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(UK) NBL: 'Massive increase' in SPED kids; parents forced to homeschool

Nov 25, 2023, Northumberland Gazette: Northumberland parents of children with special needs 'having their hands forced to homeschool' by academies

NE England

The accusations were made by SEND teacher and deputy mayor of Bedlington Victoria

Thompson at a meeting of the Cramlington, Bedlington and Seaton Valley Local Area Committee on Wednesday.

Mrs Thompson did praise local authority maintained schools in the area, but criticised academies, particularly at secondary school level. She called for an urgent increase in funding for SEND education in the county.
Northumberland County Council has recently published its first-ever SEND forward plan, following a rapid rise in the number of children requiring additional support over recent years.
Speaking at the meeting, Mrs Thompson said: “There are hundreds of children out of school because their education provision does not meet their needs. Academies do not have their hands forced.
“At secondary school there is not the facilities they need to meet their needs. Parents are being asked each week ‘maybe this is not the right place for them’ and having their hands forced to homeschool.

“What are the council planning to do with these children? Can there be more funding put forward?

Northumberland County Council schools are actually really good, but I can think of dozens of children and parents who have had their hands forced into home education when it was just the schools not meeting their needs.

“They are given a letter that says ‘sign this and it will deregister the child.'”

The meeting’s chairman, Cllr Mark Swinburn, admitted he had heard of the practice and urged parents to get in touch with the council.

He said: “No child should be forced into home education from an academy. It should not happen. It is not very good practice.

“I think one of the things to understand is over the last four or five years there has been a massive increase in the number of children requiring SEND. The numbers have increased hugely.

“The council has set up a task and finish group which has been working to try to understand why the numbers have gone up so much.

"We try to get the needs of the children met in their existing environment.

“Only in exceptional circumstances would they move a child out because it is better for the child. There is an exceptional team at the council’s SEND education team.

"I cannot say that they are meeting the need, because that need is always increasing, but they work exceptionally hard to find a place for those children.”

In 2019, research by education regulator Ofsted warned that home education is often the “last resort” of parents of secondary school children with complex needs after their relationship with school has broken down. The education watchdog’s report warned that some schools did “coerce parents to remove a child.”

The report, which focused on the East Midlands, also found evidence of schools “giving parents an ultimatum – permanent exclusion or leave,” or pursuing fines when “a reasonable adjustment for a disability would have been more appropriate.” It also found that, in some extreme cases, the process to remove a child can take just one day.


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