young People), Councillor Jennifer Brathwaite; Annie Hudson, Strategic Director for Children’s Services; Cathy Twist, Director of Education; and, Adam Yarnold, Lead, Special Education Needs & Disability, responded:

·           The Action Plan and Strategy were included in the agenda pack (pages 117 and 103-114 respectively) and officers would provide measurable targets for SEND pupils, including the four priorities of the Local Area Plan.

·           Councillor Brathwaite had written to central Government in November, setting out the woeful financial circumstance for all London boroughs, and asked attendees to review the London Councils survey results on CSC, which detailed that all but one London borough’s CSC was in deficit.  There were no extra funds forthcoming from central Government, whilst the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement on 17 December only allocated an extra £1m for London, which did nothing to assist the most vulnerable, and vulnerable children were bearing the brunt of austerity.

·           Special schools were funded in one of two ways, via place-finding element and by top-up element for particular needs.  Previously, top-ups were given on a per-child basis, with place-finding evenly distributed, and resulted in significant dissatisfaction.  A fairer banding arrangement had been implemented in tandem with special needs workers, heads, governors, and outside bodies: to combine funding in one pot and banding children by their needs from Bands A to E (least to highest need).  This better matched funding to schools’ needs, whilst some schools had been capped in their first year so that no school received more or less funding than before and banding arrangements would be reviewed after a meeting in January for the next financial year.

·           It was difficult to say whether different children’s needs were funded differently to other boroughs, but officers would distribute comparative figures used by the design exercise for the banding system.

·           Lambeth had re-tendered the bus contract from Veolia to London Hire, noting that the new system was more flexible with variable bus sizes and lower costs, however Lambeth had pledged to provide transport to any child who needed it, but was encouraging independence. 

·           Independent travel training was progressing well, with 46 children assessed and 37 now independent travellers, with more to be assessed.  Independent travellers were reviewed at six and nine month intervals to ensure they remained confident.  Not as many children as initially hoped were able to take up independent travel, but were regularly reviewed when they were older.

·           Transport requests were reviewed weekly, with 400 assessed since the beginning of year, but there were now 2,400 pupils on EHCPs compared to 1,600 pupils last year.  The reason for this increase was partly due to increased age range arising from the Children and Families Act 2014, but also from increased numbers of EHCPs meaning that more children had a right to apply for transport.

·           Demand had increased for a number reasons: the better identification of needs or greater awareness of SEND, and funding pressures on schools, requiring schools to get more funding via EHCPs.

·           It was too early to report on retention rates and future employment rates until apprenticeships were completed, but these were being monitored and officers would distribute to the Committee.

·           The Children and Families Act 2014 required children to stay in education until 19 years of age, so SEND schools now had sixth forms, whilst many SEND pupils were staying in school, getting preparation for adulthood, and all young people had the ability to have a work experience placement.

·           4.1% of children in Lambeth were on EHCPs, compared to 2.9% nationally, with 6.4% of these children educated outside of Lambeth.

·           Some children had very specialist needs and there would continue to be a percentage educated outside Lambeth due to economies of scale, but the Vanguard Special Needs School would make a significant difference with its 78 places due to open in January 2020, and more children would be educated in the borough than currently.

·           Information on children educated outside Lambeth would be shared with Members and kept under review.

·           It was difficult to persuade parents that their SEND children should have independent travel with concerns over safety and violence; not limited just to the transport itself but also the wider journey.

·           It was true that there was a feeling that pupils in PRUs were there forever, and it was noted that Dunraven School was managing excluded pupils within the school so that reintegration was easier, and that pupils did not feel estranged or embarrassed.

·           Officers would distribute percentages of SEND pupils who were excluded and what actions were being taken on this; however it was noted that SEND was a broad church, with some needs not requiring as much support, misdiagnosed, or that persons were not aware of the available support, so it was difficult to give accurate figures.

·           The Education team would challenge schools if they attempted to exclude a SEND child, as it was illegal to exclude a child due to their SEND, but it was often difficult to differentiate SEND pupils from those with additional needs.

·           Lambeth had two PRUs (one each for secondary and primary) and commissioned places from the high needs block from them.

·           Officers were reviewing alternative ways to support children just before and after exclusion, and was working with the PRUs to look at other models, other school provision, or alternative approaches.

·           Officers would prefer no exclusions, although the aim was to ensure that children spent as little time as possible in PRUs, especially for Key Stage 4 pupils, but it remained up to the PRUs to provide as meaningful an education experience as possible.

·           Dunraven School’s internal exclusion model was good and many schools had similar internal exclusions, whilst the Norwood School’s shared Greenhouse Project aimed to give fresh starts and was very successful.  Exclusion was to be avoided or a short period of time outside mainstream school provided instead.

·           The PRUs did an outstanding job with young people and whilst some pupils stayed from six months to a year, it was often very helpful to them, so long as they returned to mainstream education.

·           The use of PRUs was about balance and whilst officers accepted concerns over the PRUs’ image they were working with them to improve that aspect.

·           Most primary-age and Key Stage 3 pupils returned to mainstream from the PRU, but schools were less motivated to take back Key Stage 4 pupils due to the loss of time during GCSEs and some of these pupils stayed in the PRU for longer than necessary.

·           Lambeth commissioned and monitored PRU places, with assessments often leading to EHCPs and often pupils might be found other specialist places outside the PRUs.

·           Additional support was challenging, but Lambeth did commission places from both PRUs, had agreed to uplift both PRUs in the last financial year, and were working with them to commission additional social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) support resources. 

·           Lambeth was in conversation with the PRUs and the YOS to improve perceptions of them, but it was noted that the PRUs were good at celebrating success and the Scrutiny visit to the PRUs had been successful and received good feedback.

·           Officers pledged to improve assistance to Key Stage 4 as leaving the PRU was challenging for them, and it was noted that not stigmatising these pupils was essential for improved outcomes.

·           Young people leaving the PRUs were often mentored and sponsored to ensure they had good places to go to, and Lambeth’s Outreach team worked closely with them.

·           Much educational and psychological support had been provided to the PRUs following the recent devastating death of a pupil, and officers offered their sympathy.  However, this had led to a review of the support provided and officers would also review ways to celebrate the YOS and the PRUs, and improve their reputations.

·           Officers expected to reach traineeship and apprenticeship targets, with high levels of success over 20 years, discounting a slight dip after the 2014 reforms, and the assessment process had been improved by meeting parents at an earlier date.  There were significant numbers of eligible pupils adding pressure on the small team (comprising three coordinators doing assessments for the 10 requests received each week) to keep standards high. This work also included supporting internships, advertising roles, bringing networks together, reaching out to employers, and ensuring that the programme worked well.  However, there was a need to increase numbers and additional funds for support in February would enable good offers for all future internships.

 

In discussion, sub-Committee Members noted the following:

·           Many SEND pupils remained undiagnosed or misunderstood, whilst 52% of Lambeth’s primary school children did not speak English as a first language.

·           Teachers were often undervalued and had various barriers to work at optimum capacity.

·           The amazing work of staff at Park Campus was noted, but additional support was need for PRUs.

·           It was important that the stigma of PRUs was challenged, such as when mainstream pupils were threatened with exclusion to them, and additional provision and celebration of the PRUs was needed.

·           Stigmatised services, such as the YOS and PRUs, would benefit from tangible and positive visits from the Mayor, Leader, other civic leaders, and linking in other services to improve outcomes.

·           The 80% of EHCPs issued in 20 weeks was well above the 60-65% London average, and it was important to understand what Lambeth was doing well and how to protect this success.

 

The Deputy Leader (Children and Young People) noted that Park Campus PRU was in her ward and she did not consider it to have a bad reputation, but had reputational damage as pupils often stayed there for too long.  It was difficult to disseminate and acknowledge the importance of limits to pupils’ time there, not just for their education but in social terms, and she expressed her wishes that the Committee review and monitor the average time pupils stayed in the PRU to reassure parents. The Committee also added that it would also like to consider further Dunraven School’s exclusion model and its potential to be utilised in other schools.

 

RESOLVED:

1.         Secure measurable targets for SEND pupils for each of the priorities outlined in the Local Area Strategy and receive reports updating on progress of meeting them.

2.         Secure comparable data including spend per special school pupil for comparable neighbouring boroughs for each band.

3.         Review progress on SEND transport in reducing spend and encouraging the independence of young people travelling.

4.         CSSC to receive data on the successful retention of SEND young people on apprenticeships and internships, and Children’s Services work to strengthen partnerships with industry and others to increase opportunities.

5.         Review numbers of SEND children educated out of borough and the impact of Vanguard in reducing that number.

6.         Review exclusion of children with SEN and with language difficulties, particularly at primary level, and the success of internal exclusion models such as Dunraven to avoid external exclusion.

7.         Review return of pupils into mainstream schools and review possibility of extra resources for PRUs and celebrating their positive work.

8.         Review the average time that pupils are educated at the PRU(s) and monitor this over time to reassure parents that this is for a limited time and that children go back into mainstream education.

 

 

Supporting documents: