Report of Strategic Director, Children, Adults and Families
The Committee received a presentation on the needs of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
It was reported that there has been a substantial increase in the number of assessment requests and Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs). The number of new requests for 2022 is 277, this figure was 196 for 2020 so this has meant a massive increase in demand. In terms of neighbouring local authorities Gateshead is slightly higher, with 3.9% EHCPs, regionally the average is 3.8% and national average is 3.7%. However, Gateshead is lower than the regional and national averages in terms of SEND Support.
It was noted that since 2017 there has been an increase in the number of primary SEN for Social and Emotional Health, Speech Language and Communication Needs and Autistic Spectrum Condition. There has been a decrease in the number of primary SEN for specific learning difficulty, moderate learning difficulty and severe learning difficulty. Figures have remained static in relation to hearing and visual impairments, physical disability and profound and multiple learning difficulties.
It was reported that in Gateshead there are higher numbers of EHCPs than regional and neighbouring authorities and therefore it is becoming harder to place these children in Special Schools. It was noted that work is underway to review the ARMS provision and it is anticipated that three new provisions will be opened from September 2022. Kells Lane Primary School is also providing an additional 10 places to meet demand, in partnership with Gibside School. There are also discussions with a further three primary schools to offer new provision from September which will create a further 24 places.
Schools are being encouraged to think about Preparing for Adulthood earlier, so from year 9 onwards, the four Preparing for Adulthood headings will be included in EHCPs;
- Higher education or employment
- Independent living
- Friends, relationships and community
- Being healthy
It was reported that the SEND Service has invested in a further 4.4 FTE posts to cope with increased demand. The Gateshead SENCO Network is being re-launched, including local peer groups and open door policy for support. Work is underway on participation and co-production, looking at how far the young people and carers influence strategic planning. The Parent / Carer Forum has been re-launched and meets regularly with senior leaders to discuss areas of concern. The SEND Youth Forum has also been relaunched following the appointment of a new Engagement Officer. An SEND newsletter is circulated to a wide range of stakeholders every half term, which provides updates across education, health and care.
In terms of next steps it was reported that the new Green Paper on SEND is expected soon, as well as a new SEND Inspection framework. There will be a review of Secondary ARMS provision and a step up of the monitoring role to reduce further increase in requests for top-ups. In addition parents and carers will be supported to engage in strategic SEND developments.
The point was made that there is a 20 week assessment for EHCPs but that it can take a long time to get to the start of the process for assessment. It was confirmed that the Code of Practice expects a graduated response as not all applicants will need EHCPs and many can get SEN support at mainstream school. It was confirmed that the start of the 20 week period is when a school or parent submits a written request for an EHCP assessment. The service then decides if an assessment is appropriate and then an action planning meeting is held. From the initial letter to outcome is a 20 week performance measure.
It was also queried that there has been a 46% increase in EHCPs but 26% were refused. It was acknowledged that there is no criteria or threshold for EHCPs, the service looks at what the schools have been doing for that child and will get a notional budget which needs to be fully used on that child before an EHCP would be granted. Committee felt it needed a better understanding of the whole process and asked that further updates be brought back to Committee on this issue.
Committee requested that, due to the increased numbers of children with social, emotional and mental health needs, a further report be added to the work programme to look at adverse childhood experiences.
It was suggested that more information should be provided to parents to prevent inappropriate self-referrals to the service which impacts on the demand put upon the service.
It was queried why Haskel School is not included in the report. It was confirmed that this is because it is an independent school and there is no jurisdiction over it, although the authority does commission places there. It was noted that there has been a lot of work with Haskel School in terms of Service Level Agreements and the school buying into the service. It was acknowledged that although this is not a maintained school and it is not public money that runs the school, there is still funding attached to those Gateshead children and young people attending that school. It was confirmed that children with EHCPs attending Haskel school are included in the overall figures presented in the report.
It was reported that 30% of children with EHCPs are going into mainstream secondary schools and that this is not sustainable. This year there has been more demand for year 7 Special School places than the authority can place.
RESOLVED - (i) That the Committee noted the update report.
(ii) That a further update be brought back to Committee in 6-12 months to include information on Haskel Special School.
(iii) That a training / members development session be held around specific SEN processes.