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(UK) 33 more 'desperately needed' special schools/49 already planned;

Mar 2, 2023, BBC News: New special educational needs schools years away, says heads' group

The government has unveiled new plans to reform support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) in England.

The long-awaited Department for Education plans aim to improve what it calls a "postcode lottery" system.

Plans for earlier diagnoses are part of the reforms, as well as a commitment to build 33 more special free schools.

School leaders welcomed the plans, but said the "desperately needed" new schools "will take years to build".
It comes after a BBC report found many special schools are oversubscribed and overcrowded.

Parents and campaigners have been waiting since last summer - when a government consultation closed - to see the detailed plans. Their aim is to improve Send support and the alternative provision system, which is for children who cannot attend mainstream schools because of behaviour or other reasons.

Training for 5,000 early years special educational needs co-ordinators (Sencos) and 400 educational psychologists is a major part of the plan to improve earlier diagnoses. It aims to help children like Macey, who was diagnosed as autistic and with ADHD in November 2021….

An extra £4.8m [$5.8M] to expand "specialist taskforces" in alternative provision, to offer intensive support from experts such as mental health professionals and speech and language therapists

33 special free schools will be built in England, in addition to 49 already planned… £70m [$84M]to test and refine the improvement plans…

Special educational needs schools across the UK are under pressure because of a shortage of places. Families invite the BBC's Elaine Dunkley to see the challenges they face as they fight for a school place….

Ms Keegan acknowledged there were not currently enough places at special schools, with many oversubscribed and overcrowded….

But the Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England, has expressed concern that the measures "do not go far enough in addressing the fundamental cost and demand issues" that they say result in councils struggling to meet the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

An education union welcomed the plans, but expressed concern at the length of time it will take to implement some of the policies.

Margaret Mulholland, Send and inclusion specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "More special schools are desperately needed, but will take years to build."

She said the prospect of extra special school places "will be of no comfort to those missing

out right now", who cannot go to the school they need as a result of it being oversubscribed.

The charity Disability Rights UK said the government's plans weren't "radical enough" and that families would be left "underwhelmed and disappointed".


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