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Special schools not managed by the council

We will always try to make sure that your child's needs could be met in one of our schools before considering a place in an independent school or a school in another county.

In many cases these schools are of some distance from the county and may involve long travel times for children and young people.

If you believe that we should arrange special educational provision for your child at an independent school or school outside of our county, you can make a request to us.

There is a list of independent special schools and colleges on Independent special schools and colleges.

How we buy placements in special schools not managed by the council

From February 2016, we changed the way in which we arranged placements for children and young people in non-maintained and independent special schools. This included day placements, weekly and termly boarder placements and full residential placements. These arrangements were known as the NE12+ Framework Agreement (phase one).

These arrangements have now been reviewed and revised. New arrangements have been in place from February 2018 and are known locally as NE12 (phase two).

The new arrangements expanded to cover more services than in NE12+ (phase one) and now include how we buy placements in:

  • Department for Education registered, independent special schools and colleges; day placements, weekly boarder placements and 52-week residential placements.  All placements in these settings for children and young people 0-25 years.
  • Residential children's homes for children and young people aged 0-18 years.
  • Ofsted registered residential short break services for children and young people 0-18 years.

We fully understand that changes to systems may cause concern and would like parents and carers to know that:

  • parents, carers, children and young people will continue to have a say in which school or college they would like to attend
  • the new arrangements will still allow parents and carers, education, social care and health professionals and the council to 'tailor make' support to meet the individual needs of children and young people
  • the changes mean that all settings in future will offer the same quality of learning and support to children and young people. Each setting will provide a core offer of services alongside additional services which will meet each individual child or young person's needs.
  • we have implemented systems that allow us to monitor the quality of services provided to children and young people 

We still need to offer high quality education to children and young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) across the county while ensuring the efficient use of our limited public resources. You may not be aware that we are also required by law to buy services in line with the new Public Contracts Regulations 2015 which means we can no longer arrange placements in the way we did before. We need to arrange those placements in the most efficient way possible while ensuring that the needs of children and young people are of the upmost priority.

We have been working with ten other councils across the north east, our health colleagues, legal colleagues, Special Educational Needs (SEN) Managers and settings to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality services to all children and young people while working within restricted budgets; this group is called the NE12+ Collaborative.

What the new arrangements look like

From February 2018, we will be using a Flexible Procurement Agreement (FPA). This is a type of legal agreement (contract) to make placements in Department of Education registered, non-maintained and independent special schools and colleges for children and young people aged 0-25 years.

This means that the following process will be followed:

  • a child or young person's Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) will identify their needs and what type of support they will require
  • we will then send all the relevant information anonymised to the providers on the FPA and ask them to respond to questions about whether they could meet the child/young person's needs and how they would do that
  • if a parent or young person says that they wish to have a placement at a particular setting and the provider of that setting is not on the FPA, we will approach the preferred provider at the same time as our FPA providers
  • we will then consider the responses that have been received and determine which provider's response is best
  • we may not consider that the preferred provider is the best placement to meet the child/young person's needs. If that is the case, we will discuss that with the parent/young person before making a final determination on placement
  • we are not required to make a placement with the preferred provider if that placement would not be suitable; or if the placement could not manage the child or young person because of those already placed in that setting; or the additional cost of the preferred placement is so much that the council cannot justify that use of its resources when other providers can offer an appropriate service to meet the individual's identified needs
  • parents and carers may decide to take a personal budget by direct payment and work directly with a provider to purchase additional services over and above the core service offer to meet their child/young person's assessed needs. Arrangements for accessing a direct payment need to be raised with the council responsible for your child/young person.

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