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(UK) Ellesmere Port: MP calls for more SPED support to meet "huge demand"

April 9, 2022, Chester Standard:'Constituents are facing a great many financial and other problems'

W. England AS I mentioned in my March 31 column, economic circumstances mean a number of my constituents are facing a great many financial and other problems in their day-to-day lives. None more so than parents and guardians in our community who have children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). In many instances they have been going through incredibly difficult times and at times it feels like their quest to get extra help for their child is a never ending battle…. The Government’s SEND and alternative provision green paper, published on March 29, sets out its vision for a single, national SEND and alternative provision (AP) system that will introduce new standards in the quality of support given to children across education, health and care. What is being described as an ambitious green paper is the result of the SEND Review which was commissioned to improve an inconsistent, process-heavy and increasingly adversarial system that too often leaves parents facing difficulties and delays accessing the right support for their child. The experiences of many is that they must ultimately have the issue determined by an appeal tribunal where up to 95% of parents appeals are successful; such a high success rate must surely show that there are huge flaws in the system? Part of the challenge is the huge demand placed on stretched local authorities and schools; one in six children in England have a special educational need or disability which is the equivalent of five in every class. A lack of specialist help is also a huge issue with children are stuck on waiting lists for many months before they can access support from occupational therapy to speech and language assistance. The background to the problem is that the Government provides local authorities with high needs funding so they can deliver support for pupils and students with SEND but it has often lagged considerably behind the actual demand. For any parent who has had to navigate the system the experience is often frustrating and demoralising in equal turn so any move to recognise these experiences and improve the system is to be welcomed, but before we get carried away, a green paper is only a discussion document so we have a long way to go before we see any meaningful changes to benefit SEND mothers and fathers. Those parents need assistance right now. More generally, I support calls for a National Excellence Programme to include plans to recruit more than 6,500 new teachers to address vacancies and skills gaps across the profession and to provide teachers and headteachers with access to continuing professional development.


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