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(UK) Leicester: $34M for more than 560 SPED places; 6,000 special needs students

Oct 19, 2022, Leicester Mercury: Parents of SEN children still waiting for school place hit out at Leicestershire County Council

East Midlands

Families of children with special needs who have not been given a school place for this academic year are calling on Leicestershire County Council to "stop ignoring" them. More than 50 parents and family members gathered to protest outside County Hall, in Glenfield, to demand action and answers about why their children have not yet been allocated a suitable place.

Among the children affected is Corrine Toseland's 11-year-old son, who has autism. Ms Toseland, from Fleckney, who helped organise the protest, said she had had to quit her job to teach her son at home as a result. The council said it had invested more than £30m [$34M] to create "more than" 560 specialist places in Leicestershire schools since 2018, but the number of children who needed extra support at school was growing 40 per cent faster in Leicestershire than the national average, at a time when the authority was "under increasing financial pressure". It added, however, that "securing a suitable placement" for affected children was the authority's "absolute priority and we’re working tirelessly to put that provision in place". Ms Toseland told LeicestershireLive: “Our children are suffering. Every child deserves a basic right to an education. Why are the most vulnerable children missing out on it, and why are they being treated so differently?"

“We just want answers. Why is it acceptable for the council to charge parents money when [parents] take their kids out of school, but there’s no consequences for [the council] when they forget to find our children school places? It is so unfair.”…

Zuffar Haq, a local health campaigner and former Liberal Democrat MP candidate, helped Ms Toseland organise the protest and bring together families who are similarly affected. He said: “Lots of children across Leicestershire with special needs are not able to get vital places at specialist schools anymore, and on top of this, there are too many cases of families having to go to tribunals to get the best places for their children, putting parents through unnecessary anxiety and stress just to fulfil the most basic needs of their children.

“There is no accountability for the council here, they have failed in their duty to find these children school places. All these children can now do is sit and home and wait for a school place. These are vulnerable people being totally let down. It is unacceptable."

Jane Moore, the council’s director of children and family services, said: “We appreciate this is a stressful time and the continued patience of parents, carers and the children and young people themselves is very much appreciated. Since 2018, we’ve invested more than £30m [$3.4M] to create more than 560 specialist places in Leicestershire schools. Like other councils, public services in Leicestershire are under increasing financial pressure as we strive to ensure that children and young people with SEND can access the right support in the right place at the right time.

There are more than 6,000 children in Leicestershire who require additional educational support (Image: Zuffar Haq)


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