Wokingham Borough Council SEND Update: Responding to Local Need

We have been asked to share the following information from Wokingham Borough Council about planned changes and increases to local SEND provision.Introduction We have recently carried out a sufficiency and capacity review with regard to education for children with SEND in Wokingham Borough, as the existing model does not match the current need. This update summarises the findings and conclusions from the review, changes we propose to make as a result and what this means for children with SEND and their parents. For the purpose of this update, it should be assumed that any further reference to ‘children’ refers to children with SEND. Summary of findingsWe have seen a significant increase in children with SEND and it is projected that numbers will continue to grow. At present, children have access to three tiers of education:
  • Mainstream – educated fully in a mainstream school, sometimes with additional classroom support
  • Resource base – educated at a mainstream school site, with time evenly split between the main school and a resource base that provides targeted support to help children flourish and thrive.
  • Special school – educated fully at a special school, which provides a targeted programme of education and support in an adapted environment.
The borough currently has eight resource bases and two special schools, which the review highlighted do not have capacity to meet the complex needs of all children. This results in a growing proportion needing to be educated at independent schools or out of the borough, while at the same time funded places in resource bases are empty. The review has shown that places are under-used in some provision because a) the needs of children requiring the places is more complex than the existing resource bases were designed for, and b) demand for some categories of need has reduced or not been realised over time. The review also showed that there is a significant step between what is offered at a resource base and a special school meaning there is a gap in provision for some children. Proposed changes Based on the summary of findings, we are making the following proposals:
  • Develop a ‘Continuum of Support’ which will create a clear stepped approach around increased stages of provision for children with SEND in the local area from mainstream school to special school.
  • Bridge the gap between resource bases and special schools by investing in two new SEND Units (one primary and one secondary) attached to mainstream schools for those with more complex needs who would still benefit from being within the mainstream school community
  • Phase out places in resource bases in the borough where they are currently under-used or not meeting current needs/demand.
  • Invest in new resource base provision for children with ASD/SEMH
  • Realign the remaining resource bases and change the model of provision to be in line with Department for Education (DfE) expectations, meaning increased time in the resource base to better meet needs locally
  • Develop clearer service specifications for resource bases, including expectations for service delivery, funding, referral pathways and performance monitoring
  • Ensure a more robust strategic oversight of the current and projected needs of the SEND population and the implications this has on available provision
My child is currently in a resource base – I don’t want them to move Our aim is that under the new proposals, under-used resource bases would be phased out as children reach the next stage in their education. Parents with children at resources bases should be contacted by the school later this month. Once the new provision is available, we won’t introduce new children to resource bases, but those currently in them will continue until they leave the school. Once the last child has left, that is when the base would close. Every child currently at a resource base will be able to stay at that resource base until they are ready for the next phase in their education, such as going from primary to secondary school. My child is due to start/move school in September 2023. What will they be offered? Children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) who are due to start or transfer school in September 2023 should complete and return the parental preference form and return to the SEND Team. Alternatively parents can talk to their current school/nursery who will be able to help them consider appropriate school placements for the future. When are you planning on opening the new SEND units? We are hoping to have them open on a phased basis from September 2023 and September 2024 What about children that need special schools? We have made a bid to the Department for Education for two new special free schools in the borough and hope to find out if we are successful in early 2023. How will this be funded? We have been invited by the DfE to be part of the Safety Valve programme aimed at areas facing significant overspends in their High Needs funding block. This programme provides priority access to High Needs Capital Funding and we are confident we will be able to secure additional capital funding for these developments. This will be confirmed early in January 2023. How can I give you my opinion on the changes? There will be a consultation period and more details will follow about how you can contribute to this. Have you spoken to the schools that have resource bases about this? Schools with an existing SEND resource base have been actively involved in the review and developing the solutions moving forward. We will work with all schools who might be interested in hosting a new SEND Unit to explore their ideas. Where will the new SEND units be? We will have two SEND units, one at a primary school and one at a secondary school. We will shortly be inviting any mainstream school in the borough to put forward an expression of interest to host one of the units. As soon as we have any further information about the consultation and how you can feedback your comments, we will let you know. We also hope to set up a session for parents with WBC so that you can hear more details about the plans and raise any concerns you have. Again, as soon as we have dates for this we will let families know.