The localities model
Sheffield has seven localities; each consists of several secondary schools and their primary feeder schools. Download a list of schools by locality.
The local authority delegates “top-up” or “High Needs” funding for SEN to the localities. The schools in each locality agree together how this funding should be used.
The localities model has only recently been set up, and there is still a lot of confusion about how it should work. We’ve worked with the local authority to put together this Q&A in order to provide a bit more clarity.
Why do the localities all have different policies and processes, e.g. in relation to EHC needs assessment requests? This is confusing for parents.
The localities model was intended to give schools the freedom to decide how best to meet the needs of vulnerable children in their local area. However, some localities had concerns about their capacity to deliver some functions, particularly in relation to EHC needs assessments. There was insufficient guidance from the local authority when the model was first implemented, which resulted in a lack of consistency. Efforts are now being made to address this; for example, the local authority is working with the localities to develop a consistent process for responding to EHC needs assessment requests. The intention is that “Request to Assess” panels will be operational in all localities by October 2018. Decisions still need to be made about parental attendance at these panels, and the step-down process if an assessment request is refused.
What are the governance arrangements for localities? Who can parents contact if they have concerns?
Each locality has a lead head teacher and a locality strategic group. The functions of the locality SENCO are fulfilled slightly differently – some localities employ a locality SENCO, in others this role is shared between several people. Names and contact details of key people in each locality will soon be published on the local offer website.
How is funding allocated to localities?
Only a small percentage of Sheffield’s total High Needs Funding allocation is given to the localities. Funding allocations for localities are based on the percentage of pupils identified at levels 3, 4 and 5 of the Sheffield Support Grid in each locality. Localities use this funding to support individual pupils and schools, and to build capacity and skills across the locality workforce. (Pupils who were on banding levels C and D continue to be centrally funded, until they move to a new setting.) To access locality top-up funding for individual pupils, schools have to make an application to their locality panel.
Why are parents being told that some localities don’t fund 1:1 support from a Teaching Assistant (TA)?
In general, it is assumed that schools will employ TAs from their notional SEN budget. The support offered by TAs can be enhanced using top-up funding from the locality. When a school requests top-up funding for 1:1 support, the locality panel will want to see evidence that the school is already spending £6,000 per year from its notional SEN budget to support the pupil – but this isn’t always the case. The local authority is currently developing guidance for schools about the use of notional SEN funding and locality funding.
Some localities have decided that top-up funding for one-to-one support will not normally be given, because they believe that upskilling staff, developing interventions or funding equipment is a better way to use this funding. However, there are exceptions to this policy, e.g. when a pupil with very high levels of need has just arrived in Sheffield, or if one-to-one support is specified in an EHC plan.
How does the local authority ensure that there is fairness across the city?
The Sheffield Support Grid (SSG) is key to this. It is a locally developed tool which offers a common language for describing needs, and a framework for decision-making. The SSG describes different categories and levels of need, and links these to packages of provision. When a pupil is identified as having SEN, the SENCO decides which grid level(s) best describe them. To ensure that these decisions are consistent across the city, the use of the grid is moderated within each locality, and across the city. City-wide moderation is carried out by the Inclusion Taskforce. This is a cross-sector, school-led group whose members include head teachers, locality SENCOs, health professionals and local authority officers.
The SSG is currently being moderated based on the provision that a school has put in place for a pupil. As a common understanding develops, the SSG will be used as a tool to assess the needs of a pupil and the provision in place to support them.
Schools have to report their SSG decisions to the local authority once a year. Following locality moderation of the SSG, the Inclusion Taskforce looks at the returns from all schools and uses this to identify schools to take part in a further citywide moderation exercise. This year the Inclusion Taskforce will use the SEND Review Guide as a mechanism to support and challenge schools in order to improve the quality of SEND provision across the city.
The Local Authority in partnership with the Inclusion Taskforce is currently carrying out an SEN audit of all schools in Sheffield to ensure they have things like SENCO qualifications in place, to find out how much time is dedicated to the SEN role and other useful information that will inform training and support.