Many local authorities, when making their judgement about payments for higher need students, never actually meet the student, parents or the teachers that deal with them on a day to day basis. They rely on detailed and accurate paperwork that paints a picture over time of the difficulties presented.
Whilst the contributions of medical professionals, support agencies and parents are no doubt significant factors in the final decision, perhaps the single most influential factor in deciding whether or not to award money (or hours, or a plan) comes from the information provided by schools.
With this great responsibility, as SENCOs we need to make sure we are doing the best thing for the young person.
Bids for EHCP and Top-up are not usually something that we decide on overnight. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that the young person is struggling in school and that without the additional support of an EHC or finances from Top-up they will continue to struggle to access education or falling further behind their peers.
A historical collection of Individual Learning Plans is often requested for both bids. It is not uncommon to be asked for 3 or even 4 reviewed plans demonstrating the small step targets students have been set and whether they have achieved them. This is where most schools worry – if we say they have not achieved them, does it mean we are doing a bad job? If we say they have achieved them, then why are we making a bid? Firstly, achieving a target may have been an ‘expensive’ project; look at how many hours of support had to go into getting there, whether 1;1, small group, special resources etc. Not achieving a target can paint just as detailed picture; was there a significant amount of support and they still didn’t retain the information? Provision Map allows you to create detailed plans for students and review these frequently. Rather than having to recreate everything, there is a bank of over 1000 targets which can be adapted as required.
Many of the young people we refer to here, will also have a significant amount of paperwork which has appeared from a variety of external agencies. And typically, we are required to provide copies of their ‘SEN file’ for EHCP requests. Provision Map allows you to scan in and attach files to the student.
This means no more copying a report 6 times and worrying about it being left out on a desk or missing out someone who may need the information contained. It also means hard copies can go straight into their file and are not likely to get lost in the large amount of mail SENCOs receive!
More recently schools are being asked for annotated provision maps (either as an alternative or in additional to learning plans). Generally speaking, this is easier to produce in a primary school, however they can be successfully created in secondary environments too. A provision map allows us to see the provisions which a student has had access to in order to try and achieve the small step targets on their plan. With sufficient detail they can indicate the aims, outcomes, ratio of staff:students and costs. Provision Map can help here too. With a few clicks you are able to assign students to a variety of provisions which can be reviewed regularly.
Of course, when we come to write the bids, we need input from a variety of people involved in the care of the young person. Again, primary schools with one class teacher perhaps find this easier than a secondary school where the young person meets over 15 staff in a week. School Robins (an optional add-on to Provision Map) can be useful for this task. Collating the information required in one report (without cluttering up in-boxes, or requiring a cut and paste activity!) which is automatically appended to a student. Typically, students for whom we wish to obtain funding will have had several to and fro conversations about them over time and these can provide a useful evidence bank.
Finally, schools are required to put in the first £6000 of funding for all pupils to meet their needs (academies may find their figure is much higher, since the LA SEN pot has already been devolved to their school – often in the region of £9000). Any efforts to secure funding above this need to evidence that they have already ‘spent’ that funding. Every local authority is different and they usually offer training or updates in the Autumn term to define the number of hours which they consider to be this value. E.g in my local authority I would have to prove the equivalent of 12 hours 1:1 support before I could put in a bid at the lowest level. This doesn’t mean the student had to have 1:1 support…it could be 24 hours of 1:2 support, or perhaps 8 hours of 1:1 support and 4 hours of preparation for a VI pupil. Using Provision Map and running selected reports we can evidence the hours a student receives, the cost for those and the effectiveness.
Having sat on Top-up panels at my local authority, the quality of the bid submitted was often the only way we could make decisions, especially when knowing how little money was left in the proverbial pot to make payments.
It is worth bearing in mind that Top-up bids are not continuous pots of money and a future bid will be required to ensure continued funding, so using Provision Map to evidence how the money has been spent is important. Also, EHC Plans have annual reviews in which the targets from the final ‘statement’ need to be translated into small steps and the progress evidenced.
For more information about Provision Map please do book a demo with us.