Decision details

21/00049 - Non-Maintained and Independent Special School Commissioning Strategy

Decision Maker: Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes


Proposed decision –


Implement a Hybrid Dynamic Purchasing System to enable a more co-ordinated approach to securing placements for children and young people (CYP) in Non-Maintained and Independent Special Schools (NMISS).  This will award contracts to schools after completion of a competitive tender process.




-         This decision is required because the total value of the contracts involved will exceed the threshold for a Key Decision.


-         The proposed decision is to implement a Hybrid Dynamic Purchasing System to enable a more co-ordinated approach to securing placements for CYP in NMISS.  This will award contracts to schools after completion of a competitive tender process.




-         Non-maintained Independent Special School (NMISS) placements form part of the wider Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Service and are required to fulfil KCC’s statutory responsibility to provide suitable education for all students. There is a need for a strategy to commission placements in a consistent manner, with mechanisms to enable KCC to monitor quality, improve outcomes and ensure placements offer best value for money.


         Options Appraisal


          1. Establish a Qualified Provider List

          2. Establish a hybrid Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS)

          3. Increase internal, maintained provision

                     4. Flexi-block contracts/bespoke arrangements with providers

          5. Do nothing


-         Option 2, to create a hybrid Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS), is the preferred option as it allows for strategic relationships to be developed. Both block contracts and individual placements can be procured through the DPS in a way compliant with the Public Contract Regulations (PCR) 2015.


-         A DPS is a type of framework contract that allows other providers to join throughout the term of the contract, as long as certain criteria are met, and is the DfE recommended approach to procuring NMISS placements.


-         A hybrid DPS offers more flexibility in procurement options to encourage more engagement from providers and to adapt to the changing SEND landscape over the next few years.


-         The proposed decision to establish a hybrid DPS would enable KCC to improve outcomes for vulnerable CYP whilst improving the value for money of placements.


-         Option 1, to establish a Qualified Provider List, was discounted because it would not enable more strategic conversations to take place with schools.  A Qualified Provider List is better suited to stabilising markets, rather than shaping them, and it would not provide clarity of costs for placements.


-         Option 3, to increase internal, maintained provision, is to be considered alongside the proposed option but the need to manage the NMISS market will remain.


-         Option 4, to have flexi-block contracts/bespoke arrangements with providers, can be incorporated into a hybrid DPS, so this option was not considered independently.


-         Option 5, to do nothing, was discounted because of the increasing spend, which is non-compliant with the PCR 2015, and inconsistent outcomes for students with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC Plans).


-         The risks involved with not taking this decision include:


         continued non-compliant spend (PCR 2015);

         increasing costs; and

         inconsistent provision and outcomes for CYP with EHC Plans.

         Strategic Plan


-         Through the commissioning of the contract, we will support the following strategic outcomes of KCC:


         Kent’s children have the best start in life and families get the right help and support when they need it; and

         every young person in Kent gets the education, skills and experiences they need for a successful future.


In addition, this service will support achievement of the following priorities:


         Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND): We are committed to working in partnership to make the necessary improvements for children and young people with SEND and their families.

         Implementing the Kent Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Written Statement of Action Plan: […] Following the result of our Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in 2019, we are focusing on designing better, more inclusive services to improve the quality of services for children and young people with SEND.

         Support for vulnerable young people: Our role is to champion children, young people, parents and families. We want to improve life chances and close the achievement gap for vulnerable young people.


KCC Strategic Delivery Plan, 2020-23


As Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for education and Skills, I agree to:


A)  Implement a Dynamic Purchasing System to procure Non-maintained and Independent Special School (NMISS) placements

B) Delegate decisions about the establishment of the new arrangements to the Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education (CYPE), or other Officer as instructed by the Corporate Director for CYPE

Publication date: 16/07/2021

Date of decision: 16/07/2021

Effective from: 24/07/2021

Accompanying Documents: