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(UK) Bedfordshire: 52 special needs kids without school places; $9M in funding promised

Sept 7, 2021, BBC: Bedfordshire parents protest over special school places gap

E. England Some 52 pairs of shoes have been placed outside council offices to highlight the number of children parents say are being denied places at special schools. Protestors said Central Bedfordshire Council was not supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). One parent, Becci Liggitt, said the lack of a place for her 13-year-old daughter had led to self-harm. The authority said it was spending £6.5m [$9M U.S.] on improving the situation. In November 2019, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission criticised SEND services in the unitary council district. The inspectors said in a letter to the council and the Beds NHS Clinical Commissioning Group that "leaders are not meeting their duties". Ms Liggitt said mainstream schools would not take her daughter and the council had been unable to give her a special school place. "She's upset this week because all her friends have gone back to school and she's got nothing," she said. "She's getting depressed and she self-harms and it's not fair. "Why should she have to go through that just because [the council] won't do what it said it would do and what it has to do by law?" The 52 pupils were confirmed as still needing special school places after a legal deadline passed in February. The majority will stay in mainstream school for now, with some will be able to move to special schools at Easter, others for the next academic year, but 11 do not have any place confirmed for 2022. Central Bedfordshire Council said it was meeting its statuary duties and would support parents waiting for places. Sue Clark, the Conservative councillor responsible for education, told a council meeting the £6.5m [$9M U.S.] would be used to create 100 new special school places. "Unfortunately demand is outstripping supply and we are facing what I can only describe as a tidal wave of requests for EHCPs [education, health and care plans] and then for special school places." But she added it was "not good enough" to have pupils wait for a year for special school place.

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