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(UK) Hertfordshire: Council fails special ed students

Feb 16, 2023, Bishop Stortford Independent: Herts County Council failing to meet target for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

E. England

A Bishop’s Stortford mother of three children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has condemned Herts County Council’s provision for such pupils….

According to a Westminster government code of practice, local authorities “must review [EHCPs] as a minimum every 12 months”.

But a Freedom of Information Act request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service reveals that of the 2,403 Hertfordshire EHCPs for under-18s that were at least 12 months old at the end of the 2022 summer holiday, 49% – almost half – had not been reviewed for at least a year.

The council also surveyed 6,457 plans in place at a “snapshot” point in the 2021-22 academic year. Of these, 4,263 were reviewed at some point in that year, but a third – 2,194 – were not.

The council’s SEND department recorded 318 complaints throughout the year, although not all of these would relate to the EHCP system.

It is “very, very, very hard to find a way through the system”, said Marie, a Stortford mum who did not want to use her real name.

Her three children, aged 13 and 12, all live with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia to varying degrees….

Marijke Miles, chair of the National Union of Headteachers’ SEND sector council, said it was not just Hertfordshire which was facing a “crisis”.

She said: “This is a serious issue across the country. It reflects the unsustainable pressure being put upon overworked school staff who review the plans, the under-capacity specialist services which feed into them and, ultimately, the local authorities responsible for updating them.

“Local authorities have faced a big increase in the numbers of EHCPs, due to both the pandemic and the extension of plans until the age of 25 back in 2014….

“Some children with SEND have not had their plan substantially updated for consecutive years due to the erosion of local authority capacity. This is completely unacceptable….

The FoI request revealed the number of EHCPs held by under-18s in Herts rose by 9% between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years – from 6,587 to 7,177. …

“In common with many local authorities, we are experiencing an unprecedented increase in requests for specialist provision, with a 47% increase in pupils with EHCPs since 2019, as well as the additional challenges since the pandemic.

“We are working hard to meet this additional need, but this is a nationwide pressure and there is a shortage of specialist provision that makes it hard to meet everyone’s needs.

“Because of this, we are investing over £50m over the next three years to ensure we have the right provision in the county to meet the future needs of all our pupils with SEND in Hertfordshire.

“We are committed to creating more than 300 new permanent special school places, and we are creating a network of specialist resource provisions in mainstream schools to help children with speech, language, communication and autism to reach their full potential whilst being part of their local school community.

“We have also increased the funding available through EHCPs by more than £16m over the last three years to support children with SEND in accessing mainstream education.

“We are committed to offering the right support, at the right time, in the right place to deliver our ambitious plans for supporting children and young people with SEND in Hertfordshire.”

County Hall, Hertford, the HQ of Hertfordshire County Council


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