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(UK)Cornwall: Special ed provision is 'broken'; 7.3% increase in one year

May 3, 2022, Cornish Stuff: SEND children in Cornwall sent across the country for school

SW England Educational provision for children with special needs in Cornwall is “broken” with some children having to travel as far as Scotland to access provision whilst parents say they are struggling to get the support they need for their children.

New data provided by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism as part of a national project shows that Cornwall Council currently has a multi-million pound deficit in the funding it is provided to provide support for SEND (special educational needs and disability) children whilst also having to spend thousands of pounds to send children out of Cornwall to access provision.

Cornwall was highlighted as the local authority sending a child the furthest distance in the country to access education with one child being sent to Fife in Scotland – almost 600 miles away.

And parents in Cornwall say that they are struggling to get the help they need for their children and are even being discouraged from getting Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) for their children which would place a legal responsibility on local councils and schools to provide sufficient support for children….

There is also a lack of specialist provision available in Cornwall to meet the needs of SEND children….

Parent Carers Cornwall (PCC) is an organisation which has been set up to help parents and families get the support they need for their children. They offer practical advice and support for those who want to get EHCPs for their children and act as advocates on their behalf.

Kay Henry, strategic lead for PCC, said there were real issues in Cornwall with a lack of funding from Central Government, lack of specialist provision and new problems from people migrating into Cornwall with SEND children but with no additional funding being provided.

“As far as funding is concerned we are the second lowest funded area in the UK. The funding is shocking, I have raised it in national meetings about the funding coming into Cornwall, both in education and health. It feels we are at the end of the country and everybody forgets about us.

“The biggest concern for us at the moment is a significant number of children with SEND who are moving into Cornwall but there is no funding being increased to cater for their needs.” … . “It is not across all schools – there are many schools in Cornwall which go above and beyond to help children and families – but there are schools which discourage parents from getting EHCPs….. “The number of EHCPs has gone up tremendously over the last 12 months, there has been a steady rise over the last four years but especially in the last 12 to 18 months. But there has been no additional funding provided for Cornwall whatsoever.

“I do know that Cornwall Council has been lobbying the MPs and central government about this, not once but several times, but nothing has happened. The funding just isn’t coming to Cornwall.”

And Kay said there was a desperate lack of provision and specialist schools in Cornwall to help provide for SEND children. She highlighted a new SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) school planned for Bodmin, which she welcomes, but said it would not meet the demand.

“There aren’t enough special schools and there haven’t been for a number of years. Even with the new school there will be a lack of provision. I know that they are looking to have more area resource bases at schools and are asking schools which are willing to have them, but it will take a couple of years to get them in place.”…

The data, which has been acquired through a combination of research of Department for Education (DfE) information and Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to local authorities, covers a wide range of issues facing SEND provision.

It shows that Cornwall Council’s Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) fund, which pays for SEND provision as well as a range of other educational services, had a deficit of £1.5million [$1.9M] in 2020/21 and was forecast to end the current financial year with a deficit of £4.9m [$6.2M]….

The BIJ data also provides information about the level of SEND provision in local authority areas as well as the number of EHCPs being issued and the number refused. This shows that in Cornwall there are 290 schools and that there are three special schools. In addition there are 19 SEN and resourced provision units.

In terms of EHCPs the data shows that there were 3,324 children in Cornwall with EHCPs in December 2020 and that a year later that had increased to 3,568 – a rise of 7.3%.

The DfE said that the number of children assessed for an EHCP in Cornwall who were then not issued one was 1%.The number of requests for EHCP assessments in Cornwall which were refused stood at 19.4%.

However, as indicated above in the experiences of James’ family this hides the fact that many families would like to have their children assessed for an EHCP but are discouraged by schools.

When asked to comment on the data Cornwall Council said in a statement: “We look forward to Cornwall’s participation in the Delivering Better Value programme from the DfE, which will look at the High Needs Block expenditure in Cornwall and seek ways to ensure that there are no future deficits – this will include an exploration of the sufficiency of specialist provision in Cornwall.”

The BIJ also looks at the number of children being sent outside of their local authority area to access education and provision. This shows that there were 89 children in Cornwall who had to go outside the Duchy to access education and provision. …


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