The Cabinet considered a report of the Director of Children and Family Services concerning funding for Special Educational Needs Provision (SEND). A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda item 4’ is filed with these minutes.
Mr Ould CC said that the Schools’ Forum had recently discussed the potential transfer of up to 0.5% from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block and there was a general understanding of the significant financial issues faced by the Council concerning SEND funding.
In response to questions from members the Director confirmed that whilst the Authority would benefit from additional one-off High Needs funding in the region of £5.4m for the 2019/20 financial year, it would not be enough to address the overall deficit which continued to rise.
(a) That the current forecast High Needs Block overspend of £6.1m at the end of the financial year be noted;
(b) That it be noted that Leicestershire schools and the Schools Forum will be consulted on the proposed transfer of up to 0.5% of Schools Block funding to the High Needs Block for 2020/21 or for 2021/22 to help manage the revenue budget position as soon as the relevant information is available;
(c) That the Director of Children and Family Services be authorised to apply to the Secretary of State for approval of the transfer at (b) above should it not be agreed by the Schools Forum;
(d) That the Director of Children and Family Services be authorised:
(i) after the necessary consultation, to progress the transfer of Oakfield Short Stay School to new locations in north and south Leicestershire,
(ii) following consultation with the Cabinet Lead Member for Children, Families and Safer Communities, to agree a shortlist of potential academy trusts to be recommended to the Department for Education (Regional Schools Commissioner) for a decision on a preferred Trust to operate the new 50-place Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs school to be developed on the vacant Oakfield site in Blaby.
REASONS FOR DECISION:
The High Needs Block, part of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG), funds SEND provision and is currently overspent. The High Needs deficit is forecast to increase up to 2020/21 before being recovered in 2024/25. The transfer of up to 0.5% from the Schools Block to the High Needs Block will reduce the overall DSG deficit.
It is a requirement to consult Leicestershire schools and the Schools Forum for proposed transfers of up to 0.5%. Should the Forum not approve the transfer, the Council may seek approval from the Secretary of State; such a request would need to be submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) by 28 November 2019 for a transfer within 2020/21. If the request is made after this date, the transfer would be sought for 2021/22.
The High Needs Development Plan seeks to introduce a number of measures to reduce the forecast overspend and subsequent deficit.
Seeking expressions of interest from suitable academy proposers (sponsors) to operate the new SEMH school in Blaby, is in keeping with the requirements placed upon the Council by section 6A (the Free School Presumption) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, as introduced by the Education Act 2011. Authorising the Director of Children and Family Services to agree the shortlist to be recommended to the Regional Schools Commissioner, will help ensure that the process for the new school remains on schedule for September 2020 opening.
Although the transfer of the Oakfield school site to new locations is regarded as outside of the normal DfE ‘prescribed alterations’ process applicable to the movement of maintained schools (but not Pupil Referral Units), the publication of a Statutory Notice would ensure that the process follows good public law principles of transparency and effective consultation.