Agenda item

Agenda item

High Needs Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Update Report Regarding Pressures on the High Needs Block

To receive an update regarding pressures on the High Needs Block of the DSG.



The Forum received a report which provided an update on the pressures on the status of the work regarding the High Needs Block and identified in year pressures on it.  A revised Appendix A to the report was circulated at the meeting.


Points and comments included:


1.    At the last meeting the issue had been raised that the pressures on the High Needs Block had been forecast for some time and would come into effect in 2016.

2.    High Needs Block was not consistent across other local authorities; some had contingency budgets whilst some top sliced funding.

3.    It was expected that the second part of the High Needs consultation would be published early December and would be important in terms of indicating funding details about Schools Block and High Needs Block.

4.    As agreed at the last meeting, further work had been done to differentiate the top up values to correspond with different levels of need of students attending the ACB using a similar model to the special schools banding levels. The details of the preferred model were given in Appendix A.

5.    Paragraph 24 sets out the current overspend of the High Needs Block, additional costs, the potential pressure and the impact on overspend should the view of Schools Forum be to support proposed model.

6.    The current spending in schools had been considered and the historical factors that impacted on funding levels had been reviewed.

7.    Due to historical factors there were differences with funding levels in different schools against the same descriptors.

8.    It was recognised that there had been a staffing increase for all schools.

9.    If a school place was available when a request was received from another local authority, this place would have be given even though Central Bedfordshire might need the place in-year.

10. One of the aims of the SEN strategy was for local provision for local children to be achieved. It was recommended that this aim was included as part of the feedback for second part of consultation.

11. In 2016 there had been a move to three way tripartite funding for health, social care and education.

12. Commissioning contracts i.e. medical needs and an increase beyond contracted hours was an element of pressure.

13. The level of High Needs Block the local authority was allocated does not reflect the significant demand in places that had been seen.

14. The issue of significant pressure on special schools places had been included in the annual return to Education Funding Agency (EFA).

15. Further work could be undertaken by the Technical Sub Group to look at the capacity forecast in the Education, Health and Care Plan budget, including a breakdown of the elements of High Needs Block and what funding was used for.


In response to questions, the Forum noted the following:


1.    A number of schools had been identified that met the criteria for group 1 places which was an area of pressure and concern.

2.    A second piece work was taking place to look at alternative ways to fund the Academy of Central Bedfordshire (ACB), i.e. charging for group 1 places or moving funding between blocks; however other local authorities use the High Needs Block to fund group 1 places. Clarification was also needed whether there was the provision to fund the schools at level needed for pupils.

3.    Recommendation 4 was for a further piece of work to take place to determine the options for 2017/2018 once the outcome second part consultation was known.

4.    In terms of the impact for new free school, the proposal was that pupils with the most complex needs would move to that this provision and lower cost places would be given in ACB. The alternative would be to place pupils out of authority which would result in similar or higher costs. The Technical Sub Group needed to look at work to be done to identify pupils with complex needs as early as possible in order for a graduated response to be put in place and the focus to the targeted.

5.    Enabling a child to manage transition is important and is a collective responsibility in terms of the provision of the right support at the right time.

6.    It was noted that there were reservations to the options to be considered should there be deficit in the High Needs Block at year end in terms of some blocks or all blocks.

7.    Reassurance was given that the decision being requested to offset overspend was for this year only. There had not been any debate about future years in terms of whether any blocks need to be moved.

8.    It was suggested that 2 Technical Sub Groups meetings were arranged in the spring term and a paper presented at the March meeting of Schools Forum.




1.    that the proposed model of funding for the Academy of Central Bedfordshire for 2016/2017 was supported;


2.    that the in year adjustment to special school budget in 2016/17 to support increased staffing costs in line with those already agreed for mainstream schools and provisions was supported.


3.    that the recommended option to offset any overspend in 2016/2017 against in year underspend in all blocks was supported.


4.    that further discussion at the Schools Forum to determine the options for 2016/2017 once the closing balance and the outcome of the second stage of the consultation is known was agreed.


(Note: the Forum adjourned at 4.34pm and reconvened at 4.41pm)


Supporting documents: