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NNPCF co-chairs meet with officials at the Department for Education

April 27, 2018

On Monday 23rd April, NNPCF co-chairs Maureen Morris and Mrunal Sisodia met with officials and advisers at the Department for Education. In a wide-ranging conversation, they discussed a number of the priorities that have been raised to the NNPCF Steering Group by our membership over the past few months.

They shared the concerns raised by many forums that following reductions in local authority spending over the last few years, many areas are struggling to meet their legal obligations under the Children and Families Act. This has been amplified by the recent restrictions in the use of the dedicated schools grant which many local authorities have historically used to “top up” their high needs funding block.

In this context, another one of the priority areas highlighted by our membership, joint commissioning and arrangements takes on additional importance. With such pressures on existing resources, working together to ensure that they are effectively used is critical. The DfE accepted these points and joint working is an ongoing area of focus, not least through the regime of Local Area SEND inspections.

For the last 18 months the NNPCF Steering Group have been raising forums’ concerns about the quality of some Education Health and Care Plans with the Department. In the run up to the transfer deadline, many forums contacted us to share their increasingly worrying stories about local practices.

Over the past six months, with the permission of the local forums involved, the NNPCF Steering Group have shared examples of poor and possibly illegal practice with DfE officials and they have subsequently followed up with the local authorities concerned. In addition, the co-chairs suggested that another wide scale survey of the quality and impact of EHCPs was required to follow up the one conducted in 2015-16.

Based on feedback from forums at our regular regional meetings and at our conference, one of our areas of priority for the last year has been the experience of children and young people with SEND in mainstream schools. The DfE’s own analysis recognises these issues as reflected in the increase in exclusions, the trend towards more pupils in special schools and concerns with alternative provision. This has been a consistent message from across the sector and the DfE has itself identified this as an area for focus hence the recently announced reviews into alternative provisions and exclusions. We will be sharing the findings of the recent NNPCF survey of forums’ experience of exclusions with the DfE (and, of course, with forums).

Looking ahead, the NNPCF Steering Group have two upcoming opportunities to meet with Nadim Zahawi and will update you again after these.