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(UK) Suffolk: Parents claim council fails SPED kids; 'system is not working'

Mar 14, 2022, East Anglian Daily Times: 'My son threatened suicide': Disabled children face years out of school https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/education/suffolk-send-children-face-years-out-of-school-8745538

SE England

Parents say their disabled children face bare-bones school timetables because teachers can’t cope with their needs - but the council has confessed it doesn’t keep track of how many pupils are affected. As reported by this newspaper, persistent school absence among special needs children has been a problem across the county for years. But we have discovered Suffolk County Council is not monitoring their attendance, with parents now demanding the council does more to ensure their children have adequate provision while out of school – sometimes for years at a time. One parent told this newspaper her disabled son has been at home for 17 months due to the council failing to secure him a suitable provider, and is currently heading to college without completing a maths or English GCSE. She said his health had deteriorated to the point where he is threatening to harm himself. Meanwhile, a mum with two special needs children said they had missed almost three years of education between them because the council put them in schools unequipped to deal with their needs – and did not offer up adequate alternative provision when their timetables were slashed. The county council recently reported there are only 24 disabled children without a school place, claiming “increased intervention, better solutions and working alongside families” has helped staff reduce the number of EHCP children not on school rolls. This is down considerably from last August, when the number stood at 48. But campaigners say many disabled children who do have a named school place aren’t actually in attendance because parents claim it is unsuitable - or, if they are, face a heavily-reduced timetable. Steve Wright, 53 and living in East Bergholt with his two adopted special needs children, said while his 14-year-old son always had a “named school placement” on his support plan, he “hardly set foot in them” – attending some for a matter of weeks. “My son has had practically no secondary education”, Mr Wright said. “It’s taken the council three years to find him an appropriate placement which we are trialling this week, but we’ll have to go through all of this again when he turns 16 and needs somewhere else to go.” In January 2019, Mr Wright said he pulled his son out of mainstream school because he was facing constant exclusions and the teachers did not have the support to deal with him. But in an email seen by this newspaper, the school confirmed it did not remove him from its roll until September. Campaigners believe because of this problem, the true number of pupils with EHCPs who are not in full-time education is much higher than 24. ... Though the council could not give us an estimate of how many children with EHCPs are not in school full-time because it "does not hold the information", national government statistics show 25% of children with these plans are classed as “persistent absentees”. Applying the national absence rate to Suffolk, this would work out as 1,575 children potentially missing out on the full-time education councils must provide. The council said: “Schools are not required to tell us how many children are on a part-time timetable. It is not legal for a school to place a child with a EHCP on a part-time timetable. Where this is used it should not be treated as a long-term solution. ... “Once we become aware a school is using a part-time timetable, we work with the But with only 561 pupils with EHCPs not currently in regular school attendance accessing the council’s Alternative Provisions service, campaigners say some persistently absent children are likely to be falling through the cracks. The council said it recognised this was an issue, and was plugging part of a £1.1m [$1.4M] SEND investment into “improving the capacity of the council’s ability to respond to part-time timetables for EHCP students". Rachel Hood, cabinet member for SEND at SCC, said the council was doing everything it could to implement the recommendations offered by the Lincolnshire Review into SEND services carried out last summer, and was making good progress. She said the council had recruited 26 new people to the team to help achieve this goal, and that 304 additional special school places opened in September 2021, on top of 229 created in 2020 and a further 268 by 2023. She said: “A sustained amount of focused work is being done to improve the way we deliver SEND services to children and young people and we are committed to making sure we give all children the best education. ... Anecdotally, parents claim they know dozens of children who have been on part-time timetables for months or even years.... ‘The system isn’t working’ Parents’ frustration comes as the ombudsman revealed appeals to tribunals over SEND disagreements between parents and councils has risen by 111% since 2013, with research showing over nine in ten appeals are decided in favour of the families. “The overwhelming number of appeals decided in the appellant’s favour is indicative of a system that is not working”, said Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the local government association’s children and young people board. ...

Steve Wright's disabled son has been out of education for years due to Suffolk County Council being unable to find him a suitable placement

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