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(UK) Herts: 37% increase in SPED in 3 yrs; 800 kids waiting for SPED plans

June 6, 2023, Welwyn Hatfield Times: Herts SEN crisis: Special needs schools oversubscribed

SE England

Concerned parents have contacted this paper desperately worried their child has not been allocated a place at a special needs school because they are full.

Even children with special educational needs (SEN) who have an education, health and care plan (ECHP) have failed to secure places in a special needs school in Hertfordshire. An EHCP is a legally binding document that sets out additional support needed to meet a young person's educational, health and social needs.

One mum told us: "My son has no setting whatsoever. He is a non-verbal child with severe autism. This is having a massive impact on him and he is suffering. Something needs to happen."

Another mum said: "I have been having issues for almost a year, with no communication. My twins are repeating nursery currently and still don’t have a school place for September, as Greenside School [in Stevenage] has a two-year waiting list."…

A boy with autism has been allocated a place at a special needs school 20 miles from his home - a 40-minute journey his mum fears will have him in crisis before he even gets to school.

Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats claim the county council has "fewer than half its vitally-required educational psychologists", saying if it were fully-staffed there would be 38 full-time equivalent post holders, but there are currently just 18.

"This lack of educational psychologists is having a devastating effect on children with special educational needs," the group said.

"A large majority need to be assessed by these educational psychologists before they can obtain their crucially-required EHCP. There are currently over 800 Hertfordshire children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) waiting to obtain their EHCPs."

This paper asked the county council to comment on the Hertfordshire Liberal Democrats' findings, but it has yet to do so.

The county council says, in common with many local authorities, it is "experiencing high demand for specialist provision", with a 37 per cent increase in pupils with EHCPs over the last three years, as well as the additional challenges due to Covid-19.

Responding to the crisis, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council's children’s services said: "The number of children and young people identified with SEND continues to increase, raising challenges both nationally and here in Hertfordshire.

"We are continually reviewing the needs of children and young people, and the best provision to meet those needs.

"Our Special School Place Planning Strategy 2020-23 sets out our commitment and investment to create over 300 new permanent special school places, and the development of a countywide pattern of specialist resource provision in mainstream schools.

"Our commitment to inclusion has also significantly increased our investment into SEND funding in mainstream schools across the county from £9.5m [$11.8M]to £17.5m [$21.7M] this year.

"We continue to work hard with families and schools to ensure that children’s needs are met and necessary support is received."


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