The quiet UK war

By Anne Dachel

By far the stories I’ve been posting on LossOfBrainTrust  are from England, not the entirety of the British Isles, and everywhere it seems schools are going broke educating massive numbers of disabled children.

Consider that the United States has four times the population of England which is about 55 million, yet nothing like that is happening here. This is an incredible thing to watch. Most puzzling of all is the fact that there is no end in sight. Over and over officials tell us numbers are going to continue to increase. The country is helpless to stop it. There’s nothing to do but keep on paying.

IF this were happening here in America, I think many advocates would demand to know WHY kids are flooding special ed classrooms and WHY enormous costs never level off.

Here’s what is normal and acceptable in England:

  1. Yorkshire: We are seeking the go-ahead to expand provision at a North Yorkshire school, so it can meet the needs of children and young people with complex needs related to autism.

…The number of children with complex needs, including Autism, is expected to continue to grow over the coming years….

Slough: The cost of “adult social care.”

HISTORIC financial issues have forced Slough Borough Council (SBC) to spike council tax to the maximum allowed as it potentially faces a £479m blackhole.

 As part of the 2022/23 budget setting, the Labour-run council is proposing a 1.99 per cent increase in council tax and a one per cent rise in the adult social care precept – an increase of £44.56 for band D properties. …

The revenue budget, money used for day-to-day spending, such as adult social care, is set at £107.6m [$144M]. But the council’s financial pressures require this to be set at £191.7 m [$260M], resulting in an £84.1m [$112M] deficit.

Hackney: Special ed numbers are exploding while regular mainstream numbers are falling.

More than 80 special needs school places have been created in Hackney, to serve a growing number of students who need specialist teaching and support.

In addition to the new school places, new facilities for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have opened across the borough.

The 84 new SEND places will also reduce pupils’ need for travel to specialist schools in other areas. However, the need for SEND places in Hackney is growing, with the council reporting a 49 per cent increase over the past five years.

The council still needs to find another 300 places for children with additional needs….

“We know we need to do more to accommodate the year-on-year increase in numbers of children and young people who need to access specialist SEND provision while at the same time helping schools tackle the falling numbers of mainstream school-age children and young people in Hackney.”

The local authority reports that government funding for SEND provision has not risen in line with need.

To tackle the issue, the council is looking to work with schools with falling pupil numbers to expand the number of SEND places available in the borough….

The councillor also calls for more government funding of SEND services, the lack of which, she says has resulted in a £13million [$17M] shortfall as local need continues to increase.

Andover: A local council member is ‘extremely proud’ of the expansion of a special school.

Hampshire County Council has agreed to invest £2.2 million [$3M] to expand The Mark Way School in Andover, with work expected to begin this spring…,

Councillor Roz Chadd, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services at the County Council, commented: “We’re immensely proud of the excellent offering we provide for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

We know there is always further to go to meet growing demand and this will create vital additional learning spaces, reducing the need for expensive independent provision and supporting greater cost-effectiveness in the long-term.

Kent: Here was a story of an autistic 13 year old who has been rejected by 27 schools and hasn’t been in class for a year.

A teenager has been turned away from 27 schools due to his complex needs and a lack of space leaving him out of education for almost a year.

Rainham resident Leanne Dale has tried everything she can to secure her son Jack a place in a special education facility but has been unsuccessful – even trying as far as Bromley and Sidcup….

Leanne told how Jack, who has ADHD, autism and anxiety disorder, has not attended school since last April after it was recommend he stayed at home due to his challenging behaviour.

“There is a shortage of schools but Jack is still entitled to a space. It is unbelievable. There must be a place somewhere. It is disgusting really. …

Celia Buxton, assistant director for education and SEND, said: “We are doing everything we can to help find a suitable school place, which is able to meet his complex needs.

“We have contacted a number of schools but unfortunately they either do not have any vacancies or are unable to meet his individual needs.

“I am only fighting for what he is entitled to. There is no light at the end on the tunnel. It is really difficult.”..

Blackpool: $113,000 will be used for a new special school.

 The academy, which is part of the Sea View Trust, has seen a rise in pupil numbers and needs more space….

It was revealed last June special education schools in Blackpool were reaching full capacity, with a meeting of the council’s Children and Young People’s scrutiny committee heard SEND (special educational needs and disability) provision at Park School, Woodlands School and Highfurlong School was all full.

Devon: The county council has to compensate the family of a teenage girl with special needs for missing out on a year of school.

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services, said: “We do our very best to make sure that children and young people can have the best starts in life, with access to good education. But on this occasion, we should have done more to understand her needs and those of her family, and we did not get it right. I apologise sincerely to this young person and her family.”

Cumbria: Special ed numbers have increased ‘very significantly’ and ‘the growth will continue for at least another 10 years.’

SPECIAL educational needs support in Cumbria is showing “significant evidence of progress” after a critical Ofsted report in 2019, but concerns still remain. …

Cllr Young said: “I’ve read this report two or three times to try and get a sense of progress that we’re making and I’m struggling with that. It’s three years ago that Ofsted and CQC came in and raised significant concerns, there were nine areas of significant weakness, we’ve spent three years trying to address those areas and we’re still getting indications from DofE that there are concerns about performance in specific areas.

“When they come back, if they decide we haven’t made sufficient progress, what happens then?”

…“Demand within the SEND system has increase very significantly, it’s almost double what it was in 2014 and our projections are saying the growth will continue for at least another 10 years.

Bracknell: A “scathing report” indicts the local council for “failing special needs children.”

After meetings with children and young people with SEND, parents and carers, and local authority The education watchdog said that a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) is required because of significant areas of weakness in the area’s practice.

The scathing report described many parents as ‘feeling exhausted at having to continually fight to be heard and to have the needs of their children assessed and met’….

Meanwhile national British coverage shows parents are calling out the entire special education system for “failing” their disabled children.

A BBC News report entitled, ‘Special educational needs families are falling through the cracks’ revealed what parents are up against.

Parents say there is pressure on them to send their children to school if they do not yet have a SEND diagnosis

The mother of a boy with autism wants to change the way parents of children with suspected special education needs or disability (SEND) are treated when their children do not attend school.

In a petition to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, Susan Liverman says parents of children who have yet to have a diagnosis are particularly vulnerable to fines, or the threat of one, unless they get their children back into education….

Central Bedfordshire Council told the BBC: “The council has a legal duty to fine parents who do not send their children to school and do not have what is considered a reasonable reason.

“When a child has a special educational need but does not yet have a diagnosis, this can mean they fall into a grey area where they are not attending school but do not yet have a valid reason. In these cases, we listen to the views of parents and other professionals and use our discretion not to fine the parents.”

And a report from the British Parliament exposed the situation many schools are facing financially regarding special education, despite the “extra [$6.2B] committed for school funding in the 2021 Spending Review.”

Some of the steps that schools have taken to maintain their finances have adversely affected children’s education: cutting staff, dropping subjects from the curriculum and further reducing the support system for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) which “continues to fail many children and remains financially unsustainable”.

The Department for Education also “has little assurance” that extra £4.7 billion [$6.2B] committed for school funding in the 2021 Spending Review “will be enough to cover cost pressures including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”. …

 

Due to the dire financial situation many schools are facing, officials are looking to cut costs, including eliminating special ed support. There is a much talked about a report on special education in the U.K. due out soon.

 

While we wait for the much-delayed SEND review, the support system continues to fail many children and remains financially unsustainable. In May 2020, we reported that many children with SEND were being failed by the support system and recommended that the Department should, as a matter of urgency, complete its SEND review which it had begun in September 2019. The SEND review has still not been completed, and families continue to be frustrated by the support system. The Department has now committed to publishing the results of the review in the first quarter of 2022, alongside the Schools White Paper. The aim of the review is to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND. The Department says that, as well as educational attainment, the impact measures will cover life outcomes, such as the number of young people with SEND not in education, employment or training, and health and wellbeing. It is essential that the review is completed so improvements can be made.

 

We are also concerned about the financial sustainability of the SEND system, for example some local authorities are struggling to cover the high costs of places in some private special schools.

The Department expects that increased funding, including for more places in state special schools, and extra support for some local authorities with large high-needs deficits, will help to improve the sustainability of the system.

 

Ireland:

 

A story from Cork announced that a local school would keep its early intervention autism unit.

Kilbrittain NS principal Karen O’Donovan told the Irish Examiner: “It is wonderful news. We will now be able to cater for 24 autistic children from preschool to primary.

 

“We look forward to welcoming existing and new families into our school and will continue to provide an inclusive education for all in our community….

 

There’s more good news.

In addition, a new special class is being opened by the school to cater for children transitioning from this year’s early intervention class….

 

“We know, right across this country, there’s a real shortage of appropriate supports for autistic children,” he said.

 

“We’re talking about people not being able to access therapies for [up to] seven years.”

 

Another story from Ireland talked specifically about kids waiting seven years for services.

In a story from Dublin, it was reported that waiting lists go on for years and years.

Children have been left waiting up to seven years for speech and language therapy and other vital services, a Dublin mother has claimed.

 

As part of the HSE’s Progressing Disability Services (PDS) programme, introduced last year, young people up to the age of 18 can access local Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs)….

“It will be his first session since he was four or five – he’ll be 11 next week,” she said.

 

“The HSE have sent speech and language therapists into his school a number of times over the years to give recommendations, but not one-to-one therapy.”

America:

Ironton, OH is celebrating their “Developmental Disabilities Month” currently in March.

Staff from Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities as well as members of the local DD community were on hand as the commission issued a proclamation marking March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness month in the county.

Central Florida: Peppa Pig Theme Park is now a “certified Autism Center designation.”

Lakeway, TX announced the coming of a new autism therapy center.

Portage, IN: An autism service provider is expanding into Indiana.

“We are thrilled to continue our mission of providing the highest quality autism services to children and families through our newest location in Portage. …

The Portage center is slated to open in late spring of this year. The facility will provide autism services to 28 children and their families and create over 40 new jobs in the area. …

Over the past ten years, Lighthouse has grown into a leading center-based provider of ABA therapy for children on the autism spectrum, with a network of centers across Indiana, southwestern Michigan and Illinois.

New Albany, OH: A local autism therapy center is branching out to a nearby location.

For now it is serving children in grades 1-5, with the expectations of widening the scope to middle schoolers, Royal said….

One in five children has a learning disability, and in central Ohio, that’s 50,000 students, Royal said.

Marburn Academy’s specialized approach gives students a stronger focus on a particular area of deficiency, she said….

Autism is not a primary focus for Marburn; however, the school and the Marburn Education Collaborative program support a small number of students on the spectrum….

I’ll have many more stories to talk about by next week. It’s never-ending.

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