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(UK) Bucks: Half of SPED students without support; 'rising demand'

June 20, 2024, Bucks Herald: Half of Buckinghamshire children face long waits for special educational needs support plans

SE England

Half of children in Buckinghamshire faced long waits for special educational needs support plans last year, new figures show.

Across England, the number of new education, health and care (EHC) plans rose by more than a quarter, but nearly half of all children and young people receiving one experienced prolonged waits before getting it.

The Association of School and College Leaders said failure to match the rising demand with appropriate government investment has brought the special education needs (Send) system “to the brink of collapse”. . . .

Department for Education figures show 957 children and young people aged up to 25 received an EHC plan from Buckinghamshire Council in 2023. This was up from the 744 plans issued the year before.

In Buckinghamshire, just 49% of all support plans were provided within the time limit.

Nationally, 84,428 new EHC plans started during last year, up by 27% from 2022. However, the figures show just 50% of them were issued within the 20-week time limit – a slight improvement from 49% in 2022.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The number of children needing additional support through education and healthcare plans is now at a record high, but many families are still waiting too long for the assessments, and provision that they need.”

He added: “The current system is simply not sustainable.

“The next government must tackle the Send crisis as a priority.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “Failure to match rising demand with appropriate government investment has brought the whole Send system to the brink of collapse, with schools being unable to afford the costs of Send provision, a lack of places available in special schools, and local authorities having huge high needs deficits.” . . . 

Across the country, 138,242 requests for initial assessments were made – 21% more than in the year before. This included 1,577 in Buckinghamshire, with 464 of them refused by

Buckinghamshire Council.

Overall, 6,697 Buckinghamshire children had an EHC plan as of January. . . .

 “We also know many children are not getting the support they require even when they have a plan in place.

Louise Gittins, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “These record figures are a reminder of the huge pressure councils are under, with the number of EHCPs increasing every year since they were introduced in 2014.

“It is absolutely vital whoever forms the next government brings forward proposals without delay to reform the Send system, with a focus on improving levels of mainstream inclusion, as well as write off councils’ high needs deficits.”


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