Executive decides on high needs changes

The need to bring down numbers of children and young people excluded from school in North Yorkshire has led to a decision to reshape services for those at risk of exclusion.

High needs budget

North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive agreed today to accept a range of proposals which will help to drive forward a more inclusive mainstream culture and revise the model of alternative provision across the county for pupils at risk of school exclusion as part of a plan which creates enough places to meet needs and more localised provision.

Today’s decision is designed to flesh out the council’s strategic plan in the best interests of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

However, although the Executive has agreed to 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 accepted that implementation of the new model be put back to September 2020 rather than the original timescale of 2019.

"Our primary concern is to reduce school exclusions," said Cllr Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills, “because 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.

“Permanent exclusions have risen significantly, despite our investment in the pupil referral service of over £4.7m each year. The present system is not working and so we have agreed that schools, the county council and the pupil referral service work together to agree a new model of provision which is more flexible to meet the needs of children and young people locally.

“However, councillors have also given serious consideration to the concerns of families, the pupil referral service and the wider public, by accepting an extension to the timescale of changes.

“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.”

The council intends to bring in 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 Executive also agreed 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.

In addition, the Executive agreed proposals to include a change in funding arrangements for young people post-16 with special educational needs to bring arrangements into line with statutory guidance.  It also agreed 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 agreed are 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 have also agreed 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 call on the Government to meet these increasing financial responsibilities.

This story was published 15 January 2019