When making judgements about payments for higher-need students, many local authorities never actually meet the student, parents or the teachers that deal with them on a day-to-day basis. Instead, they rely on the detailed and accurate paperwork that paints a picture over time of the difficulties presented.
The contributions of medical professionals, support agencies and parents are no doubt significant factors in the final decision, but 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. This is a great responsibility, and as SENCOs we need to make sure we are doing the best thing for the young person.
Requests for EHC assessments and Top-up are not usually something that we decide on overnight. There is usually 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 fall further behind their peers.
A historical collection of Individual Learning Plans is often requested for both bids. And while it’s not legally enforceable, it is not uncommon to be asked for three or even four 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?
But achieving a target may have been an expensive project; look at how many hours of support had to go into getting there, whether that was 1:1, small-group, special resources and so on. Also, remember that not achieving a target can paint just as detailed a picture. Was there a significant amount of support and they still didn’t get there?
Provision Map allows you to create detailed plans for students and review these frequently. Rather than having to start from scratch each time, there is a bank of more than 1,000 targets, which can be adapted as required.
Many of these young people will also have a significant amount of paperwork from a variety of external agencies, and we are typically required to provide copies of their files for EHC requests. Provision Map allows you to scan in and attach files to the student profile, which means no more copying a report six times and worrying about it being left out on a desk or missing out someone who may need the information contained.
Schools are increasingly asked for annotated and costed provision maps (either as an alternative or in addition to learning plans). These show the provisions to which a student has had access in order to try and achieve the targets on their plan. With sufficient detail they can indicate the aims, outcomes, the ratio of staff to 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.
Schools are also required to put in a nationally agreed sum to meet their students’ needs (usually referred to as the notional budget the agreed value for this is currently £6,000). Any efforts to secure funding above this generally require evidence that they have already used that funding.
Every local authority is different and they usually offer training or updates in the autumn term to define the number of hours or type of support that they consider to be of this value. Using Provision Map and running selected reports means we can evidence the hours a student receives, the cost for those and the effectiveness or impact of that provision.
Having sat on top-up panels at my local authority, the quality of the bid submitted was often the only way we could make difficult 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 rarely continual pots of money, and a future bid will often be required to ensure continued funding, so using Provision Map to evidence how the money has been spent is wise.
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*Tes Provision Map customer feedback survey, March 2022.