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UK: Govt promises "33 more special free schools, in addition to 49 already planned"

Nov 23, 2023, BBC News: Oxfordshire SEND: Boy with autism left without school for 18 months

SE England

A mother has said she feels her 12-year-old son with autism has been "forgotten" after being out of the education system for 18 months.
Max, from Oxfordshire, is entitled to education support to meet his needs but does not have a space at a special school or access to other provision.
His mother, Suzie, said attending a mainstream secondary would be detrimental to his mental health.

Oxfordshire County Council said it did not comment on individual cases.

But it added that it was consulting with families to improve services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The authority vowed to draw up a priority action plan following a critical Ofsted report in September.

The education watchdog found vulnerable young people in the county were being made to wait years for help or appropriate school places.

Councillors were also told of cases where children had been "actively restrained" in mainstream primary schools, after showing extreme levels of distress….

Max is among those in Oxfordshire to have been left without education provision.

He has an education, health and care plan (EHCP) entitling him to support - but Suzie told the BBC she found the system too complex and inconsistent to get the right help.

Although he has been offered a place at a mainstream school, Suzie feels he would struggle due to his autism, sensory processing disorder and anxiety….

education," she said.

"However, Max has been left without any education and what they've expected me to do is put him somewhere where he's extremely vulnerable and will potentially end up not liking school and I don't want that to happen."…

In Octber, SEND Reform England held protests across the country, including one in Oxford, calling for an overhaul of the system There are about 23,000 children with special educational needs in Oxfordshire.

Dr Claire Brenner, from Oxfordshire SEND Parent Action Group, said children's lives were being "permanently damaged" every day.

"We know behind the scenes senior management are committed to making improvements but, on the ground, parents haven't felt any changes yet," she said. "It feels like there's a complete lack of urgency in the system."

'Deeply concerned'

In the last academic year, about 1.5 million children and young people in England had either an EHCP or were receiving special educational needs support in school, according to government figures.

The Children's Commissioner for England said she was "deeply concerned" about the time it was taking to implement reforms of the SEND system.

Dame Rachel de Souza told the BBC the government's plans would end the postcode lottery of SEND provision by creating a national standard of care - but that some changes would not happen until 2025.

The government unveiled new plans to reform SEND provision in March, including training for 5,000 early years specialist staff and 400 educational psychologists.

It also committed to building 33 more special free schools, in addition to the 49 already planned.

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

Oxfordshire County Council has previously said it was working on making urgent improvements and apologised for letting families down.


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