Consultation on allocation of high needs funding – Friday 12 February 2021

This week I report on two consultations from the DfE on the allocation of high needs funding as part of the national funding formula and a new service on buying goods and services as well as the publication of non-statutory guidance to help schools identify whether they have lightweight concrete in their buildings and if any further action is required.

Consultation opens on national funding formula for allocation of high needs funding to local authorities
On Wednesday, the government launched a consultation looking at changes to the allocation of high needs funding for the 2022/3 academic year and seeking wider views on longer term changes that would be considered in the future.

High needs funding is issued to local authorities based on nationally set criteria. It funds places for pupils with a statement of special education needs or an education, health and care plan (EHCP).  Ministers are looking at wider SEND system changes and the government’s delayed response to the SEND review is due to be published in the Spring. Consultation proposals include:

  • Finding an alternative to the ‘historic spend’ factor – this factor probably doesn’t reflect the current situation in a local area now, so councils and schools are being asked for their views on alternatives. Previous research showed the main drivers behind the difference in spending by councils was parental preference, capacity and ability of providers and the pattern of provision provided. The earliest a change would be introduced is in 2023/4.
  • Using 2019 attainment data for the next two years – low attainment at the end of key stages 2 and 4 is used as one of the indicators of SEND under the formula, but for the coming years, that data won’t be available as exams were cancelled. It’s proposed data from 2019 will be used as a substitute to work out funding for 2022/3 and 2023/24.
  • Plans for new proxy factors for SEND – as well as historic spend and low attainment factors, other measures such as the number of children in bad health, on free school meals and in families given disability living allowance are used as proxies for children with SEND as part of the formula.  Calls to base allocations on the actual number of children with EHCPs have been made but there isn’t a consistent national threshold for issuing a plan. The SEND review will consider providing more consistency on EHC needs assessments, but responses are invited on whether any new factors could replace the current “proxy” factors which may have become out of date or to address particular types of needs.

The consultation ends on 24 March 2021.

Consultation on new ‘Get Help Buying’ service opens
Yesterday the DfE launched a consultation on a new service that will be available from the Autumn to all maintained schools to ensure they are “efficiently delivering value for money” when buying goods and services.  The service will offer DfE recommended deals in areas such as energy bills, catering and cleaning, along with examples of services other schools use.

Two pilots in the North West and South West have saved £19.4m on non-staff spend across 2,000 schools and under the proposal, schools will be able to access the national service through its outreach and engagement team or through going directly to the Buying for Schools gov.uk pages.

The consultation ends on 11 March 2021.

Non statutory guidance on lightweight concrete in school buildings
The DfE has published non statutory guidance to help schools to identify the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) which was mainly used in roofs and occasionally in floors and walls from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and to check whether any further investigation or action is needed.