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(UK) Suffolk: Millions spent on 200 SPED students in out-of-area schools

Feb 12, 2020, East Anglian Daily Times: 'Scandal' as children sent nearly 300 MILES to school - parents slam Suffolk's special needs provision https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk-county-council-special-school-places-1-6509319 Nearly 200 children with special needs were attending school outside of Suffolk at the beginning of this year - at a cost of £10.6million. [$13.7M US] One child was even sent 284 miles away - equivalent to travelling between Ipswich and Cornwall - we can reveal, as Suffolk County Council chiefs admitted there is not currently enough provision in the county to meet demand. So what is happening? In total, 186 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were listed as attending schools outside Suffolk as of January 7, 2020. Some 40 youngsters were boarders - costing £3.1m [$4M US] so far in 2020/21 - while 146 were attending daily placements with a bill of £7.4m. [$9.6M US] That comes to an average annual spend equivalent to £57,000 [$72,000] per child, with this money mainly being spent on transport costs. Plans to pump £45m into creating hundreds of new SEND places in Suffolk were revealed last year - but some families fear that even with these new proposals, provision for those with autism and Asperger's syndrome will still be lacking, and fail to match their children's needs…. 'Not enough provision to meet demand' Council chiefs said the first of the new SEND placements being created in Suffolk will be available from September 2020. A spokesman said: "The complexity of care and support required by these young people requires highly specialised surroundings. "This provision is not currently available in order for us to meet the demand within Suffolk, although with a commitment of over £40m [$52M US] over the next four years, the council is working hard to identify and develop locations for specialised SEND placements and support. "Suffolk is not the only area to utilise the services provided by other authority areas…. Bosses also pointed to an increase in children being diagnosed, and added: "Nationally, there is now a greater recognition of the conditions and diagnosis for SEND than ever before, so more young people are able to get the support they need year on year rather than going unrecognised through mainstream education. "This, coupled with the lack of specialist provision being available within county has led to an increase in the number of children and young people being supported outside of the county…. Thought of young people spending hours travelling 'deeply distressing' - councillor Jack Abbott, Labour's education spokesman at Suffolk County Council, said hundreds of children are either being placed in the wrong provision or placements a very long way from home. He said: "I was pleased to be part of a cross-party panel that helped produce the plans for the delivery of 800 new specialist placements in Suffolk, the first of which will come online in the autumn. … He added: "Huge numbers of children with SEND are being excluded from school, just two in five EHCPs are being processed within the 20 week target and hundreds of children are either being placed in the wrong provision or provision that is a long, long way from home. "While some progress is being made, change is simply not happening fast enough and the lived experiences of many children and families in Suffolk remains dire."