No big surprise that once again, stories from the U.K. are predominant on LossOfBrainTrust. There are more stories from Schools Week that spell D I S A S T E R for Britain. Someone somewhere should be asked about the five stories recently published on their site.
After a four month investigation Schools Week makes it clear in their coverage that special education cannot continue like it is currently. The numbers and the costs are cannot be ignored. More disabled kids are coming.
STILL, Schools Week fails completely to ask the obvious: Where are they all coming from? Why are there so many students today who can’t function like students have always been expected to?
SORRY, those questions are not allowed. We’re only supposed to call for more money and more support. The solution is more special schools and more special needs teachers. For some reason, if anyone asks about the never-ending increases, it’s considered an attack on the disabled.
So we struggle on. What is important about the Schools Week stories is the scope of the coverage. It’s not about expanding a special school in Norfolk or a new autism classroom in Derry—all the local stuff we’re do used to. Instead it’s about special education in the whole U.K.
The devastating toll of failing mental health support systems on families and schools is revealed in a four-month investigation by Schools Week.
Thousands of children are stuck on waiting lists for expert help, with schools digging into their own pockets to fund support Therapists once provided to schools free now cost hundreds of pounds a visit • Schools accuse parents of “fabricating illnesses” as collapsing support drives rifts.
Meanwhile, increases in the number of pupils with additional needs has left special schools “bursting at the seams”, with youngsters left in unequipped mainstream schools Helen Hayes, Labour’s shadow children’s minister, was shocked by the findings, but said the government’s mental health strategy “totally lacks ambition”.
“There are professionals working all over the country as hard as they can to deliver the best outcomes for children and young people, but they are within a system that simply isn’t working and in many places it is falling over.” …
Theresa May’s 2018 Green Paper on transforming children and young people’s mental health committed £300 million [$407M] to an overhaul of support services.
This included mental health support teams to a quarter of the country by 2023, a figure ramped up to 35 per cent by next year. But MPs have said this ambition is “too low”, with schools saying they will not resolve huge waiting lists for other services.
Heads say the system is 'completely overwhelmed' Special school heads say their classrooms are “bursting at the seams”, but government does not collect data to monitor how the sector is coping with rising demand for places. The number of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) has risen from 237,000 in 2015-16 (2.8 per cent of all pupils) to 326,000 this year (3.7 per cent).
However there are just 32 more special schools now than in 2015. New Bridge School in Oldham, one of the largest special schools in the country, has 530 on its roll, against a local authority-commissioned figure of 419. The school has nearly doubled in size in eight years. Graham Quinn, chair of Special Schools’ Voice and chief executive of New Bridge Multi Academy Trust, said the pressure is “here and now”….
‘THE SYSTEM IS COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED’…
At The Willows, a school for children with moderate learning difficulties in Rotherham, the smallest classroom should have 10 children, but it now has between 12 to 14. It had a capacity of 120 last year, but took on 164 children.
Headteacher Rachael Booth said they are “bursting at the seams … It’s not the local authority’s fault, it’s the whole system.”
“The system is completely overwhelmed,” he said. “Schools are doing their best, but more and more children are missing out on the specialist provision they need.” The percentage of pupils with an EHCP in mainstream schools increased from 48.7 per cent in 2019-20, to 50.4 per cent last year.
The DfE spokesperson added they are working with councils to “better understand demand for SEND provision as we consider how we can best support the sector going forwards”. Government has committed £2.6 billion [$3.5B] of capacity funding for new school places for children with SEND over the next three years.
Things are “collapsing”
Vulnerable children are being “dreadfully failed” on mental health support as a lack of funding and expert help pits schools and families against one another….
The coverage on autism’s impact on schools says it all. Autism is the driving force behind what’s happening.
Children are waiting up to a year for support from speech and language therapists, meaning they come “into school with far more significant need and the system gets more broken”.
Ten per cent of children have a speech and language need. SLT assessments are also important for diagnosing autism, which is strongly linked to communication needs.
The number of people diagnosed with autism has jumped more than 20-fold in the past two decades, University of Exeter researchers revealed this year. There’s been a big increase in need, especially children entering reception.
But one in four autistic children are waiting more than three years for a diagnosis, according to the National Autistic Society.
The final Schools Week story is about surrendering. It’s the second story in the series that uses the word “collapsing” to describe things. The only solutions given to address “mental health” support are “early intervention and more services placed in school.” (Notice that a story about mental health starts out talking about identifying autism sooner.)
In a collapsing mental health support system, experts have urgently called for two actions: early intervention, and more services placed in schools.
Cathy Wassell, chief executive at Autistic Girls Network, said all pupils should undergo a “sensory audit” in reception to identify autism sooner. …
Similar initiatives are already happening in some schools in the north west through a toolkit called WellComm, which screens speech and language needs, according to Fiona, a speech therapist in the region.
Other than these critical Schools Week reports which will quickly be forgotten, all news is local in Britain.
Birmingham has plans for a special school which will serve 116 students with a staff of 84.
Stockton is struggling with “spiraling cost” where “demand outstrips supply in special schools at the moment.”
Southend’s council admits that parents “deserve an apology for the ‘disgusting’ failure of Southend’s children’s service.”
“We’ve got a report here that says, over successive years, children in this town have been failed. (Parents) haven’t had the appropriate support that’s needed. They haven’t had the access to services, they can’t get assessments.
Essex is seeing an explosion in special education.
A report in 2020 revealed the amount spent on special educational needs in Essex is estimated to rocket to twice initially forecast.
In May 2018 Essex County Council estimated individual packages of educational support, such as tuition or vocational training would cost £6.8million [$9.2M] based on services for approximately 700 pupils at the time over four years.
In its first year (2019/20), the framework supported 577 pupils at a cost of £5million [$6.8M] for year one – an increase of 180 per cent in the number of pupils requiring the provision of alternative education from 2018/2019.
This unexpected demand for services from the framework has exceeded forecasts and, based on current demand, the council’s use of the framework will be £13.2million [$17.9M] for the remainder of the framework term, until it expires in 2023.
“The need for an increase in capacity has led to a programme for delivery of four new special free schools for autism and social, emotional and mental health (the two areas of need driving the greatest demand and capacity deficit) and the development of a PRU estate which is fit for purpose. …
“Essex has seen a 62.9 per cent increase in the numbers of pupils entering PRUs since 2018….
North Norfolk is considering expanding a special school. It seems “youngsters with complex needs” are ‘an area of significant need.’
Wales is trying to rework the special education system by changing the name.
This description of the task of implementation relative to policy design will resonate with an education workforce faced with delivering the new Additional Learning Needs (ALN) system, which came into force in September 2021 and began in earnest last month (January 2022).
Incidentally we’re told that one in 5 students there has special needs.
Moving almost 100,000 pupils (around 20% of all pupils) to the new statutory arrangements, still in the fall out of a pandemic, will be no mean feat….
…the vast majority of the work to improve the education of around a fifth of learners still lies ahead.
Walsall is trying to find a way to handle all the special needs students that keep on coming.
Statistics showed that a predicted shortfall of 92 primary and 25 secondary for the school year starting in September. Further data showed the shortages will be 81 primary and 106 secondary in 2023/24, 86 and 147 in 2024/25, 125 and 162 in 2025/26 and 149 and 168 in 2026/27….
But Councillor Suky Samra it would be difficult for existing schools to take on extra pupils as they were at full capacity at present.
Liverpool is also faces a “dramatic increase” in need for school places.
Cllr Tom Logan, cabinet member for education and skills, said that Liverpool “does not have enough places to meet demand” currently and “radical changes” were needed to the system with the consultation acting as a starting point. …
It is estimated that for 2021-2022 Liverpool will spend more than an estimated £10m [$14M] on school places for pupils in the independent sector.
As far as the U.S. is concerned, everything is fine, with one exception.
A story from the state of Washington raises a number of red flags about the enormous cost of outsourcing disabled students which, we’re told, is “an increasingly common problem.”
During the 2020-21 school year, school districts in Washington sent 80 students to out-of-state facilities, according to public records from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. That’s nearly four times as many Washington kids sent out of state as during the 2016-17 school year, data show, although the state agency says part of the increase reflected in the data may be a result of better tracking in recent years.
School districts send students to out-of-state facilities if they do not have the resources to provide services for children with complex needs, typically resulting from disabilities or childhood trauma. But doing so can be costly. In total, those 80 students sent out of state last year cost school districts nearly $13 million, according to state data. And the actual amount of spending may be even higher, since the data from the state show only costs that districts asked to be reimbursed for….
Advocates for kids with disabilities say they’re alarmed at how many students are being sent away from Washington. They argue it highlights a growing crisis, underscoring the lack of options for people with disabilities and the need for Washington lawmakers to invest more into special education so students can stay in school at home.
…Both attorneys are worried about the sheer number of out-of-state placements and the rapid trend upward. “Our concern is that the number will continue to grow. And if it gets much bigger than that number, then it will be a problem that will be much more difficult to solve,” Kas says….
Last school year, Northshore sent six students out of state, at an average cost of $238,473 per student. For comparison, just four years earlier, Northshore placed only one student out of the state, state data shows, and it cost less than $75,000.
For a long time I’ve felt that when the COST of special education finally buries local and state governments, we’ll be forced to address the CAUSE of special education. That day is coming.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.