Mainstream schools in Sheffield have been asked to put pupils with “High Needs” into funding bands.
Pupils are regarded as having “High Needs” if they need additional support (e.g. Teaching Assistant (TA) time, resources) costing more than £6,000 per year. The government wants local authorities to fund these pupils via a banded funding system from April 2013.
Under the new system, schools will have to pay for special educational provision up to the threshold of £6,000 per year per pupil, using their delegated SEN budgets. Above this level, local authorities will step in and provide top-up funding. The level of top-up funding given will depend on a pupil’s funding band.
Because this is a new system for Sheffield, there are potentially over 2,000 pupils who will have to be banded over the next few months. To make the work manageable, the local authority has decided to audit only mainstream pupils who have a statement of SEN or who receive funding through a local pilot (Exceptional Needs pilot). Pupils in special schools and IRs will NOT be audited, and will only be banded nominally.
By 16th November 2012, all mainstream schools must identify their High Need pupils, allocate them to one of five funding bands, and provide a breakdown of expenditure. A moderation panel will then look at each schools’ banding proposals and moderate them to ensure there is consistency across the city.
Responding to a local consultation, the Sheffield Parent Carer Forum suggested that schools should be required to make banding decisions in partnership with parents. We have not yet received any feedback regarding our submission.
There is a high probability that you will only be informed about your child’s funding band after the final decision has been made by the moderation panel. There is no appeal process for parents to challenge a banding decision they’re not happy with.
So, you might want to ask your child’s school before 16th November whether they consider your child to have High Needs. If they do, you could ask them to give you a copy of the papers they will be submitting to the local authority. On the other hand, you will need to consider how such a request could affect your relationship with the school.
In order to make an informed decision, it might help to consider the following:
Pupils who don’t meet the criteria for banding are unlikely to qualify for a specialist placement. However, Sheffield City Council have assured us that pupils will not need to be on a specific funding band in order to get a place at a special school or Integrated Resource (IR). But they also said that it was likely that most pupils with lower levels of need (bands A and B) would be in mainstream settings, and that most pupils attending special schools would be on funding bands C or D. In order to access independent specialist provision, pupils would almost certainly have to be on the highest funding band (band I – Individual Packages).
A Q&A document published by the Council states that, where pupils with statements of SEN fall under the £6,000 threshold, “schools need to work closely with parents and the LA to reassess the pupil’s needs to determine what should happen about the statement in the future”. We think that this could affect quite a large number of pupils, e.g. those who receive less than 10 hours of TA time per week, or who share their TA with another child. It is important to remember, however, that the law regarding statements of SEN has not changed.
There is a possibility that top-up funding for SEN could be included in personal budgets in the future, with families having a say in how it should be spent.
Need more information? Have a look at our own Q&A which we put together after a consultation meeting with Council officers.