Agenda item

DSG Management Plan & DfE ‘Safety Valve’ programme update


The Chair reminded Forum members that this was a standing item for each Forum meeting. 


JK advised Forum members that the update on the Safety Valve programme is very positive. The LA is about to submit documentation ahead of the 4th February deadline.  DfE have been supportive and provided positive feedback in discussions; JK stated that DfE believes Slough is one of the best LAs in the country for its approach to the DSG Management Plan and have recommended it to other authorities involved in or applying for the programme.


The Chair commented that it was likely that the DfE would  praise a management plan which does what they expect it to do and points to a significant cost reduction, but that school leaders – especially those working in alternative provision - nevertheless had concerns about the impact on services for young people. The Chair asked to what extent the LA was confident that the DfE recognised the potential impact of those cost reductions.


JK responded by noting that that the DfE advisors require credible plans and an approach which will be sustainable. Alternative provision is one element of the wider DSG management plan, but school leaders, and in particular JR, have raised concerns. JK advised that aspects of the management plan are based on benchmarking and looking at other local authorities, and comparing with the historic issues in Slough. The LA has arrived at the figure for AP  commissioned places by what it believes to be a more balanced approach, and was being transparent about that


JR commented that this was not just an issue about AP, but needed to be seen in the context of SEND in general. Haybrook is now looking at a deficit budget position which is going to stop it providing some services.  The concern is while the LA has done very well in reducing the in-year spend down from £4.7 to £2.2 million, this is at the expense of putting Haybrook into a £400k deficit position which means that it is not going to be able to meet the full needs of young people. JR questioned whether this is absolutely right thing that we should be doing for our young people in order to get on the safety valve program.


JK confirmed there was an ongoing dialogue in various forums, including the DSG Transformation Board of which JR was a member. JK further confirmed the need to ensure that this remains a standing item on the Forum agenda. The Chair agreed and advised that as a statutory meeting with minutes which are in the public domain, the role of the Forum here is to ask questions, and ensure that comments and concerns are recorded.


MW commented that while we understood the need to bring the DSG back into a more balanced position, and applauded the hard work so far to achieve this, she doubted whether DfE was really aware of the impact of the measures being presented.  She urged for the impact assessment to be robust and shared with Forum and the DfE. JK confirmed that the DfE are aware of everything that the LA is doing, and are aware of disagreements.  School leaders have had an opportunity to feed in to the plan through various meetings and forums.  However, we need to recognise that in some areas there will be disagreements and there may be an impact.


Valerie Harffey referred to an article in Schools Week about local authorities on the safety valve programme, which suggested saying that due to circumstances beyond their control – eg salary increases, inflation etc. – they had been unable to meet the terms of the programme and had funding taken away. JK responded that he had not seen this but was not aware of any concerns about the programme being expressed by other local authorities.


The Chair thanked JK for his comments.