Preventing Exclusions in RBWM Primary Schools
To receive the above report.
Clive Haines, Schools Leadership Development Manager, introduced the report and explained to Members the purpose of the report was to provide the Schools Forum with a business plan for investing resources to fund an intervention programme for preventing exclusions within the primary sector and with the potential to be rolled out into the secondary sector.
In accordance with the Schools Revenue Funding 2018/19 operation guide, the Schools Forum agreed on 27 November 2017 to a 0.5% budget transfer from the School Block to the high Needs Block representing £416,000. There were no commitments identified in 2018/19, therefore, the funding was carried forward to 2019/20. The Schools Leadership Development Manager added meetings and consultations had taken place. Helen Huntley, AfC, stated she had been working within the borough as a SEND consultant, looking at the use of funds and talking to primary schools. She added that Autism Spectrum Disorder with behaviour issues was where the schools were asking for help.
A template had gone out to schools and heads wanted to get involved but could not see a way the project could be sustainable so more work was required. Since September 2018, there had been five permanent exclusions from primary schools so it had been challenging to respond to. Helen Huntley had met with primary and secondary schools to see how the Borough could support a child at risk of exclusion. If a child was at risk of exclusion and the school were worried, the school could ring the team at the Borough who would support the child and also increase the capacity at the school to help the child and prevent the exclusion.
The scheme used a qualified teacher with two assistant support staff to work with 12 children in 12 schools across one year group. They would help a child to self-regulate and to work with staff in schools to increase capacity and confidents and prevent exclusion. There would also be some cost savings using the approach. Helen Huntley held a BASH meeting and there was interest in developing the project into secondary schools.
There were risks as the project was to only support one year in 12 schools and also, no matter how much support was offered, a child might still be excluded. Also, there could be issues with school resilience, one school might not have capacity to cope with a difficult child but, other schools might fund the child is just a challenging student.
The Chairman stated some of those children had behavioural issues that might have come from home so, they could come into school and all the work done at school could be undone at home. Perhaps an organisation such as Family Friends could work with families at home. Schools also needed consistent understanding of what behaviour was accepted as challenging and what behaviour warranted exclusion. If those issues could be worked on, it could be a way of making the project work.
Helen Huntley explained that the Haybrook College contract covered both primary and secondary schools and a business plan had been produced for resource spaces for children with ASD and challenging behaviour; she did not want to limit the resource to just with ASD. Helen Huntley said she had spoken to the behaviour support team about supporting children currently and they explained that a request had to be made through the early help team first but, this project to prevent exclusions was to be implemented before that so that schools could build up their capacity. The Chairman said it was an early intervention and the earlier the intervention occurred, the better the outcome. Richard Pilgrim asked how the right person would be recruited if it was only a one year contract. Ian Peters commended the role would require staff with a very specific set of skills; it could not be a teacher, would need to be someone that had behavioural experience. Helen Huntley confirmed that if the right people could not be hired, then the project would not go ahead. The Director of Children’s Services added the funding would be provided on a year by year basis due to the current deficit. It was harder to offer a permanent position so it would need to be set up as a three year contract and fund year one to start with. The Borough would then need to make savings elsewhere for years two and three of the contract. If the project did not work, then that would be the end of the project. He went on to say while the Borough could not afford it, the project would be worth funding for three years and making it a longer trial period. The Schools Leadership Development Manager stated case studies were needed to provide evidence of the project working. The Chairman commented if it became a cost to the schools to put in place but the first year is proven to work, schools would be open to help fund the scheme. The Director of Children’s Services said the team could compare the project with other services to see what the most effective and efficient route was to help prevent exclusions. The Schools Leadership Development Manager suggested restructuring the behaviour support team to enable to project to go ahead.
Ian Peters stated working with parents at home would be pivotal in getting the project to work. Helen Huntley responded schools referring children that were right on the edge of exclusion would not work, it needed to be those children who were at risk of exclusion but not right at the edge. The project would be 12 schools and 12 children to have the widest impact. The project would not be directed at children with an EHC Plan, it would be aimed at a lower level. The Director of Children’s Services explained the paper asked for a one year contract as that was the funding that was available but, he was hearing to get the right person, the team would need to offer a multiple year contract so he was happy to suggest three year funding for the project. The Schools Leadership Development Manager confirmed the project would cost £144,000 for 12 months but that was not linked to when the financial year started, it would be whenever the project started.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Schools forum noted and commented on the contents of the report.