top of page

(UK) Harrogate: 'Growth in numbers of autistic children'; 350 MORE SPED places needed

June 29, 2023, Stray Ferret: Lack of special need provision in schools ‘failing children’, says Harrogate mother

A Harrogate mother has criticised special educational needs provision in North Yorkshire as “failing children” after her four-year-old was placed into a mainstream school.

Emily Mitchell, whose daughter Elsie is non-verbal, has been diagnosed with autism and of high need, said schools for special educational needs lacked funding and staff to cope with demand.

Ms Mitchell made the comments after she said her daughter’s needs were “disregarded” during a placement process.

Ahead of applying for schools last year, Elsie was given an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) which detailed her needs and was submitted to schools to consider.

Ms Mitchell, who runs a support group for neurodiverse children and their parents, said she was turned down by five mainstream schools and two specialist schools ahead of the school year starting in September.

The specialist schools, which included Springwater School in Starbeck, said they were up to capacity for pupils.

Meanwhile, the mainstream schools were unable to meet Elsie’s need.

However, despite assurances from professionals and Elsie’s pre-school that she would require specialist care, Ms Mitchell said the council decided to place her into a mainstream school….

“There are no spaces for special educational needs children in the schools, not enough funding, not enough staff and the whole system are failing these children.

“I know for a fact Elsie isn’t the only child that is suffering because of this. …

The Stray Ferret has approached North Yorkshire Council for a response, but had not received one by the time of publication.

Increase in demand
The council said in its own reports that it has a shortage of places for special educational needs and disabilities pupils.
According to a report in May this year, the authority estimated that since 2016 the number of children and young people with SEND and an Education, Health and Care Plan has increased by more than 110% across the county.
Currently, there are 4,500 children with an EHCP in North Yorkshire and the council estimates it will need an additional 350 SEND school places over the next three to five years to meet demand.

In a report, it said:

“The growth in numbers of autistic children and other communication and interaction needs is the single largest area of growth and the local authority has a duty to have a range of provision to meet those needs including mainstream schools, resource bases and special schools.”

Last month, the council launched a consultation on converting the former Woodfield Primary School in Harrogate into a school for children with autism.

It also announced plans to expand Springwater School in Starbeck by an additional 45 places in February.


bottom of page