Agenda item

Update on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Capital Programme and Future Provision in Medway

This report updates members of the committee on the proposed capital programme, the purpose of which is to increase the number of specialist places in state schools in Medway.


The programme is designed to meet the need for specialist places in the state sector (secondary phase).  The report therefore outlines the need for places before going on to describe the special school expansion programme, and the proposed expansion of the number of ‘resourced provisions’ in mainstream secondary academies




The Committee considered the report which provided an update on the proposed capital programme for SEND provision, the purpose of which was to increase the number of specialist places in state schools in Medway. The Assistant Director, Education and SEND, explained that invitations for expressions of interest in hosting a resourced unit had been sent to all Medway secondary schools, with a deadline of 9 October 2020 to respond.  It was hoped to deliver 123 places for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties and 98 places for children requiring a specialist autism provision.


Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:


·       SEND in primary schools – officers explained that primary resourced places were broadly in line with the national average of children accessing resourced places within mainstream schools. However, in Medway there were too many pupils unable to continue in mainstream resourced provision when transitioning from primary to secondary, where the figure was 35% short of the national average and addressing this shortfall within mainstream secondary schools was therefore the priority at this stage.


·       Specialist school provision – officers explained that the planned expansion of Abbey Court was anticipated to begin shortly, subject to full Council approval for the funding and it was therefore anticipated that spaces for current year 6 children at Abbey Court would be available as they transition to Year 7 in September 2021.  The opening of the free school at the Cornwallis site would be longer, largely due to Department for Education timescales but it was anticipated this would be ready around September 2023.


·       Resourced units – in response to a question about how resourced units within mainstream schools operated, officers explained there were various models.  One example could be that a school had pupils within post 16 provision that have social and emotional mental health needs.  These children would register within and be part of a form and would learn within mainstream classes where they were able to cope but would have access to the specialist resource provision when they needed it.  An alternative model could be that children be on roll at a specialist school but attend classes at a mainstream school.


·       Impact of the deficit in high needs block – officers confirmed that the overspend on the high needs block of the Dedicated Schools Grant was a significant revenue problem but explained the plan in place to address this.  If the Council was successful in the provision of an additional 315 specialist school places and 221 resourced places, it would recover approximately 80% of the current spend, equating to a saving by 2029/30 of £8.5million in specialist provision and nearly £3million in resourced provision.  In addition, quality of education for the young people would be better, with all specialist and secondary schools in Medway being good or outstanding.  This plan estimated that the debt would be recovered by 2025/26 or 2026/27, where spend would then become contained within the high needs grant.


·       Grammar school provision – officers confirmed that there were no difficulties in placing children with EHCPs who had been deemed selective in grammar schools in Medway.


·       Levels of SEN and subsequent support in Medway – officers confirmed that Medway had 15% more pupils with an EHCP than the national average and was the most or second most overspent on its high needs grant. This did not indicate that Medway was a low spending local authority in relation to its SEND provision but a rebalance was needed in addressing the high level of spend on independent school provision.


·       Expression of interest – officers undertook to update the Committee members on the outcome of the expressions of interest in mid-October.  It was added that the Regional Schools Commissioner was supportive of this work, recognising that inclusion in Medway secondary schools needed to be improved.


·       Location of Abbey Court expansion – it was confirmed that the secondary phase of Abbey Court would be located adjacent to the primary phase at Cliffe Road.  The Rede Court site would continue to be used for sixth form specialist provision.


·       SEND inspection and improvement – following the initial inspection, there had been a revisit in December 2019, where Ofsted and CQC released Medway from five of the initial eight areas of concern.  A monitoring meeting had taken place in August, from which positive feedback had been received and a further monitoring meeting was due to take place at the beginning of December.



The Committee noted the report and welcomed the update from officers on the expressions of interest received relating to resourced provision in secondary schools.


In accordance with Council rule 12.6, Councillors Cooper and Johnson requested that their votes in favour be recorded.


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