(UK) Suffolk: More on 18% increase in SPED students; $58M US allotted for funds

Jan 21, 2019, East Anglican Daily Times: Suffolk unveils £45m plan to create hundreds of special educational needs places Plans have been unveiled to pump up to £45.1million [$58M US dollars] into creating hundreds of special educational needs places in Suffolk, in a bid to meet soaring demand. Recommendations from a policy development panel were published on Monday afternoon which propose to create three brand new special schools and 36 specialist units attached to existing mainstream schools, which together will create 828 new specialist education places. Alongside the new provision, the PDP also recommended that a clarified pathway for specialist provision is created to aid families and schools in understanding the options available. Councillor Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “Suffolk County Council has a duty of care to provide a suitable education placement for every child of school age and young people with additional needs up to the age of 25. “It is vital we take swift and effective action to address both the current shortfall of SEND services in our county, but also build capacity with our partners for future demand, and these recommendations do exactly that.” A cabinet report published in September revealed Suffolk was facing an 18% increase in demand for specialist places, and needed an additional 300-400 new places by 2020. The recommendations aim to open the new specialist units for September 2020. The SEND team confirmed that the three new special schools would be on top of existing bids, with proposals for a school on the former Riverwalk site in Bury St Edmunds to be for complex social, emotional and mental health needs. Two schools for those with complex communication and interaction needs are also set to be developed – one in Ipswich and one in Lowestoft. A new special school in Ipswich on the former Holywells High School site in Lindbergh Road is already in development, while a bid was submitted in November for an autism specialist school as part of the latest wave of Department for Education special free school applications. The recommendations are set to be approved at next week’s cabinet meeting, after which the proposals to borrow up to £45.1m [$58M US dollars] will need to be signed off by the capital strategy group. … Jo Hammond, co-chairman of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, which works with families needing SEND provision, said: “I think it’s going to make a huge difference. The reality is there isn’t enough provision to meet the needs. “This [provision] is desperately needed by families and I am really hoping that families can see we have got an understanding for what the needs are. “We are going to have an offer in Suffolk that really can meet the needs of children and young people – both now and in the future. “We want to stop children getting to crisis point and all of that early intervention, getting the right support is very much the focus of that work.” … “Yes, this will deliver hundreds of new school places that are urgently required, but it also puts a new emphasis on early intervention and improves the pathways that a child may take. “There is still a long way to go and it will not fix all of the problems in the current system, but these proposals represent an important first step in providing the education and care that hundreds of children in our county desperately need. … “A complete overhaul of the system is needed: we have to invest in Suffolk and ensure children can access the educational support they desperately need within their own county.”