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(UK) Bristol council approves $37M (U.S.) for 190 SPED students with no school place

Aug 26, 2020, Bristol Post: Parents' fury as 190 children can't return to special school in Bristol next week—The council have announced a £28.7m plan but it will take a year or more https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/parents-fury-190-children-cant-4459980 SE England A total of 190 children with special needs across Bristol will not be returning to a specialist school next month - because the council has failed to provide enough SEND places for them. There are 13 children who have no place at all, while the other 177 will study in mainstream schools with specialist education, health and care plans (ECHP) drawn up to help them there. The children, who number the equivalent of a secondary school's entire year intake, have special educational needs, but the shortfall in places means they will either be staying in mainstream schools, at home or remain in pre-schools. Furious parents have slammed the council, and described a council pledge that children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) would 'be a priority' as 'a load of rubbish'. Bristol City Council has announced a £28.7 million [$37M U.S.] plan to create more places for SEND children, which will include major redevelopments at two schools, as well as create additional special school places at a number of mainstream schools across the city…. A report from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission last December said children with SEND in Bristol had been failed for years. In 2018, the council was forced to restore £5million [$7M U.S.] to its SEND budget after it lost a High Court case against parents who challenged the administration’s decision to cut the funding. A report due before cabinet on Tuesday (September 1) admits that, right now, the council does not have enough special school places for 190 children in Bristol who are entitled to council-funded specialist education provision, and another 250 are likely to join the queue for a place in the next 12 months. The proposals would see 250 new special school places added across 11 existing schools, create 54 extra places at Elmfield School for Deaf Children and add eight more at Claremont Special School. But no new places will be ready for at least a year, according to the cabinet report, which says the 250 new places “might” be ready by September 2021. The new facilities at Elmfield - requiring the demolition of the school and the redevelopment of the Bristol Education Centre - “may” be finished by September 2022, the report says. The demolition, refurbishment and building works needed to create the new Claremont School facilities “may” be completed by September 2024…. By providing special school places in Bristol, the project will also save the council the expense of sending children to special schools outside the local authority area…. . "Recently, there was a large campaign by Bristol parents to back the planning of a new secondary school in Central East Bristol on the Silverthorne Lane development…. "I’ve also learnt that when you start to raise issues publicly about these problems, you then run the risk of being labelled an abusive parent – though after several months, no one could evidence the fact I was abusing my children to escalate it to social services. Funny that because I wasn’t abusing them. I just wanted them to go to school…. But unlike thousands of children across Bristol who are looking forward to their first day at school, Masara's son will not be going, and will be staying in pre-school. "He is on the spectrum. There is no special school places and they've said that to me," she said, adding that her son's EHCP, the 'statement' that assesses children and outlines the level of support they require, was severely delayed and still hasn't been signed off…. Back in 2018 and 2019, the council pledged to clear the backlog, but Masara said her son's delays showed there was still a problem…. councillors. In February, Bristol mum Sally Kent, from Bristol Independent SEND Community, told the council its failure to provide adequate SEND services had provoked a looming "emergency" in special school provision. Extensive delays in producing education, health and care (EHC) plans had resulted in a large backlog of assessments that, once cleared, would mean there were many more children entitled to a special school place than existed, she said.