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(UK) 20,000 disabled children left to find their own independent special school

Feb 10, 2024, Sky News:  Thousands of children are being forced to learn outside of the recognised school system 

Madeleine has joined a growing number of children whose parents are instead given money to pay for educational activities outside of school.

VIDEO: Madeleine is at home because she has no school place. She was rejected by every school her council approached because she has autism. Her anxiety means she needs a high level of support.

Mother: We believe they contacted about eleven schools. They received all the replies back and they were negative. They could not meet Madeleine’s need.

Sky News: As a last resort, she’s joined a growing number of children whose parents are instead given money to pay for educational activities outside of school.

Mother: I believe the education system, as it is now, is archaic, and I believe it is failing children with autism.

Sky News: Forced out of the recognized school system, Madeleine now comes here. It’s a controversial form of education known as Unregistered Alternative Provision, which is increasingly the only option for children shut out of regular schooling.

As long as they’re small and part time, places like this don’t have to register with OFSTED, in fact no one oversees them. 

This one was set up at a caravan park by two trained teachers who also have children with autism. 

School director: I get calls from everyday from a different family. They are in crisis, they don’t know where to turn. There’s kind of no answer.

Sky News: But the lack of oversight at places like this means no one knows how many there are around the country. 

It’s estimated at least 20,000 children attend them. 

SEND consultant: How do we know they’re doing a good job? How do we know these children are being looked after? These are very vulnerable children with special education needs and disabilities. They might not be able to communicate, and we’re trusting these children in these settings with these people that we don’t know as much about as we should perhaps.

Sky News: The obvious solution would be for schools to stop rejecting children, but head teachers say it isn’t that simple.

Head Teacher Assoc rep: There are so many perverse incentives within the system.  So if you’re an inclusive school, it’s more difficult to go and reach those ….where you have to go and fund the first 6,000 pounds [$7,900]. And you take multiple children with additional needs. That  adds up.

Sky News: The Department of Education says councils are responsible for making sure there is appropriate education for all children, and adds that it’s increasing funding this year.

But children like Madeleine have been rejected by a school system that no longer provides for everyone.


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