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March Madness Before April

Abadnonned schoolBy Anne Dachel

I sincerely hope that people in the U.K. are not going to spend April telling us that we should celebrate and accept autism. From the stories I’m increasingly finding, autism is overwhelming county councils and schools there, and officials can’t keep up with the demand.

Here are just some of the reports on Loss of Brain Trust from the past week:

One opinion piece blamed parents for the special education crisis in Britain. It focused on the struggles parents have getting services, and it cited AUTISM as a big part of the problem.

As readers of my previous columns will be aware, the government has belatedly recognised that the current system is beset with problems. It is adversarial and confrontational and regularly leaves parents facing debilitating David and Goliath battles with their local councils over Education Health & Care Plans (EHCPs) for their children.

These matter. They outline a child or teenager’s educational, health, and social care needs, and set out what is required to meet them up to the age of 25. And they are legally binding – particularly important when some British institutions look for any excuses not to do their jobs.

The number of appeals against local authority decisions with respect to these are rising.

Moreover, parents are winning at an astonishing rate: more than 95 per cent per Ministry of Justice statistics….

You might think that an “independent” report would recognise what is glaringly obvious: losing at that rate demonstrates there is clearly something going badly wrong with local authorities’ decision making.

You might also think that an “independent” report would further recognise that one condition – autism – accounts for close to half of them, and would underline that. You would be wrong.

Here’s what the British government has failed to address:

Slough: Dire predictions on the cost of special ed.

Slough’s school budget’s funding black hole could grow to £43.4m [$56M] in two years if no action is taken.

While the council itself is facing a 10-year £479m [$631M] funding gap as well as needing to reduce its £760m borrowing debt, its budget for its schools is also in trouble….

This is mainly due to the overspending in the high needs block, funds used to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

In chief finance officer Steven Mair’s report, he warns this deficit could increase to £43m [$56M] by 2024/25 if no action is taken.

Government-appointed commissioners, who have been sent in to help sort out the council’s situation, warned without improvement plans, “the overall financial situation of Slough Borough Council will worsen”….

“We’re not alone in this. It’s a lot of money across the country because everybody has basically been doing the same thing.”…

Suffolk County: Disabled children are not getting schooling.

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….

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.

…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. ...

…‘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”,…

Newham: The mayor is demanding that the council do more to help disabled children, despite $1.7M in special ed funding.

“I have listened to many testimonials of parents and carers who have been frustrated and profoundly affected by the council’s inadequacies in this vital provision for our young people with SEND needs. It’s been deeply upsetting listening to the experiences of many families who like me just want the best for their children….

The inspection team found many issues raised in the report were due to the Council’s historic failings to implement the SEND reforms when they were introduced in 2014. …

We’ve invested £1.3 million [$1.7M] annually in SEND provision at the council since 2018, increased the Children Services budget by 33 per cent; and injected £36 million [$47M] in an inclusive youth service provision since 2018, which has increased youth workers from three to 43.

“My role as Mayor is to champion people’s needs, so I will be demanding accelerated action from the council and other agencies to improve SEND services in Newham.

Doncaster: Hundreds of “people” in Doncaster are waiting for an autism diagnosis.

NHS Digital figures show approximately 315 adults and children referred to autism services in the NHS Doncaster CCG area were waiting for an assessment in December, up from around 240 in 2020….

Nationally, 88,000 people were waiting for an assessment in December – up from 64,000 in December 2020.

Tim Nicholls at the National Autistic Society, said the figures are "huge" and is worried people will have to wait months or even years for a diagnosis.

Blackburn: More kids have special needs.

A budget increase of £250,000 [$329K] for the previously approved Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)project at Shadsworth Infant School; and *a realignment of the budget for works associated to Sunnyhurst Centre and the relocation of Crosshill School.

A report by education boss Cllr Julie Gunn said: "The borough is seeing increased demand for alternative provision for those pupils for which a traditional mainstream education is not proving conducive to effective learning and positive outcomes.

"St Thomas Centre are seeking to expand provision to provide for an increased number of pupils for whom a vocational curriculum would support those pupils to gain key employability and life skills. …

"The Shadsworth Infant School SEND project was established with a budget allocation of £260,000 [$342K].

Liverpool: The local council is seeking “the views of interested parties on a plan to move and expand three special schools and a Pupil Referral Unit to create more places for children with additional needs.”

There has been a 46 per cent rise in the number of young people on Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) since 2019, with many parents expressing a preference for special schools in the city.

…By moving sites, it will be able take more children, including those with Autism, some of whom are currently taught outside of Liverpool. …

“Too many of our young people with special educational needs are being educated outside of the city, or in placements in the independent sector, which are costing us £10 million [$13M] per year.

Kendall: Expanding special needs services.

A MULTI-MILLION-POUND package of investment is to allow a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school in Kendal to expand its satellite site.

The £5 million [$6.6M] funding for Sandgate School was agreed by a meeting of the county council's cabinet this morning….

Expansion of its QKS campus will enable all of Sandgate's secondary-age pupils to be educated on the same site and increase the overall capacity of the school to 120….

Somerset: Plans for 10 residential homes for children.

Ten new children's homes will be delivered across the county by 2026.

Young people with special needs living near the Mendip Hills will soon be able to be cared for locally after plans were approved by district councils….

Councillor Bill Revans - who also sits on the county council - added: "This facility is hugely needed in Somerset. The number of our children that are accommodated outside of our county is eye-watering, and the cost of that is massive as well." After a short debate, the committee voted unanimously to approve the plans.

The county council's cabinet agreed in June 2021 that it would be creating up to ten new children's homes over a five-year period to combat the rising cost of residential placements for children in care. A total of £3million [$4M] from the council's capital programme has been committed to delivering these new homes, each of which will have no more than four children living there to ensure care can be "personalised and individually tailored"…

Wales: Special education expansion.

Bridgend County Borough Council is to ask for views on plans that could provide Heronsbridge School with all-new premises as part of a potential £25m [$33M] investment into special needs education for children and young people.

Faced with ageing premises at the existing site on Ewenny Road and increasing demand for extra spaces, the council is developing proposals that could see the school relocate to an all-new purpose-built facility in the Island Farm area capable of accommodating 300 pupils….

In terms of available space, the operating capacity for the current Heronsbridge School is supposed to be 180 places, but in reality, the school is already providing important services for 236 pupils….

Horncastle: Plans are in the works to double the size of a local special school.

Plans to expand a Horncastle special needs school and nearly double its capacity have been submitted to Lincolnshire County Council.

It is part of an £86 million [$113M] investment in special needs schools across the county and will see pupil numbers increase from 80 to around 150….

A report to the authority’s planning department said: “Horncastle St Lawrence has experienced significant growth over the last few years; consultations for school places regularly exceed place availability and the school has been required to accept students beyond their physical capacity to ensure they can be educated locally.

“The new build premises at Horncastle St Lawrence would provide suitable accommodation for 150 children and young people with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) who require specialist provision and reside in the Horncastle area….

Council bosses hope work will be able to start in Autumn 2022.

Swansea: Officials struggle to keep special needs students in school.

New ways of helping pupils with severe social, emotional and behavioural difficulties are being explored by education chiefs in Swansea.

Only 7% of young people with these difficulties, including those who have been excluded from schools, have returned to mainstream education since 2016.

…The 2016 shake-up led to the creation of the Maes Derw pupil referral unit in Cockett, which opened last year.

Maes Derw currently has 117 pupils on its roll, with most of them also registered with a mainstream school.

A report before a council scrutiny panel said attendance, exclusions and part-time provision at the £9.6 million [$13M] [facility "are all areas than can be improved"….

But it said there was a higher number of young people with long-term social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder with challenging behaviours.

And that in turn was putting pressure on the council's principle of reintegrating them back into mainstream education. The report said the council's child and family services department was providing extensive support for Maes Derw, which has 158 available places and a £2.6 million [$3.4M] annual budget. …

The council, meanwhile, is reviewing specialist teaching facilities at mainstream schools with the aim of increasing provision and support for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder.

  1. Didsbury: Secondary school adds autism facility.

A secondary school in East Didsbury is soon to have access to new facilities as a significant development programme commences.

Funded by Manchester City Council and the Salford Diocese, a £1 million [$1.3M] building programme will begin at The Barlow in April 2022 to further enhance facilities.

The project will include the creation of a new Resourced Provision - a specialist base for pupils aged 12-15 diagnosed with autism.

Kent: The local council is offering “training” for parents/carers of kids with autism/ADHD

Parents and carers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) sometimes need additional support and advice through online training or workshops.

Usually this training is free through charities or support services, where they tend to focus on specific SEND needs, or to help others to understand more about the world of SEND.

Sheffield: They can’t build special schools fast enough to keep up with demand.

SEND provision in Sheffield is 'under significant pressure' and 'maxed-out' according to the city counciltime.

Two new special schools opening in Sheffield are already oversubscribed – with an additional 300 school places needed in coming years.

In the last few years, 214 additional special school places have been created for pupils who are disabled or have special needs. A further 116 places are in the pipeline with the two new special schools. Nexus Multi Academy Trust is opening in September 2022.

Discovery Academy will be based at Norfolk Park for children aged seven to 16. And Wellspring Academy Trust is opening a further special school in September 2023.

But council officers say more needs to be done. Officer Nicola Shearstone said: “ SEND is under significant pressure. We’re developing 50 places but that’s nowhere near enough.

We’ve already developed over 200 places in the last few years, that’s about a 20 per cent increase on what we already had, and yet provision of places remains a significant challenge.

“This challenge is reflected nationally – the number of children in specialist settings has risen by 27 per cent since 2014 and continues to increase.

Witham: The British home secretary visited a school for autistic children.

A NEW state-of-the-art school designed to support children with special needs has received a visit from Home Secretary Priti Patel…

Chatten Free School is part of the Hope Learning Community Trust and is dedicated to working with children and young people who are severely affected by autism and social learning difficulties.

Finally, despite ever more stories about more special places needed for ever-increasing numbers of disabled children, especially those on the autism spectrum, a story from Wirral was all about a local charity which would be “celebrating Autism Acceptance Month throughout April.”

I think the more appropriate title would be Autism Surrender Month.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.


Angus Files

I remember when our boy was youngster now aged 24,some of the UK writers on here would attend protests for better awareness, against cuts in school budgets .Councils who wanted the monies for their own pet projects such as locally an airport which no poor person is ever going to afford never mind take your autistic child on not even if you paid them. We would organise a protest outside the Council buildings make our banners and made them listen and boy did the ones in power resent us bringing Ing bad publicity to their door. Physical support John coming up from London to my petition .Myself going down to support the MMR litigation involving Dr Wakefiedl et-al`s evidence in London a few times. Attending marches in Aberdeen, Glasgow etc. Nowadays I don’t see the parents protests anymore or much of anything ,Times have changed I know and what we did didn’t seem to be enough to stop the carnage,but we fight on.

Thanks Anne great records you have there.

Pharma For Prison


Bob Moffit

Ain"t gonna end until rhey find and identify the cause … VACCINES

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