Somerset Children’s Services

Read key facts about Somerset Children’s Services, its delegation of special educational needs (SEN) funding, the system it used and how it evaluated value for money (VfM).

Key facts

Somerset Children’s Services had a funding system in place that set out very clearly the responsibilities of schools and the LA for learners with SEN. The system was set out in a Somerset summary framework document, which was widely used by schools, support services and parents, and which demonstrated a transparent link between outcomes and resources.

  • Somerset LA had been collecting and using data on the lowest achieving 20 per cent of learners for seven years.
  • The LA had been collecting P-scale data from mainstream and special schools on a voluntary basis since 2003. This information had been analysed and provided to schools as both comparative and value-added data at individual-learner and school level.
  • The proportion of learners placed in maintained special schools was below the national average and has been since 2000/01.
  • 100 per cent of statements of SEN were completed within 18 weeks (2007/08).

Delegation of SEN funding

All SEN funding was allocated to schools under two key headings.

School Action

School Action delivered top-up funding to schools (about 3 per cent of the individual school budget (ISB)). Thirty per cent was delegated to cover fixed SEN costs, including the cost of a special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and statutory procedures, for example, attendance at reviews. The remaining 70 per cent was delegated using a formula based on deprivation (a very finely graded and highly targeted proxy indicator, using the Experian wealth and poverty index at a household level).

School Action Plus

School Action Plus was individually targeted funding allocated to schools (4 per cent of the ISB), following an audit of need and provision. Allocations were designed to top up interventions at Provision for All and School Action, and did not cover the total cost of educating an individual learner.

Their system

The Somerset summary framework document governed the interpretation of the SEN Code of Practice (January 2005, regularly updated) regarding school provision.

  • Through the non-differentiated curriculum, schools were providing for all learners, including those with SEN.
  • This provision was in addition to the focused provision of School Action, which was designed to support those with SEN.
  • Provision was delivered as required using a learner-specific funding system dependent upon individual need and determined through school audit for learners at School Action Plus.
  • Provision specified LA action – normally provision was determined through statutory assessment, although in cases where a statement of SEN was provided, this would usually be resource-neutral.

Evaluating VfM

The LA had more than seven years of individual, learner-led data, which could be used to identify and track the lowest 20 per cent of learners in the county. The LA used the data in three-year timeslots to contribute to the school improvement partners' (SIPs) categorisation process. The education and individual services groups used a variety of indicators to contribute to this process.

  • Value-added scores of the bottom 20 per cent of learners (categorised as ‘red’ for the last three years).
  • Safeguarding reports more than three months late, especially where there had been a known incident involving a pupil in attendance at the school.
  • A high proportion, over 40 per cent, of applications for School Action Plus funding being turned down.
  • Social inclusion measures – schools in the top 30 in Somerset for permanent or fixed-term exclusions or identified by the Department as a persistent-absence school.

As a result of a linked funding and monitoring system for SEN, Somerset Children’s Services was able to demonstrate the progress of the bottom 20 per cent of learners in the county, including those identified as having SEN, over a period of seven years.

This allowed the service to deploy support and challenge schools appropriately, and particularly where projected impact was not evident. This support was instrumental in narrowing the attainment gap in Somerset.