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(UK) Bristol: $39M/$23M for SPED; 250 more special needs places

Oct 21, 2021, Bristol Live: Mum of Bristol boy with SEND 'worried about son's future' after two years of ALP

SW England A Bristol mum is "worried about her son's future" after he missed two years of school and struggled to access special needs support. Following Ofsted recommendations, Bristol City Council plans to invest £16.5 million [$23M] over the next five years to make schools more inclusive for pupils with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) and other ‘at risk’ groups. However, some parents fear that efforts to increase support will be too late to help those who have already fallen behind, due to shortcomings in the system in years past. Bahare Mehabi’s son, who is now nine years old, was diagnosed with autism while at nursery school. He refused to attend primary school in Year Two after his one-to-one support was removed. She said the school advised her that it did not have funding to provide support, due to government cutbacks in the SEND budget. The city council and the school agreed on an ALP (alternative learning provision) placement to be followed by special school provision. Bahare feels that after receiving two years of ALP, her son's behavioural and mental health problems increased, and he is struggling to readjust now that he is back in a school setting. 'He didn't learn anything there' She said: “He has developed serious mental health problems over the last two years. He has become agoraphobic and paranoid and sad because he lost all his friends from primary school…. In 2019, a joint report from the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted said Bristol's most vulnerable children were subject to "disturbingly poor" care. The findings triggered plans to overhaul the system, and the commissioning of two independent investigations to identify solutions. Earlier this year, a report from one of those independent reviews found that ALP settings were being used inappropriately to "cover a deficiency in the number of appropriate SEND placements". Alternative learning provision refers to education outside of school to children who are usually either permanently excluded, at risk of exclusion, or who cannot attend mainstream or special schools because of health, emotional or behavioural reasons…. However, the report earlier this year found that alternative learning providers being used in Bristol were often not staffed properly or offering the specialist support required…. In July, the city council announced "huge" reforms to ensure children with SEND in Bristol get the support they need. Senior council officers, speaking at a meeting at the time, tried to assure councillors and the public of their best efforts to fix a system that they said has been failing for decades. … “£16.5m [$23M] investment over a five-year period will provide more in-school support for pupils in mainstream schools at risk of moving into ALP, such as a new ‘keep in touch’ service for key transition points in a child or young person’s education journey…. However, looking to the future, the spokesperson added: "The new framework seeks to promote greater inclusion in mainstream schools, reducing the numbers of pupils in long-term, full-time ALP. "We have also committed over £28m [$39M] of investment across the city to deliver much needed additional special school places and increased the number of specialist provision placements for the autumn 2021 term by 82. "Work is also continuing with education settings in Bristol to deliver up to a total of 250 new placements over the coming academic year.''


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