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(UK) Bristol: Council "struggled to keep up with rising demand"; 213 kids without SPED place

Jan 9, 2023, Bristol Live: Shortfall of Bristol special needs school places increases again 

SW England

The council has struggled to keep up with rising demand
The number of children in Bristol with additional needs who should be in a special school but are not because of a shortage of places has risen, and now stands at 213.

That’s higher than in November, when councillors at City Hall were updated on action to sort out the shortfall, and higher than in 2020, when Bristol Live revealed a shortfall of 190 places which sparked fury among parents across the city.

The figure was revealed by Mayor Marvin Rees in an answer to a question asked by the parent of a child with special needs at a council meeting last month. The figure of 213 is the number of children who have a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place which states they should be in a special school, but there aren’t enough special school places so they are being educated either in a mainstream school or at home.
Sally Kent, whose child has special needs, asked the mayor for a breakdown of where all the children and young people with EHCPs were being educated, and how many were currently waiting for provision at a special school. The figures released by the Mayor in his response showed that the number of children and young people with EHCPs has grown by more than 1,000 in just the past three years, as the council has worked to clear one of the worst backlogs of EHCP awarding in the country.

Back in 2021, there were a total of 3,376 children with an EHCP in Bristol. More than a third of them were in a mainstream school or college, and another third were in a special school. In 2022 the total figure rose to 4,100, and in 2023 it rose again to 4,401. But the council has failed to increase the provision of special school places accordingly - so most of that increase in children with EHCPs have been taken in by mainstream schools. The number of children with EHCPs in mainstream school has gone from 1,064 in 2021, up to 1,756 in 2023, while the number of children in special school has risen from 1,017 to 1,093 last year….

Back in August 2020, parents of children with special needs reacted furiously when the council confirmed that the new school year that year would begin with 190 children not in a special school when they legally should be. In November last year, councillors spoke of their concerns that this number had remained pretty constant - it was said to be 193 when councillors met to discuss an action plan. By mid December, when Mr Rees answered Mrs Kent’s question, it had risen to 213.

Mr Rees said the council was working hard to create new special school places. “This figure accounts for children and young people with an EHCP and those currently moving through a EHC Needs Assessment, where it has been identified may require a specialist setting. Since 2020, BCC has been working with partners to increase the SEND estate, within the city, through the Specialist Sufficiency Project. The project has delivered a total of 288 specialist places. The delivery of an additional 130 placements is underway and further opportunities are being explored.

 “The Department for Education has accepted Bristol City Council’s application for a special free school, which will deliver an additional 164 places for the city. This provision is forecasted to open in academic year 2026,” he added.


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