The concerns of families and schools of children and young people with special needs and disability have been given serious consideration as part of recommendations for reshaping their educational provision across North Yorkshire.
Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive are recommended to accept a range of proposals when they meet next Tuesday (Jan 15th) which will flesh out the council's strategic plan in the best interests of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
These proposals include a revised model for alternative provision for pupils at risk of school exclusion as part of a plan which creates enough places to meet needs, more localised provision and a more inclusive mainstream culture.
However, after thorough and wide-ranging consultation with families, young people, schools, the pupil referral service and the wider public, the council has taken serious account of significant feedback and has recommended an extension to the timescale of changes.
"We have listened very carefully to people’s concerns", said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills. "Although the council is recommending that the Executive goes ahead with the development of a more inclusive and flexible model of alternative provision for children and young people in a bid to stem permanent exclusions, it has proposed that implementation of the new model be put back to September 2020 rather than the original timescale of 2019.
"We believe this would reduce the impact of budget changes on the pupil referral service and create greater organisational stability until the new model is finalised.
"We are very grateful to anyone that came to an event or filled in the survey and gave their views during the consultation and we have listened carefully. This has helped us to make recommendations on how to use the high needs budget to the best possible affect in the future."
The council is recommending a phased reduction in discretionary funding to the pupil referral service by continuing to pay 50 per cent of current funding from April 2019 to September 2020 rather than remove discretionary funding completely by September 2019 as originally planned.
The council is also recommending that places for permanently excluded students in alternative provision continue to be funded at the current £19k per place until September 2019 and then at £18k per place rather than the £17k as detailed in the original proposal.
The extended timescale for some of the changes also means the county council will be able to work with school head teachers and heads of the pupil referral service to finalise a new more localised and flexible model of alternative provision by July this year for implementation from September 2020.
"Permanent exclusions are rising significantly, despite our investment in the pupil referral service of over £4.7m each year,” said Cllr Mulligan. “Evidence shows that children and young people who are permanently excluded suffer in terms of educational outcomes and life chances. So wherever possible we believe they should remain within mainstream education, in their local school with the right support and curriculum to meet their needs".
Proposals to be decided upon will also include a change in funding arrangements for young people post-16 with special educational needs to bring arrangements into line with statutory guidance.
Proposals will also include a change in the way top-up funding for children and young people with an education and health care plan is allocated based on clear principles through a banding system covering all areas of need.
North Yorkshire is ambitious for its children and young people’s service and is recognised nationally for its innovation and for ensuring that its outstanding policy and practice is sustainable. The proposals to be decided on are therefore designed to fulfil the long-term ambitions of the plan while relieving some of the pressure on the high needs budget with a saving of almost £2m.
"The pupil referral service in North Yorkshire is generously funded overall", said Cllr Mulligan, "and we need to bring the funding per place for permanently excluded young people into line with national rates. We also propose to shift some of the discretionary funding used for prevention work by the pupil referral service to school-led locality based partnerships so they can have a greater say as a group as to how this funding is used for their area.
"The high quality of our pupil referral service in North Yorkshire is not in question - this proposal is about putting children first by tackling the significant rise in exclusions. We have a duty to spend our limited budget in the best way possible.”
North Yorkshire has a high needs budget of £44.2m and is currently projecting financial pressures in the order of £5.5m. This increased expenditure is predicted to keep rising in the near future due to the increase in numbers of education, health and care plans and ongoing pressure in terms of placements. Members continue to lobby the Government to meet these increasing financial responsibilities.