The Officer for Strategic Lead Inclusion / Principal Educational Psychologist (SLI / PEP), Malcolm Taylor, provided an overview of the results of the Regional Peer Review of the current support offered for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). This was based on a team of colleagues from Cambridgeshire, Bedford Borough, Southend and Peterborough Local Authorities. A high level action plan summary with expected timeframes of completion was drawn up from the results which included:
Councillor Collins questioned why there had been a change from 18 to 25 year olds. The Officer for SLI / PEP explained that the previous age had been 19 but only a small number of those people were attending a sixth form or a special school. Those who had left the special school or college had a LDA assessment which led to the identification that these were of a much lower level. So now that age would go up to 25 if the person was in receipt of educational training. Councillor Collins went on to query the type of training. This could include formal courses at local colleges, foundation skills courses or some might be programmes towards independence and any that would count as learning difficulties as they would be able to continue on the health care plans (HCP). There were some young people who had continued to stay in special schools up to the age of 18 and they would remain on the HCP. It was still early days but there were few specialist placement colleges that had a range of programmes suitable for young people including those with visual impairment and could offer support through a plan. Councillor Collins went on to ask what the cost impact was. There was an increase on high needs funding although it was separated amongst each specialty, the costs came out from one pot. More young people were accessing that support and the Officer for SLI / PEP would be reviewing the fund with the finance team to discuss the impact this had on the fund.
Councillor Redsell mentioned that as the Pupil Referral Unit in South Ockendon had been shut down, she sought clarification on whether this was still going to Tilbury. The Officer for SLI / PEP confirmed the Olive Alternative Provision Academy would be based on the old Jack Lobley site as planned. An official opening was yet to happen but pupils were already in the building working on a range of programmes and for a monitoring visit from Ofsted. The unit was now a secondary unit and no longer a primary Pupil Referral Unit as it had been before. This would be facilitated through other arrangements which the department was working on with other primary schools. Councillor Redsell asked if these plans would be brought back to the Committee’s attention to which the Officer for SLI / PEP confirmed it would.
Councillor Redsell thought that there had always been three special needs schools. There were three, Treetops, Beacon Hill and now Olive Alternative Provision Academy which went up to the age of 19. The post 16 – 19 in Treetops and Beacon Hill was located in the main site of Treetops. Other resources were attached to primary and secondary schools which included hearing and visual impairment, learning difficulties and speech impairment etc.
Councillor Redsell said that she had received feedback from parents about overcrowding in Treetops and appeared to have out of borough people coming in as well. She had thought Treetops was for Thurrock only and sought clarification on this. The Officer for SLI / PEP stated that the top academies – Treetops and Beacon Hill, had attracted people from areas outside of the borough. He had spoken with Treetops and understood they had plans to become a free school. There were always requests from out of boroughs but no places were reserved. Councillor Redsell went on to ask whether Thurrock residents would get first priority for a place or not. The Officer for SLI / PEP confirmed they would not because an academy did not have the right to restrict places to local people due to British laws. Treetops could push back on requested placements but anyone from any area could request a placement and whether they got a place was dependent on their circumstances. Both Treetops and Beacon Hill were outstanding schools and due to their quality, they had been able to expand.
The Vice-Chair mentioned that there was a lot of clarification sought around the needs of SEND pupils. He asked whether the action plan outlined in appendix two was able to achieve this. Thurrock was working with Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCo) to look at criterias to move forward in HCPs. There needed to be clarity of understanding on what was expected and to give further advice which would be discussed in a meeting in November.
The Chair expressed concern on task number eight of the action plan as the timeframe given to complete the task was the end of October. It was confirmed that the SEND team had met with the Parent Carer Forum (CaPa) so they would be on target to complete the task. The Chair went on to ask what the percentage increase would be. Not enough information had been captured yet so they were using SENCos to do some direct work and were working with CaPa as well.
The CER noted that the first item on the action plan was three weeks away and queried whether it was within the remit of the committee to have an update. If the action plan was important, would it also be within the remit of the Committee to receive an update of the action plan. The Chair agreed the Committee should receive an update and asked if these could come back to the Committee at a later date. The Officer for SLI / PEP agreed to feedback.
1) That the Committee consider the recommendations of the Peer Review and the High Level Action Plan.