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(UK) Oxon Co: Council spending $2M for more special school places; 3 new special schools

Mar 18, 2024, Work is continuing to improve services for children with special educational needs and disabilities

SE England

Oxfordshire’s local area partnership  continues to make progress to improve services and support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).   

Progress includes an investment into SEND services by Oxfordshire County Council; plans to expand the number of educational places for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are taking shape;  . . . 

Councillor Kate Gregory, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for SEND Improvement, said: “We continue to make progress in our improvement journey but it will take time for real changes to be felt by all families. We are working together as a partnership to review, reset and rebuild services listening to what matters most to children, young people with SEND and their families.

“Our budget, approved at our full council meeting in February, includes an investment of £1.5 million [$1.9M] in additional capacity in the SEND service to help ensure that children receive timely and good quality responses to their needs within education, health and care plans (EHCPs). . . .

 “Our commitment to improvement is also reflected in the number of new SEND schools planned across the county in the coming years, including Didcot where funding was approved at our cabinet meeting on 23 January.”

There is significant council funding to increase early intervention work in early years and primary school settings to respond to SEND needs and proactively support the transition of children into mainstream education (£500,000 [$630K] in 2024/25 and £380,000 [$430K} ongoing funding from 2025/26).

Measures are being put in place to expand the number of places for children with SEMH and ASD, including:

Utilising spare capacity in existing schools across the county.

Three new special schools, with approximately 350 places, planned for Bloxham, Faringdon and Didcot by September 2027.

Opening five resource bases (providing targeted support) in new schools, with up to 96 places, in Didcot, East Oxford and Wantage by September 2029.

Similar capacity increases are planned for children with needs other than SEMH and ASD, including:

Building a special school, with approximately 120 places, in Didcot, by September 2029.

Expanding two community schools by a combined total of 48 places in Oxford and Witney, by September 2027.

Opening two resource bases in new schools, with up to 16 places, in Banbury and Faringdon, by September 2026.  . . .

The number of children and young people referred to neurodevelopmental pathways continue to increase and waiting times remain a challenge. However, progress is being made in terms of:

More assessments are being offered, directly through NHS organisations, but also in partnership with independent providers to maximise capacity. . . .

Mechanisms are now in place to identify and meet needs at the earliest possible opportunity, and to review and prioritise needs on a regular basis. . . .

On Friday 22 March, an event for young people with a learning disability and or autism, and those who support them, will be held at The King’s Centre, Osney Mead, Oxford. The ‘Transition to Adulthood: Perspectives’ conference will host information stalls and speaker sessions and provide healthcare advice from local clinicians.  . . .


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