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#SENDReview Answer Consultation Question 18

We're helping you answer the consultation questions for the SEND Review Green paper. You can use these prompts to answer them on the Government website, or use our question-by-question forms*. Number 20 is below, the rest are accessed from here.

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Questions 18, as stated on the Government website:

Question 18 - How can we best develop a national framework for funding bands and tariffs to achieve our objectives and mitigate unintended consequences and risks?

Translation: The Department for Education believes the current SEND system is too expensive, and doesn't help children and young people thrive and have better lives. SEND funding isn't shared out equally across the country, which means that some areas get more than others.

The government wants to:

  1. Create a national system for high-needs SEND funding based on a system of bands. In theory, very complex needs will be in a higher "band" that will have a higher monetary value than a band designated for a "lower" level of need. LAs will be given government money depending on how many children are in each band.
  2. There will also be a tariff structure that will set the rules and prices for how much bodies that commission provision, such as LAs, can pay providers, such as schools and therapy services. The DfE says this will "helping to control high costs attributed to expensive provision.”
  3. For the first time, this banding and tariff structure will be applied to independent special schools as well as schools in the state sector.

If you want to read about this in greater detail and understand how SEND funding works, read Matt's post here

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Ponder Points

  • How can/should the DfE calculate national banding and tariff values accurately and appropriately, to ensure that each local authority and placement has enough funding to ensure that each pupil’s needs are met? At the moment, the plan is to align these values to needs, and to a future set of national SEND standards that have yet to be defined. That’s all we know – what should the DfE bear in mind when calculating?
  • What assurances and transparency should the DfE give to confirm that national banding and tariff values will be driven by the true cost of provision for disabled children and young people? Many will be suspicious that a national banding and tariff system gives the government an excellent chance to cut costs without oversight or accountability, with children and young people with SEND paying the real price. The DfE can address these concerns, if they want to.
  • How should national banding and tariffs be calculated and applied in situations where children and young people have multiple types of SEND? (For example, children with FASD whose needs may include communication, social, and physical disabilities). Many (of the least successful) banding systems in use today map a single type of need to a single funding band. The needs of real children and young people with SEND don’t often work that way. When placements fail, it’s sometimes because secondary needs aren’t met, rather than primary needs. What should the DfE’s plan be here?
  • What process should the DfE use to revise and update national banding and tariffs over time, as the underlying costs of provision change? A common weakness of current LA systems is that band values don’t often get updated over time, meaning that the real value of funding gets eroded by inflation. This is a standard cost control measure used by LAs – how will the DfE assure people that they won’t do the same? 
  • How will a national banding and tariff process deal with genuine local differences? England’s 152 LAs differ hugely in size, population, geography, and salaries. An inflexible one-band-to-rule-them-all will buy much more provision in the Newcastle than it will in the Newbury. Provision costs will differ in rural Cumbria and urban London. What’s the best way to the DfE to factor in this variation?
  • How will a national banding and tariff process work in the independent and non-maintained specialist sector? While nobody should be weeping for the bottom line of profit-making or private equity-funded independent special schools, most schools in this sector aren’t profit-making. They support a very diverse range of education, health and social care needs with bespoke costs that don’t standardise easily. These schools are often the very last resort for highly vulnerable pupils who have nowhere else to go. 
  • What recourse will families, schools, and local authorities have if the DfE’s new system does not provide the correct level of funding to meet need? This is an accountability question that we touched on in a recent post. In the Green Paper, the DfE has announced that it intends to regulate the system. Here, it’d be regulating itself. Short of judicial review, what recourse should people have if the DfE don’t deliver?
  • What information does the DfE need to provide to demonstrate that it has the capacity to implement this type of change effectively? There is currently little evidence to suggest that they do. If it took them 2.5 years to knock out a Green Paper, how confident are you that the DfE can completely redesign the core of a neglected nuclear reactor (SEND system) while it’s melting down, without causing mass casualties?

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