Investing in our High Needs Children and Young People survey 2018

Closed 13 Jan 2019

Opened 30 Nov 2018

Feedback Updated 6 Nov 2019

We Asked


Bristol City Council has high aspirations for its children and young people (CYP) with special educational needs and disability. To improve educational outcomes for these citizens, Bristol wants to review and improve Bristol’s ‘top up’ funding process supported by clear guidance, support and policy for CYP, their Parent/Carers and all educational settings across the city.

The council wants to make the Top Up process more transparent and make sure this money is allocated fairly across all different education settings To do this the council needs to review its guidance about the standards all education settings must meet for all children and young people with SEND and high needs, and how they make sure everyone is included. This guidance is known as the ‘Bristol Universal Descriptors’ (BUDs).

A public engagement survey  enabled  key stakeholders to be able to give us their views on ‘what works well’ and ‘what needs to be improved’ 

Stakeholder engagement:

  • Engagement survey- Nov & Dec 2018 which had over 5000 social media hits, 262 survey replies
  • Stakeholder events January 2019, 100 professionals from education, health and social care as well as parent/carer groups.
  • Collaborative work with Inclusion in Education Group  (IAG) and other professionals
  • Working groups held in February, March, April and June.

We asked:

The engagement asked the following:

Do you agree with the following statements?

  • The current top up process is transparent and money is allocated fairly across all education settings.
  • Children, young people and their parents/carers have a clear shared understanding of how all children and young people should be supported by the education setting they attend.
  • Education settings know how to successfully support children and young people with SEND using the notional budgets and what would count as extra Top Up support. 
  • The current Top Up process panel day is an effective way of assessing the needs of children and young people and Top Up funding requests.
  • The current Peer Panel Top Up process works well.
  • The two panels a year, held in November and May, are enough to ensure all requests for Top Up funding children and young people are considered.
  • The current administration of the Top Up process works well
  • The information and evidence provided to the Top Up panel on the day is sufficient.
  • The current Bristol Universal Descriptors accurately describes the needs of children and young people with SEND

You Said

  • Two top up panels a year are not enough. The majority wanted monthly panels
  • Discontinue area top up panels for consistency of decision making. This would mean that schools are less likely to be paneling requests within their cluster area and all areas can be moderated in the say way across the city
  • Need to have more professionals attending panels. This would mean that there are more variety of professional across education, health and social care.
  • Yearly top up funding agreements are not enough. This creates a lot of additional work for SENCOs as they have to reapply more frequently. It was suggested that it could be at key stage.
  • There is a repetition of work to achieve top up decisions. The top up request form is a duplication of other documents and is time consuming to complete
  • High quality paperwork seems to succeed rather than the needs of the CYP. The view was the decision was down the way the paperwork was completed rather than actual needs of the CYP.
  • How do we ensure consistency of support across schools?
  • CPD needed for SENCOs around process and funding. There is no current training program for SENCOs and panel members including refresher training

There is no appeal process. If the application is decline it can’t be resubmitted until the next 6 monthly panel

We Did

Following the engagement  survey we listened to what everyone said and arranged the following:

  • Two stakeholder events with parent/carers representation, Education, Health and  Social care professionals to look the next steps
  • A number of workshops in collaboration with the IAG and other professional to formulate the proposed changes in  preparation for public consultation

Public consultation plans

We are also currently putting together proposals to address the other issues raised during this engagement work, which will be consulted on at a later date. These proposals will centre on:

  • Panel timetables
  • Top up request processes
  • BUDs
  • Top up award duration
  • Workforce development
  • The documents required for Top Up applications
  • The high needs funding model
  • Decision panel feedback
  • Handbook for professionals

Special schools

The above proposed changes for Top Up affect all mainstream settings across ages 0-25. Therefore this does not include special schools at this stage. Following the consultation and then implementation of the new process, there will be further public consultation regarding the current funding process for special schools.


The council provides services to help children and young people who have special education needs and disabilities (SEND) as well as those with the highest level of support needs to access education.

What we are proposing

We are developing a new plan to look at how we improve aspects of education for children and young people with SEND and high needs in Bristol and make them more efficient. The plan is looking at reviewing the impact of many different areas of work and we are putting children and young people’s aspirations at the heart of this.

We have identified four parts of the SEND and High Needs service where we think improvements could be made. These are:

  • Top Up
  • Alternative provision and Early Intervention Bases (EIB)
  • The Bristol Hospital Education Service
  • Wider support services

Each of these parts of the service are described in the survey below along with what we think needs to change and what differences we think the changes could make. We would like to know what you think are the priorities for the each of these areas of the service and what you think of our suggested changes. We also ask you for your ideas.

What Happens Next

Over the next few months we will be developing a new plan to look at how we can improve education for children and young people with SEND and high needs. This will look at many different areas of work and we are putting young people’s aspirations at the heart of it. Once we have considered all the feedback received from this engagement survey we will be carrying out full public consultation on the way forward. Thank you for your time in completing this survey and please look out for the public consultation in the near future.

Do you want more information on special educational needs and disability for the under 25s? Visit:Bristol’s Local Offer at


  • All Areas


  • Children / Young People
  • Expert Stakeholders
  • Parents, carers and guardians
  • Equalities group(s)
  • Service Users


  • Children and young people
  • Disability