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November 03, 2020

September/October 2020: Injured Kids, Society Costs

While the United States remains solely focused on the impact of the coronavirus when it comes to special education coverage, the same thing is not true in Britain or in Ireland.

The stunning increase in demand and the exploding costs because of more and more disabled children are making the news over there. Incredibly it’s almost without question or any real concern. They just keep on building more facilities, allocating more funds, describing things in glowing terms and smiling for the cameras.

Here’s a look at stories published in September and October.

(UK)  East Anglian Daily Times: Opening dates and sponsor trusts announced for Suffolk’s new SEND schools

Sponsor trusts have been announced for two new special schools being built in Suffolk under £45million [$58M U.S.] plans to create hundreds of new places….

It marks the latest step forward in Suffolk County Council’s £45m plan to create more than 800 new SEND school places, which includes 36 units being created at existing mainstream schools, and two other SEND schools …Mrs Evans said the new schools will allow some of the demand on SEND places to be satisfied, …

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Suffolk County Council on increasing the number of places in special schools for children who need this specialist education.

“We were delighted to be approved to open the new special school in Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds. … “We have just opened Sir Bobby Robson School, a new special school in Ipswich, and we are very pleased with how this is already benefitting local students…. “It’s absolutely brilliant the impact that they are already having. …  “We are really delighted and will be announcing the next tranche soon, but we are on track to create a significant number of additional places.”

(UK) Harborough Mail: New plans to help strengthen support for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Leicestershire are to go ahead

…She added: “Improving SEND services here in Leicestershire is one of our very top priorities. “That is reflected in the £30 million [$39M U.S.] we are making to build new schools and specialist SEND-resourced bases in our schools.

(UK) Children and Young People Now: Croydon Council apologises over damning report into children’s services overspend

(SOUTH LONDON) Croydon Council has been advised to make ‘significant savings’ in children’s social care. The report, published by the council last week, states that the council has overspent £39.2m [$51M U.S.] on children’s and adult’s social care over the last three years.

The council overspent £8.4m [$11M] on children’s social care alone in 2019/20, the report states, and is projected to overspend £16.5m [$22M] on children’s social care in 2020/21 based on projections from the first quarter of this year.

“The challenges of demand led services with both children’s and adult social are impacts across the local government sector and the council is not unique in facing pressures on these budgets,” the report states. It recommends that “executive directors need to address the underlying causes of overspends in children’s social care and take effective action to manage both the demand and the resulting cost pressures”….

The report adds that: “Despite applying significant amounts of transformation monies (£73m) [$95M] in the past three years the council continues to experience overspends in both departments [children’s and adult’s social care] and planned significant growth funding in the original 2020/21 budget. …

(UK) Impartial Reporter: Mother hits out at ‘disgraceful’ waiting times for autism diagnosis

(Northern Ireland) A Fermanagh mother has hit out at the “disgraceful” waiting list length for Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis in the Western Trust.

 The mother of three who did not wish to be named in fear it would jeopardise her child’s position on the waiting list and future support for her daughter has been waiting for 21 months for an assessment on whether or not her daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has been on the cancellation list for all three hospitals in the Western Trust since May 2019. …

The mother was told that the Western Trust will not accept a private diagnosis of autism despite the substantial backlog….

The worried mother first acted 2 years ago when her child’s mental health began to “completely deteriorate.” She took her daughter to the GP who then referred her onto the Child Adolescent Mental Health team (CAHMS) but CAHMS reviewed the child’s paperwork and concluded she needed to be seen by the ASD team. The long waiting time is having a toll on the family says the mother.

(UK) Westmorland Gazette: SEND Children school places Cumbria

(Northwest England)  Sandgate School Kendal plans to increase its special needs places form 80 to 120 children.

The school situated on Sandylands Rd, Kendal has been reviewing its places in the school after the board of governors wrote a report saying more places for special education and disability students (SEND) should be created…. “We see a great demand for places in the south of the county for children requiring additional support. Some children are currently having to go out of county to get the help they need …. Is it recommended that the cabinet approve the increase of 80 to 120 pupils to help? It will help increasing demand and take the pressure of the high needs block which is the amount of money we get from the Government. This will also help children on the autistic spectrum.

(Ireland) The Irish Times: Lighting up purple and yellow for Developmental language disorder 

Developmental language disorder (DLD) is diagnosed when a child’s language skills are persistently below the level expected.

Increasing awareness of DLD can help by motivating policymakers, funding agencies, educators and health care providers… So just like autism, we need awareness and funding for DLD and just like autism it’s something that primarily affects children. One site … “DLD is a hidden but very common condition affecting about 1 out of 15 children.”

(UK) Reading Chronicle: Plans to reduce budget for special needs kids by £1.7 million [$2.2.M U.S.]

(South central England) AMBITIOUS plans to improve education for special needs pupils in West Berkshire and save £1.7 million [$2.2.M U.S.] over the next six years have been unveiled. West Berkshire Council has outlined a strategy which aims to ensure pupils “receive the best possible services” that are “delivered as cost effectively as possible”.

It includes plans to build a new school in West Berkshire for 66 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). … The new school could save West Berkshire Council over £1 million [$1.3M U.S.] by 2027 and “take pressure off” two local SEND schools (Brookfields and The Castle School), according to a council report…. The council currently pays for 36 children with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs to attend specialist schools and each placement costs around £54,000 [$70K U.S.] a year.

(UK) Sheffield Telegraph: Money being withheld by councils for children attending special schools, including in Sheffield 

…We also still have children in Sheffield and indeed across the UK being left without adequate SEND school placements, some have not even had designated to them a school placement to this very date.

 Government statistics identify that there are more that 1,500 children who do not have a school place, some have been on waiting lists for two years and some longer. One case I am dealing with in Sheffield was waiting for a special school placement for three years and when allocated a placement of late, has been given a special school placement wholly unsuited to his SEND profile and SEND provision requirements, necessitating a follow through legal challenge.

(Ireland) Irish Examiner: Assessment of Need system leaves children with disabilities waiting years for essential services, report says 

The country’s Assessment of Need system is leaving many children with a disability waiting years for the services they require and is marked by a lack of resources and inconsistencies between different HSE areas, according to a new report by the Children’s Ombudsman.

In the ‘Unmet Needs’ report, published today, on the challenges faced by children who require an assessment of their needs, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children says the system needs to be revamped, along with a possible ten-fold increase in resources to make it work as less than 10% of AONs are typically delivered within the statutory timeframe. … The AON must begin within three months of the application and must be carried out in accordance with standards determined by HIQA and without regard to the cost of any service identified.

However, the AON system has been beset by problems in recent years, with High Court actions brought by families seeking timely delivery and opposition to the introduction of a new Standard Operating Procedure. … In the report foreword the Children’s Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon writes of “many complaints from distraught parents whose children have been on a waiting list for years to access an assessment of need for their child”, adding:

“Many have found that once their child is assessed, they struggle to get any or all of the services recommended to help their child talk, move, learn and grow.”

The number of AON-related complaints lodged with the OCO has almost tripled in recent years, with some children waiting years to access an AON via early intervention services for children aged 0-5, only to have aged out while on the waiting list, plunging them to the bottom of a new AON waiting list for school-aged children.

“The HSE informed the OCO that there has been a significant increase in the number of applications for AONs over the last 10 years, exceeding the capacity of services to meet this demand,” the report said. “Indeed, the number of applications for AONs has risen steadily over the past 11 years, from 1,138 applications in 2007 to 5,060 in 2018.

The statutory timeframes for the completion of AONs are also routinely not met by the HSE. In 2018, the number of assessments completed on time was 8.8%. The HSE National Service Plans for 2019 and 2020 gave a projected outturn of 9% of AONs completed within the timeframes provided for in the 2007 Regulations.

Regarding those resources, the report said: “This would suggest a tenfold increase in expenditure requirement (not accounting for potential economies).”…

“At the same time, long assessment waiting times is impacting greatly on children achieving their fullest potential.

For example, 10,455 children are currently waiting more than 12 months for access to occupational therapy assessments.”

(Ireland) Longford Leader: Longford mothers lift lid on State’s ‘broken’ autism system 

Four Longford parents of autistic children have spoken of their heartbreak at being “completely and utterly let down” by a system which has “failed” them and their families.

In a hard-hitting and damning indictment of Ireland’s autism services, the quartet spoke candidly about how a support process aimed at safeguarding and providing vital cognitive, behavioural as well as speech and language assistance to their children has done the exact opposite….

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last week announced details of a €7.8m [$11.6M U.S.] capital investment to help clear the huge backlog of thousands of children with conditions like autism on waiting lists for an assessment of need….

(UK) Northamptonshire Telegraph: Kettering special school will expand to help county’s places crisis 

(Central England) A Kettering special educational needs school is expanding to another site in order to cater for more pupils.

The Isebrook School is creating a new linked facility at the former Age Concern building in School Lane.

The school, which is part of the Creating Tomorrow academy trust, will lease the building from Northamptonshire County Council at a cost of £28,000 year [$36K U.S.]…. the expansion of the school could save the local education authority £43,365 [$56K] per pupil, and make an annual saving this year to the school’s budget of just under half a million pounds.

Currently the local education authority is sending hundreds of students out-of-county for special education, which is taking a sizeable sum out of the annual £475m [$614M] schools budget.

(UK) St. Helens Star: Special school plans given the green light 

(Northwest England) A PLANNING application has been approved for the development of a special school on the site of the bulldozed Green and Dragon pub…. “The proposed school would meet increasing local demand for SEN schools and would offer quality education for up to 30 students across six classrooms, associated communal spaces and outdoor amenity spaces.”…

(UK) Bournemouth Daily Echo: Area of Slades Farm to make up new special school site

(South coast of England) A SECTION of a Bournemouth open space is set to be handed over to an educational academy trust to allow it to press ahead with a new special school satellite site.

Ambitions Academies Trust is attempting to gain approval from the Department for Education to expand Longspee Academy…. “The number of children and young people assessed as requiring a place at a specialist education provision in the BCP area has increased in recent years. Local provision to meet these needs is of high quality, but capacity has not been expanded sufficiently to meet this additional demand….

(UK) Bracknell News: Growing concern about cash-strapped schools struggling through pandemic

(South Central England) EDUCATION bosses in Wokingham, who are facing a funding gap of almost £6 million, are concerned they do not have enough money to help schools struggling with the financial impact of Covid-19…. Wokingham Borough Council has been handed £142.74 million of ring-fenced government cash, known as the Dedicated Schools Grant, to fund schools across the borough in 2020/21.

But the council predicts that by March 2021, it will be left with a £5.98 million [$7.8M U.S.] deficit, which is largely due to the rising cost of special educational needs services. … Earlier this year, the council predicted a £4.88 million [$6.3M U.S.] deficit, due to the cost of the Addington School expansion and the cost of placing children in independent special needs schools.

But it now expects that to increase by £1.09 million [$1.4M ]due to the cost of placing children in secondary schools, colleges and special needs schools outside of Wokingham. 

(UK) Lancashire Post: Preston special school set for expansion as appeal launched for more mainstream places

(Northwest England) A special school in Preston could be poised to add 100 pupils to its roll under plans being considered by Lancashire County Council.

The authority is about to launch a consultation into the expansion of Sir Tom Finney Community High on Ribbleton Hall Avenue. Subject to the outcome, the school intends to open a currently unoccupied upper floor – creating an additional 100 places and improved facilities for its existing 178 students. Headteacher Shaun Jukes said he was “delighted” that an expansion may be on the horizon.

“It’s quite exciting that we could be able to offer what we do to more pupils. “Our lower floor is designed for 145 pupils, so we’re actually operating over capacity at the moment…. County Hall intends to create an additional 288 places to meet additional demand and also to address the fact that the proportion of Lancashire SEND pupils educated in special schools is 10 percent higher than the England average, at 42 percent…. INCREASED DEMAND AND FINANCIAL CHALLENGES

A report to the county council’s cabinet reveals that the authority could face a shortfall in its SEND budget of £42m [$55M U.S.] by 2023/24.

(UK) Eastern Daily Express: Schools to open 40 new places for special needs children from January 

(Norfolk, SE England) Up to 40 new places for children with complex needs are set to be on offer at three schools within the next four months following a £2.25m [$2.9M U.S.] investment. … Sheringham Woodfields School will see 20 new places for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) needs thanks to a new £1.4m [$1.8M U.S.] state-of-the art therapeutic centre building extension.

Redcastle Family School in Thetford and Thetford Academy will both have 10 new places in autism specialist resource base classrooms from January. … It is set to be followed by a further 288 new places, following a further investment of £34m [$44M U.S.], before the end of the current academic year in July 2021.

And an additional 170 places are planned for the next academic year starting in September 2021.  Norfolk County Council has made a commitment to invest £120m [$155M U.S.] in creating a total of 500 additional places at a mixture of specialist bases at mainstream schools, special school new builds and expansions of existing special schools….

(UK) Cheshire Live: New special needs school opens its doors in Chester’s Abbey Square 

(NW England) A brand new privately-run school and centre of excellence for special educational needs and disability (SEND) is opening in Chester. Abbey School for Exceptional Children is due to open in autumn 2020. …

The day and residential school will have up to 75 places for children and young persons aged four to 19 years. It will take in pupils with a diagnosis of autism and/or severe learning difficulties, who may display behaviour of concern or behaviour that challenges families and services…. 

(UK) NI, Belfast Newsletter: Special Educational Needs: Peter Weir launches consultation on improving provision 

A public consultation process aimed at ensuring children with special educational needs (SEN) reach their full potential has been launched by the Education Minister Peter Weir. The minister has also announced a £7.5 million [$9.7M U.S.] funding package to create a new SEN framework which will provide schools with additional resources….

Auditors found that only 15% of SEN statements from the Education Authority – setting out a child’s needs and the help they should have – are issued within the 26-week statutory limit….

Last year there were 67,224 children with a reported special educational need in Northern Ireland, including those with and without formal statements. …

(UK) NI, BBC: Special Educational Needs: ‘Urgent overhaul needed in NI’ 

An “urgent review and overhaul” of how the Education Authority provides support for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) is required. That is according to the NI Audit Office.

 It has questioned if the Education Authority’s procedures for pupils with SEN are “fit for purpose“. It also found that 85% of children were waiting more than the statutory 26 weeks for an assessment and statement of SEN…. “It’s shocking and its damning, but it’s not a surprise to us in schools, on the ground. … “Absolutely shameful that three years later the report has actually worsened, the statistics have gotten worse. … “But these children are not statistics.

“I have children sitting in my school, one of whom waited 80 weeks for the assessment and statement to take place, another one 62 weeks and I’ve got a child at the minute waiting 52 weeks from last year…. There are more than 67,000 children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland’s schools – around one in five of all pupils. The audit office found that “significant delays in assessing and providing for children persist,” and questioned whether the EA’s data was reliable. It found, for instance, that the percentage of children waiting over 26 weeks for the assessment process for SEN had increased from 79% in 2015-16 to 85% in 2019-20. Pupils were waiting an average of 45 weeks for the SEN assessment process to be completed. One pupil had waited 463 weeks – almost nine years – the NIAO found, although it did not give any further details of the case. …

“There is a clear need for an urgent review and overhaul of the SEN processes in place within the EA. … ” The watchdog’s report also said the cost of the EA’s support for children with SEN across mainstream and special schools had risen from £233m [$301M U.S.] in 2015-16 to £311m [$W402M U.S.] in 2019-20.

“In our opinion, the current funding of SEN services is not financially sustainable,” the NIAO said.

(UK) NI Belfast Telegraph: Audit Office urges an overhaul of Special Educational Needs sector 

An urgent overhaul of the Special Educational Needs system in Northern Ireland is required, with demand rising and key targets now routinely missed, a report warns today. More than £300m is spent every year on special needs provision, with the cost increasing by a third since 2015. The number of children with a relevant statement has also grown by 36% in the last nine years. Meanwhile, a time limit for issuing statements is broken for nearly nine out of every 10 children assessed. The findings emerge in a damning report from the Northern Ireland Audit Office…. In the last academic year (2019/20), 67,224 children were reported as having SEN – 19.3% of the school population…. The number of appeals against the EA’s decisions is rising, primarily as a result of its refusal to conduct a Statutory Assessment or reassess. The report states: “There is a clear need for an urgent review and overhaul of the SEN processes in place within the EA.”

With costs now running at £312m annually, Mr Donnelly’s report warns the current funding of SEN services “is not financially sustainable”.

(UK) NI, Belfast Telegraph: Auditors call for urgent overhaul of special educational needs provision in NI

A time limit for issuing statements of special educational needs for children is broken in almost nine out of every ten cases. … A time limit for issuing statements of special educational needs is broken for nearly nine out of every ten children assessed in Northern Ireland, audits have found.

In a scathing report on special needs provision, auditors found that 85% of statements are issued outside the 26-week statutory limit.

Auditor general Kieran Donnelly has called for an “urgent overhaul” of the system to improve provision for children with special educational needs (SEN). … There remains evidence of an inconsistent and delayed approach to assessing pupils and getting them access to the help they need Auditor general Kieran Donnelly He warned that the current system is not financially sustainable…. The NI Audit Office found that the number of children with statements, 19,200, is almost treble the Department of Education’s estimate of those within the wider school population who should require one (2% compared with 5.5%).

It found there had been a 36% increase in the number of statements issued in the last nine years. … Last year there were 67,224 children with a reported special educational need in Northern Ireland, including those with and without formal statements…. The Audit Office, which evaluates value for money provided by public bodies, found that £312 million [$401M U.S.] was spent on special needs provision in 2019/20 – a significant increase on the £233 million [$300M U.S.] spent in 2015-16. …  It said a £3.6 million departmental review into how SEN provision was delivered had still not been completed, 13 years after it was started.

(UK) Education Executive: Why councils need more money for SEND provision 

The system was in crisis before the pandemic. With a few decisive steps, ministers could start to repair the damage. …Now the signs are that the autumn will test them further, with research suggesting that 20,000 pupils at special schools may not be able to go back for health and other reasons. Headteachers and parents fear they have been “forgotten about”. … Complaints had reached record levels, while local authorities were spending large sums on defending their decisions at tribunals – £40m in one year alone. After several decades of policies aimed at inclusion, segregation is once again increasing…. More money needed Councils need more money.

The extra £700m [$913M U.S.] allocated last year is not enough. More than 250,000 children have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) – the legal document that replaced what used to be known as a ‘statement’ – and five times as many receive some form of SEND support at school. … For children with profound and multiple difficulties – boys and girls who, once upon a time, might have been written off, or institutionalised – a care package can cost up to £45,000 [$59K U.S.] a year.

(UK) Saffron Walden Reporter: Essex County Council hears that additional educational support could cost £13m over a four year span

(East England) The number of Essex children diagnosed with special educational needs who need additional educational support has risen, and the costs to help could be twice the forecast two years ago. … It was estimated the four year scheme, which started in April 2019, would cost £6.8million [$8.7M U.S.] based on approximately 700 pupils.

In its first year (2019/20), 577 pupils were supported at a cost of £5million [$6.3M U.S.] for year one – an increase of 180 percent in the number of pupils requiring the provision of alternative education from 2018/2019. … This unexpected demand for services exceeded forecasts. … Based on current demand, it will cost £13.2million [$17M U.S.] until the four year framework expires in 2023.

A statement to cabinet said: “It is anticipated that this level of need and demand for services from the framework is likely to continue until ECC’s SEN and PRU (pupil referral unit) capital programmes delivers the necessary increased capacity in the Essex special schools and pupil referral units. … “The need for an increase in capacity has led to a programme for delivery of four new special free schools for autism and social, emotional and mental health and the development of a PRU estate which is fit for purpose…. “Essex has seen a 62.9 percent increase in the numbers of pupils entering PRUs since 2018. This is more than double the increase across the eastern region and England and will be one of the key drivers for the project linked to students who are not in full time education.”…

(UK) Middlesborough Gazette: ‘More than just a school’: New education and autism support in South Bank 

(NE England) A new school to help autistic youngsters has opened on Teesside. … The North East Autism Society (NEAS) works to help the region’s autistic children, young people, adults and families. Now, as it marks its 40th anniversary, it has opened a new facility to continue its life changing work.

“We’re delighted… They have welcomed their first cohort of students this week, to the building formerly known as the Cooper Centre, and they will provide autism-specific education for those aged between five and 19 years of age. … This is the third of its kind in this region for the charity and The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre already has a growing waiting list of students….

“Autistic and neurodiverse children have the same rights to a meaningful education as every other child, and we are delighted to be able to expand our reach into the Teesside in order to open our third school.”

(UK) Oxford Mail: Plans to expand John Watson School in Wheatley approved 

(South central England) PLANS to expand a special school in Oxford have been approved. The move will see the John Watson School in Wheatley increase in capacity from 91 to 107 places. … The 16 additional places will be in the secondary phase of the school, from September 2022, after the decision was made by Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, cabinet member for education and cultural services, at Oxfordshire County Council, earlier this week.

It is estimated that the the capital cost of the project is about £3 million [$3.9M U.S.]…

The school, built on the site of the former Northfield School in Knights Road, Blackbird Leys, will have capacity for 108 pupils. Meanwhile, new special schools are planned in Bloxham and Didcot to cater for children with social, emotional and mental health needs.

(UK) Cambridge Independent: Specialist school for children with autism could open next year in South Cambridgeshire

(SE England) A groundbreaking new school for children with autism looks set to open in Impington next year – addressing a costly shortage of provision within the county. … The Cavendish School will specialise in the education of children with Autism Spectrum Condition and be based on the Impington Village College campus.

The Learning Alliance, the trust which will operate the school, says it will be unique with it being the first state-funded school for autism in the UK, and the first International Baccalaureate World School for young people with autism. … The trust says the free school will address a countywide shortage of provision for those with higher functioning Autism Spectrum Condition, and provide much needed specialist provision for those who do not currently have access.

 In its planning application submitted in December last year, the trust said that Cambridgeshire County Council places around 70 such pupils “in very costly independent or ‘out-of-county’ schools”… “There are currently over 100 young people in Cambridgeshire that should be being educated in special needs school who are not. 

(UK) Romford Recorder: Plans to build new Romford special school take hit as council faces education funding gap 

(East of London)  Plans to build a “desperately needed” school for children with special needs in Havering have “slipped” as the council faces a budget gap of millions. At a meeting of the Schools Funding Forum, Havering’s strategic finance manager revealed there was a predicted overspend of £2.7 million [$3.5M U.S.] on schools this year. This is partly due to an increasing number of children who require expensive special needs education, as well as a £1.1m [$1.4M] deficit left over from last year. …

…“It’s a shame, we do desperately need that special school…. The council currently spends £3.3m [$4.3M] sending special needs pupils to schools outside the borough, a figure Campion headteacher Keith Williams said was “extremely worrying”.

(UK) Rugby Advertiser: New unit at Paddox Primary School to provide space to teach up to ten children with special educational needs

(Midlands) Up to ten children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties are to be taught at a new unit based at a Rugby school Planning permission for the stand-alone facility at Paddox Primary School had already been secured and final approval for the specialist provision was given at this week’s September 10 cabinet meeting of Warwickshire County Council.

“It will provide a space for around ten children, there may be more later. This will be the eighth provision of this type and it is part of a strategic program of how we can develop more of these in the future.”…

(UK) FENews: Fighting for an education 

Last night’s episode of Panorama on @BBC One “Fighting for an education” looked at the support available to young people who have Education, Health and Care Plans and their families, including provision throughout the pandemic. A Government spokesperson said:

“We are increasing high needs funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) for local authorities by £780 million [$1B U.S.] this year and a further £730 million[$950M} in 2021-22, boosting the total budget for supporting those with the most complex needs to more than £8 billion [$10B] that year.

(UK) Enfield Independent: New school for special educational needs in Enfield 

(Near London) A plan to build a school for children with special educational needs and disabilities has been approved by councillors. Salmon’s Brook School, in Bell Lane, Enfield, will provide 70 places for children aged 11 to 18 with social, emotional and mental health needs. Enfield currently only has one school with 44 places catering for pupils with these needs, which is not enough to meet demand…..

(UK) Windsor and Eton Express: New special education ‘resource bases’ recommended for four schools

(South central England) The council has discussed plans to introduce new resource units for special educational need in four schools across the borough. In a council cabinet meeting on August 27, the cabinet presented a report that summarises the outcome of informal public consultation on four new resource bases’.

The Royal Borough has received 1.22M [pounds] [$1.6M] capital funding for special provisions from the Government…

(UK) BBC: Leicester family’s shock over ‘full’ special needs schools

(Central England) The family of a boy with autism has been left “shocked” at being told there is no school place for him. Vivek Saxena’s family was told last week all schools in Leicester were full, despite applying for a place in December. … The 11-year-old’s grandmother, Nirmala Bhojani, said the news came after the “hardest ever experience” of lockdown. Leicester City Council said it had offered a home schooling package while it worked to find a vacancy.

Vivek is non-verbal, does not sleep well and may bite and kick when angry. … The family visited several schools last year and said “everything seemed positive”. They applied for a place in December but then heard nothing. … Many schools in Leicester reopened last week, days earlier than the rest of England.

Mrs Bhojani said: “We waited and waited, and we rang them and they said, ‘We will get back to you’. I think they just expected us to sit there forever.

(Ireland) Eco Live (Cork): Rainbow Club Cork Centre for Autism offers extra support to families

This summer marked the fifth anniversary of The Rainbow Club, now used by more than 400 children. Although they had to close due to Covid earlier this year, they have re-opened and are planning on expanding services this September, writes. … The growth of Rainbow Club since its establishment in 2015 has been remarkable. Twenty-two children attended when it first opened its doors. Now, more than 400 children attend the club, located in Mahon, and 280 are on a waiting list to attend.

(UK) Southwark News: New special school opens in Camberwell—It is one of 50 new schools ready to open this term across the country

(Central London) A new special needs school opened its gates in Camberwell this week, in time for the new school year…. The Camberwell site is for children aged five to sixteen with autism. It will initially operate six classes in September, adding more classes over the next five years….  It is one of 50 new schools ready to open this term across the country, announced by education secretary Gavin Williamson last week, that create a combined extra 5,705 places.

(UK) Harborough Mail: Support set to be improved up for hundreds of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across Leicestershire

(Central England)

Support is set to be improved for hundreds of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) across Leicestershire. Leicestershire County Council said it is moving to urgently improve services for families with a child, or children, with SEND in Harborough as well as the rest of the county…. Cllr Deborah Taylor, the county council’s cabinet member for children and families, said: “It is vitally important that we support our SEND families in the best ways we can.

“We have already committed to investing £30 million [$40M U.S.] into establishing new specialist schools and enhanced resource bases in some of our existing schools….

(UK) BBC News: ‘Neglected’ Bristol special schools set for funding boost 

(SW England) Plans to spend almost £30m [$40M U.S.] on improving “neglected” special schools in Bristol have been approved by council bosses. … The proposals will see current schools upgraded and more places made available for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). … Bristol City Council backed plans to spend £28.7m on the improvements – subject to a consultation in the autumn – at a cabinet meeting earlier.

Currently, 190 children who need places cannot be accommodated.

 

*During this time there was one exceptional story that stood out from the rest…

It involved a reporter in Northern Ireland named Ben Lowry.

Lowry made an astute observation about the never-ending SPED costs, he said they were ‘not sustainable.’ Now I have seen stories where county council members have said similar things in passing, but Lowry made a point of it.

As deputy editor of the News Letter, Lowry looked at the costs and at the increase in the numbers and declared it can’t continue. (Actually it was the government accounting office that said it wasn’t sustainable.)

The Audit Office has warned that the current provision of Special Educational Needs (SEN) services in Northern Ireland’s schools is “not financially sustainable” – as it revealed that expenditure over the past five years has exceeded £1.3 billion.

Lowry wrote:

The auditor also reported that a review begun by the Department of Education 13 years ago into the  increase in the number of children with SEN, and the inconsistencies and delays in identification, has still not been completed. 

In a scathing report Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly has concluded that there has to b e a “systemic review of the SEN policies, processes, services and funding model to ensure the provision is sufficient to meet the needs of all children with SEN”.

The special needs system is pretty much a mess and Lowry said so.

A time limit for issuing statements of special educational needs is broken for nearly nine out of every 10 children assessed in Northern Ireland – 85% of statements are issued outside the 26-week statutory limit. Statements are legally binding documents issued by the Education Authority (EA) detailing a child’s needs and setting out what specialist provision they require within the education system. They are issued after an EA assessment process.

Annual expenditure on SEN reached £312 million [$403M U.S.] in 2019-20, an increase from £233 million [$301M U.S.] in 2015-16. Expenditure over the last five years has totalled over £1.3 billion [$1.7B U.S.].

For telling the truth about a system about to implode on itself Lowry was immediately attacked. A story in the Canary entitledAnger and revulsionas Irish journalist says special education needs funding is ‘not sustainable’ explained the harsh reaction.

In particular News Letter focused on the sustainability of funding for SEN services. Then News Letter‘s deputy editor Ben Lowry amplified that angle on social media. He said expenditure in the sector was “colossal” and “not sustainable”. His comments have caused great anger among campaigners and people online. One campaigner is now demanding an apology.

It seems that even stating the truth about what special education is costing and the simple fact that it can’t go on forever is not allowed, it’s somehow a slam at the disabled.

We just need to keep on paying and paying. Asking how long it can continue isn’t allowed. It just has to.

 

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