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(UK) Hambleton: Plan to address "shortfall of hundreds of specialist school places"

Apr 11, 2023, Hambleton Today: Council unveils action plan to provide special educational needs education

E. central England

A proposal to avert a potential shortfall of hundreds of specialist school spaces for youngsters with special needs in North Yorkshire has been unveiled.

While the £20m [$25M] action plan could generate £22m [428M] of savings over five years, an officers’ report to leading members of North Yorkshire Council states the authority’s strategy should be “to address the most pressing concerns”.

Officers said their best estimate was the proposed programme would deliver 315 places against the forecast shortfall of 350 places over the next three to five years.

The proposed programme is focused on both expanding overall specialist places, extending the range of places at mainstream schools and the availability of suitable local pathways to support young people, and filling two major gaps in provision across the county.

The report states the programme to expand special educational needs (SEN) specialist capacity within North Yorkshire comes as the number of pupils with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) have been increasingly rapidly, forcing the authority to pay private providers far more than they would for council-run services.

The shortages are most acute in autism and social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) placements in the north of the county and autism provision for secondary-age pupils in a central location.

However, the Department for Education has recently confirmed funding to develop a school with 120 places on the Grammar School Lane site in Northallerton to support pupils with significant SEMH needs has been successful.

Nevertheless, the report says the council’s “progress has been modest” since setting out an ambition in 2018 to develop provision for SEN pupils at 31 mainstream schools, with only ten schools taking on the provision.

The report says there is potential to increase the number of specialist school places through “mini projects”, such as satellite provisions at mainstream schools, “low hanging fruit” projects may have been exhausted.

The proposed action plan would see £5m [$6.2M] earmarked to enable Welburn House School in Ryedale, which is facing “catastrophic” building issues, to be able to reopen its residential provision from September 2025.

The report states the county’s lack of available specialist provision has resulted in increasingly challenging rounds of annual admissions, and difficult decisions needing to be made about placements, particularly at Springwater Special School in Harrogate.

It states: “This has resulted in some young people being placed in independent provision or supported through additional resources in mainstream provision, where we may have considered they would be most effectively supported in special school placements.”

Officers said a scheme to redevelop council buildings beside the school, at a cost of £3.1m [$3.9M], providing 45 places has been approved.

The report states: “By developing new provisions to address the two major shortfalls in our existing range of provisions, we will be ensuring that we have a range of specialist provisions that can ensure the needs of circa 200 young people will in time be more effectively me.”


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