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(UK) Bristol: More SPED places needed; 'We are at a point of desperation'

Mar 28, 2024, (UK) BBC News: Headteacher says school has hit SEND crisis point

A primary school headteacher has said they have reached a "crisis" in being able to look after children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Jocelyn Baker, headteacher at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Fishponds, Bristol, said the amount of time and resources being used to look after children with additional needs was having a detrimental impact on the school.

It comes after the school's governors wrote an open letter to Bristol City Council, with a plea for emergency assistance.

The council has recently announced details of a funding deal with the government for it’s SEND provision over the next seven years, but has declined to comment on the letter.

'Things are bad'

"We’re talking about a couple of children that made it really hard for the school to function as it should," Mrs Baker said.

"Normally they would be in specialist provision but there isn’t any available so they are here.

"They can’t cope with large numbers of children and they become dysregulated and hit out at members of staff.

"We’re failing these children and we’re failing the other children because we can’t meet everybody’s needs," she added.

Vice-chairman of school governors, Joe Gerlach, said they had written to the council in order to sound an alarm.

"Things are bad with special needs provision," he told the BBC.

"We are at a point of desperation where it’s so inadequate teachers are contemplating leaving the profession.

"The school does not have the resource to deal with children who have profound needs and who should be receiving specialist help.”

Governors who met with Bristol mayor Marvin Rees this week to discuss their issues, described the meeting as “constructive”.

St Joseph’s School is not part of an academy trust, with both Mr Gerlach and Mrs Baker saying there had been a lack of support from the council’s SEND department. . . .

Bristol City Council has declined to comment on the contents of the letter, but referred the BBC to its previous statement on the new funding deal, which will see it receive a £53m bailout from the Department for Education (DfE).

The DfE promised the bailout providing the council reforms its SEND support and services.

Bristol is one of several local authorities who have signed up to similar deals called “safety valve” agreements.

'Education and wellbeing at risk'

Catriona Moore, policy manager at the Independent Provider of Special Educational Advice (IPSEA) said: "The aim is to reduce costs, but the effect appears to be a reduction in provision for children, putting their education and wellbeing at risk. That’s what we fear.”

However, the Prime Minister has defended the funding deals.

"There are nine different partnerships and it covers about 30 different local areas,” Rishi Sunak told a parliamentary committee this week. . . .



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