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Podcast | Season 1 | Episode 26: Efficient Use of SEND Funding

How can a data-driven use of funding be used to review your practice and improve the outcomes of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities? What's the right way to collect, choose and analyse data? In this week's episode Karen and Richard from the Driver Youth Trust provide you with their recommendations on how to measure success and maximise funding value.

๐Ÿ“Ž Practical Approaches of SEND Funding and Value for Money

  • High Needs Funding arrangements: reviewing options for local authorities and institutions for 2019-2020
  • Accessing resources and training your workforce: making faster, better SEND diagnoses
  • Explore how to measure SEND success
  • Evaluate how to maximise outcomes in your SEND leadership structure to ensure clear accountability in learning outcomes
  • What is the future of SEND funding?

๐Ÿ’ก Karen Wespieser, Director of Education, Driver Youth Trust
๐Ÿ’ก Richard Selfridge, Drive for Literacy Facilitator, Driver Youth Trust

๐Ÿซ This session was recorded live on 14th November 2019 in the SEND Theatre of the Schools & Academies Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

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Karen Wespieser

My name is Karen Wespieser, I'm from the Driver Youth Trust. Richard and I are going to be talking about practical approaches to SEND funding and value for money around SEND. Just to introduce us first of all, we're a charity that works at the intersection between special educational needs and literacy. A nice way to kind of put that into context is to talk about where we've come from. So we were founded by the drivers. That's what the drive part of the title is by Sarah and Mark Driver, who were a city banker and a city lawyer respectively. They have four children, all of whom have special educational needs, particularly around literacy and dyslexia, and the youngest of whom Archie can't read at all. He is now 22 years old, and his mum gave up trying to teach him to read when he was about 12. But despite not being able to read, he went on to Manchester University and that is kind of because Sarah and Mark Driver, because of their jobs, they were well off enough to be able to afford the best schools, the best private tutors, the special schools, the special assessments, anything that was necessary to get their kids through the education system, but they recognise that what they did is actually really quite unique and not something that the vast majority of children with special educational needs or literacy difficulties in the English education system at the moment, are able to achieve. So they put their money where their mouth is and invested in the Driver Youth Trust. So we can try and broaden those opportunities to other children across the country. We work in schools, we work with 30 schools, Richard's one of the expert teachers that we send out to work closely with those schools in what we call our whole school literacy approach. So we don't believe that there's any such thing as too much literacy. And we think that what works for those kids with the biggest literacy need work for all of the kids in the school. So that's very much how we work at school level. We also do a lot of advocacy. And that's probably slightly more about what we're going to talk about today. Using the data and statistics, our classroom based knowledge to influence policymakers around making sure that literacy is a core issue and making sure that issues like dyslexia are recognised when literacy policies are being put together by government, but also thinking about things like SEND funding, and the what we're doing here today and so that's us. We're going to split up kind of tag team a little bit to talk about the funding side of things. And then about how we know we're doing a good job in school spending that money.

Karen Wespieser

Firstly, just highlight I want it might be a little bit geeky in terms of the data to highlight actually the picture that we're talking about. So the current picture of incidences of special educational needs in schools in England is that 14.9% of the school population has a special educational needs. That's slightly different depending on whether you're in primary or secondary. For primary, it's a little bit higher for secondary, it's a little bit lower. This chart actually shows the incidences going back all the way to 2010. And you'll notice it. It's kind of a downward curve, suggesting that there's fewer incidences now than there were 10 years ago. But in some ways, that's just semantics and statistical trickery because really what happened in 2015, this real dip point here, that's when the new SEND Code Practice came in, and it changed the definitions, it changed the reporting. And so it changed the statistics. When I mentioned the primary and secondary actually is different. Whilst the secondary line is very much like this, the primary line is creeping right up again and actually SEND instances in primary school is just about back at 2015 levels. So that's some quite interesting things into the future. And then we can come back to at the end. The other line on this chart here that's worth knowing about is this bottom one, which is the proportion of the pupil population who have an education health and care plan or in old money statements of SEN. And that has remained pretty much at the same level for the last 10 years. Don't really know why you can be a bit conspiracy theory about it.

Richard Selfridge

It's something which we've been working on at the Driver Youth Trust and having a look at this and gathering information from people around the country to say, Well, why would it be that that number, the percentage would stay pretty much the same as being pretty much around that for say, back to 2010 and before that. The curious thing with that is that the underlying population in schools and it hasn't stayed stable. As many of you will know, there are more children in school at the moment a lot more about half a million more it since 2010. And but the percentages have stayed the same and certainly that number of children the rule number of children that increasing at a time when funding has been an issue has been cause many people in school, a lot of heartache and nightmare trying to decide what to do with their funding. So I'm going to have a quick talk about funding at the moment. So I just want to check first, I'm assuming that most of you work in education one way or another. If you're not, then you're very lost. So I just want to check for those people who actually work within special educational needs or are SENCOs or within a setting does that so and those people who aren't but are interested in funding issues. Okay, so we've got a mixture of people. So again, so we're gonna have a quick look at funding. So here again, you can see that the majority of children who have identified special educational needs, and it's worth saying that because over the course of time in schools, and some children come in and out of the registers that we hold, so we have now SEND support, we have EHCPs for children who have identified special educational needs. But there is a quite a dynamic picture across time within schools, so it changes quite a bit. One of the things to say at this point is that also all of those children have EHCPs obviously, not all the same, and all those children have SEND support and not all the same, but we're grouping them together just so that we can discuss funding.

Richard Selfridge

If I move on to the next thing in terms of high needs funding, many of you may know, again, then it's worth just restating that there are various blocks of funding that are available to support schools, both directly through the schools block, but there's also the high needs funding block and the high needs funding block as you may know, that there have been various announcements of late to say that there's yet more money being put into schools and the high needs funding has increased, which is good. But of course, the number of children in schools, as you know, has increased over time. And that part of the reason why there has been more money put into schools, through announcements last December, there's been various drips through this year is because of the concerns that schools have with the fact that there just hasn't been enough money that money that has been allocated into schools through high needs funding block has reduced over time. Now if we look at that, just it's worth saying this because we're going to talk about high needs funding, and just how that's done. This is the high needs national funding formula. You can't read all of this, I don't want you to look at the detail of this. But just to say that there are lots of things that are put into, into trying to ensure that children who really need some funding, do get that funding. So this is mostly children with EHCPs, educational care and health plans. And these are children who probably need some additional support to enable them to access education. So there's a whole bunch of things in here about basic entitlements, and then there are various proxy factors which try to work out how much money should be allocated to different local authorities. They've been lots of changes in this of late as I say there have been there has been an increase in terms of their money which has come through into the high needs funding block. And there's a there's an increase of a minimum of 8% of funding from 2021 as compared to 2019/20. But the maximum of that that's also been capped as well at 17%. There are about 50 odd local authorities who've been given the minimum funding. There are about 30 that have been given have been capped at the maximum amount, it does imply that there are 30 or the local authorities who actually could do with some more money. And those at the bottom, maybe not quite so much money, but all of this funding. One of the main issues with that is that it would appear that for most people who are getting additional money as it comes through into school, all it's really doing is plugging gaps because schools local authorities have ended up overspending on the budgets that were given because they were underfunded. All of this basically means as I'm sure that you'll be aware, we need to have a good look at any money that we do have in school, that we're actually using that well and spending it as effective as we can for the children we work with.

Richard Selfridge

So it is worth repeating that, again, of those children who have EHCPs, who have SEND support. The huge majority are in mainstream, the vast majority of mainstream, I put these in about 20%. About 15% of children who are in mainstream education have identified special educational needs. But again, from the Driver Youth Trust point of view, we're always aware that there are lots of children who don't necessarily have identified needs. They haven't been put onto the register. They haven't been identified as yet, but they may still have issues there. So there's still a good proportion of children who will be educated in mainstream and actually have those children have EHCPs. Over half of them are in mainstream education. So for those people working in mainstream I just checked, so who let works outside mainstream education here, just people working in special schools, so you can so clearly it's a big issue within the schools outside mainstream and we didn't mention it within those outside mainstream people having to think about funding there. And then we're also having to consider very seriously what we do with children who are within mainstream how to actually use the money well. I'm going to hand over to Karen to begin looking at well how to actually measure success when we're working with children who do have special educational needs.

Karen Wespieser

I'm afraid we can't tell you how to get more money. And unfortunately, what we can do is talk about how to ensure that you're getting the maximum value for money within the money that you're allocated. And maybe in the future, that might change. But that would still mean that you'd need a value for money approach. And so we're going to go back to kind of the mainstay of what Richard and I do a lot of the time. So by background, I'm actually an educational researcher. And by back we're not my background, my most recent publication. Richard is a self proclaimed data geek.

Richard Selfridge

I work in primary education and I write about primary data or but I write about data and how data is used in primary education. I'm a primary teacher by trade, but I wrote a book called Data Busting for Schools, which came out last year looking at how we actually use numbers in schools, the problems with using data in which many people do and what we should be doing. So I do quite a lot of looking at saying, well, actually, there is a lot of useful information that we have. Let's use the useful information and trying to focus on that rather than deal with a lot of information which has problems.

Karen Wespieser

So let's spend a few moments talking about data. In schools, you have access to an awful lot of data, an awful lot of evidence. But what you need to do and what we're going to suggest that you focus on is making sure that you use the right data that you choose the data appropriately and analyse it in the right way. Because it's extremely important that what you're measuring is measured accurately so that you're not burdening yourself or your workforce with additional data collection. That's not necessary. You need to make sure that you're collecting it in the right way. And that we recognise that it can be really difficult to collect useful data. And so you need to bring your workforce with you in that. We also recognise that it can be particularly difficult to collect data around the cohort of pupils with special educational needs, they can sometimes be quite a small cohort within your school, or they can be quite difficult to aggregate across because they all by definition, have a special need that is unique to them. So trying to aggregate your data in a way that's actually meaningful that you can learn from that you can pass on, whether that's to your governing bodies, your trustees, to your head teacher, to your local authority, trying to think about who that data is for how you can use it and how you can use it to actually show that you're using the money the limited money that you've got for the best impact for those 10 pupils in your setting. I would argue that one of the most important ways you can do this is to be really systematic about what you're collecting, think about it very carefully think about the plethora of data that's available to you. And think about how you can be systematic in making sure you collect the same pieces of data at the same rough time. So you can look to see whether an intervention or a cohort, or a year group is actually making the type of progress that you want whether the interventions actually working.

Karen Wespieser

Speaking about data without explaining what data is, and it can be any type of evidence. And I've just listed for the main sources of data that I think you might have in your school at the moment. So when we're talking about evidence based practice, most often, I think people think about the top one of those circles about the more scientific or academic evidence. There's quite a driver for this in the education system at the moment. Ofsted's new framework talks a lot about the academic evidences even got a whole section in the back about the academic framework that sits behind the new EIS. Suddenly a large number of schools are involved in the education endowment foundation's work. So people's go to when you talk about evidence based practice can often be that academic evidence that's coming from outside of your setting. That can be very useful. I'm not discrediting it in the slightest, I've been responsible for producing some of it. But it's just one in the round of different data sources that you can draw on when you're planning or measuring an intervention. Think just as important, perhaps more so is the professional expertise that you've got in your school around making sure that you're knowing your pupils I mentioned earlier, that by definition, these pupils are special and actually your qualitative knowledge and understanding of each of those pupils is vital and that comes through your professional expertise, your day to day interactions and judgments.

Karen Wespieser

Then your teacher skills and judgments of aggregating and appraising that data all together, it's not a skill that's outside of your skill set or outside of teaching. It's something that is inherent in your day jobs and that you do it. You might not just not label it like this all the time. Stakeholders, the circle at the bottom, in this sense refers to the information that you can get from all of those people around you and around the child. So that could be the teaching staff, your colleagues, it could be the support staff in a school, thinking about pupils with special educational needs, they'll be disproportionately likely to have a teaching assistant either member of support staff, working with them, so making sure you're gathering evidence and information from that cohort of people as well. Also really emphasise, particularly with SEND kids, the value that you can get from parent inputs. Working in a very positive relationship with parents of some pupils, if you can access them, if they're willing to engage can be really vital in terms of gathering an evidence base around the child, they will have ideas, they will have ways of working, that perhaps you don't, and vice versa, that you can share back with them. So the evidence base that can be built from stakeholders, and then finally the organisational data. And this will be the stuff that perhaps springs to mind when we talk about school data, the progress data, the attainment data. You can use it carefully unknowingly and I think Richard will say a little bit more about that in a moment. You will also have data though, in terms of organisational data about your staff and your colleagues. You could find data on who's had training about different aspects of SEND, whether that is your teaching staff or your support staff, using that data that can be collated in a way that actually does tell a story about your SEND, and about how money is being spent and what's changed as a result of it. It comes with caveats, though, Richard.

Richard Selfridge

Indeed, again, just looking at, again, looking at data and thinking, Okay, if you're going to gather some information, how are you going to use that information? And how are you going to ensure that you're getting value for money for the information that you're gathering? So Karen talks about different sources of information, which you might have within the school. And but again, for those people who know anything about the way the overall picture of education appears when you have a good look at just say organisational data, people outcome data, and so there are key issues here. And the difference between between school differences, that it was between different schools and within schools, and quite how much the differences you'll find within a school now in terms of the between school differences, they're, they're often much smaller than within school differences. And you can see this when you look at results that you might have about number of pupils types of pupils, groups of pupils that you've got in school, particularly you're looking at in school and you're looking from a from the perspective of children who do have special educational needs. Schools can be they can be very different sometimes, but but it's worth checking these things and having look and in terms of between small differences, what we what we really recommend that you do is to use one of the many tools that are now available for you to find other schools that are a bit similar to yours. There are a number of them resources with the FFT, do it various other people do where you can find another school. Now, the reason for doing that is again, to benchmark what where you are at the moment, because other schools are going to be different. They're gonna have a slightly different context. But if you can find other schools, which are a bit like your schools, to benchmark yourself against, to have that discussion, lots of people will do this, but I say to think about what can we do with the information that's available for us to go and do some benchmarking, where we've got, say similar levels of pupils or similar types of pupils where pupils have particular types of needs, you can also have a look at them again, staff, again, we're talking about the difference there in terms of your more experienced staff who might be able to bring lots of information to, to to bear with in school to help you but having a look again, the difference between your school and other school, what are other schools doing with their staffing, how are they managing what they're doing, you might be reaching out to other schools to have a look at that. But again, it's worth doing a bit of benchmarking there, finding another school or two that you can have a look at, to consider what they're doing.

Richard Selfridge

Same thing with structures and processes. Again, you will have ways of doing things in your school but reaching out and making those connections. We do quite a bit of this through the Driver Youth Trust because we work with a number of schools, and then we encourage the schools to work with each other to talk to each other. So again, it just gives you a starting point to have a conversation. It's not to say that either side or either group has got the answer, because there probably isn't a single answer. What it does give you is something to then compare what you're doing against. So again, it's a benchmarking between schools, we recommend that you definitely have a look at doing that. In terms of within school differences. Again, it's worth saying that there are big difference at primary and secondary level in terms of special educational needs, categories that you find children in, but it is worth looking within your school and seeing the differences across classrooms, across cohorts, and over time. Again, if you benchmark by gathering some information, and look at how things have changed over time, which a lot of people will be doing in some areas, but thinking about not just areas of needs, which you might be doing over a period of time, but also looking at staff knowledge, skills, how those have changed over time, so that you can get some sense of what's happening within your school. Also in terms of if you've got some kind of data as Karen said, it's not just about performance outcome data is about gathering, what parental engagement, can we put some kind of metric in place so that we've got some sense over time as to how things have changed. So again, all of that, then is is a it's, it's a question of thinking, well, what information do we have? And how can we use it to then start the conversations that we need to have?

Karen Wespieser

Do you want to explain the picture?

Richard Selfridge

You can explain the picture, we do like the picture.

Karen Wespieser

The picture goes the old adage of that. By weighing the pig, you're not necessarily fattening it just by doing these things, you're not making a difference in and of itself. It's actually using these to measure back against the intervention or the work that you're doing. Don't just assume by measuring things, things will change. It's more about using the data for the purpose that you've originally thought of. So making sure that you're systematic coming back thinking about baselining, collecting the data at the start of the process, and then collecting data at a regular points after that, so you can see the change, just weighing in at the end won't tell you what made the difference, but just weighing it on its own, won't be able to identify differences either.

Karen Wespieser

So in order to try and make this into a memorable summary for you in terms of the data collection, I've drawn on someone else's words. I've suggested that the data collection that you're using should be automatic, it should be built in within existing systems. We're all really aware of the pressures that are going on in schools, about the workload, but creating new systems and new ways of doing things can create. So to work within those systems that are already in place, the data that's already been collected, think about that diagram with the circles on the edge you're collecting in one way or another, just about all of that data already. Don't reinvent the wheel, just for this project. At the same time, you do need to be systematic about it, you need to think about making sure that there are systems in place that fit in with your school systems, so that you can be collecting the same types of data in the same ways in the same regular periods of time. Because if you're comparing apples and pears, it won't tell you anything, actually, about how you're progressing your SEND pupils, hydromatic, you might think is a bit of a stretch, but I think so.

Karen Wespieser

So for those of you that don't know, and I must admit, this did take a little bit of googling. Hydromatic is actually a type of gearbox, automatic gearbox. It was the very first type of automatic gearbox that General Motors invented in the 1930s. And my point around this is that your baselines, your measurements don't need to be perfect, they can automatically go along, but you do also need to be able to shift gear when you need it, to be able to amend that data collection. To review that data collection and change your practice, in light of it, thinking to the graduated approach for SEND, the plan says do review, you need to be able to make sure that as a result of your assessment, you're actually thinking and reviewing what you're doing and changing your practice as a result of it, you're not just constantly going in a straight line. So that's what we wanted to say about the data and making sure you're using that data's collect value for money because we can't tell you how to get more money. But the other thing we were asked to talk about is the future.

Richard Selfridge

We split this down into into short term, medium term, long term, because again, there's been lots and lots of developments, particularly in terms of organisations like the Driver Youth Trust, like whole school SEND, so there's a lot more connection. So again, if you want to reach out to other schools to benchmark your school against, again, just to give you something to talk about, or what are you doing that we might be able to do or what what can we share with you. So thinking about all of these things that are happening what can we do as we move forward? Because I suspect there's probably going to be more discussion. And it will become where people are able to have those discussions between and within schools organisations. In terms of short, medium, long term, in the short term, again, we don't think that there's going to be a huge amount more money that comes into the school system. If it does, it's probably going to be absorbed within the overspends, the shortfalls that we've had over the last number of years anyway. So then the question is, well, if there's not been many more money, then what do we do? How do we actually make sure that what we're doing is, is is effective is value for money and again, by using the data you have in school, you have access to, putting those things in place and by again, try not trying to do everything with that, but just trying to limit things down so that you end up with an automatic system that is pretty systematic, so that you can hit the thing basically, would run itself fairly quickly.

Richard Selfridge

We suggest that you look at doing that because say in terms of the longer term, whilst there are all kinds of political issues at the moment, there may be more money coming into schools, they may not that's probably not I'm going to be for a good two to three years, even post the end of this year. So what we'd like to suggest again is have a think about what you're doing in terms of your systems have a think about whereabouts can you gather the information? How can you reach out beyond schools within your network so that you can benchmark to see what you're doing? Other than that, that's us. Again, I say we're still doing lots of things are lots of other people like us, who are trying to work with schools to try to increase capacity for support within schools. So that what we do within the drive for literacy which we run, which I run, I'm part of down the bottom over here, that's all about going into schools, and again, trying to share best practice and trying to get schools just to open up so they can compare what they're doing to other people because there is no perfect answer. We're all just trying to find the best way that we can to work with the children that we have. Thank you very much.


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