"As I was walkin' down the street one day...." It's April and precious little has changed, except for words & definitions and interpretations, and while sticks and stones might break out bones, words don't do much good at all.
By Anne Dachel
Is anything going right for kids with disabilities? It seems that special education is a lost cause, especially in schools in Britain.
The proof can be easily seen in the thousands of stories on LossOfBrainTrust.
Over the past five years I’ve compiled evidence of a massive and unrelenting decline in education standards and special needs services in the U.K. Billions of pounds have gone in the system, but it’s never enough.
A “long-awaited” special education reform plan, commissioned in 2019, has just been released, and it was immediately slammed as inadequate, despite appropriating $12B more for high needs students and another $3.4B to add more special needs places in mainstream and special schools.
In addition, the plan will train 5.000 more teachers to do early intervention, and it allocates $13M to train over 200 more educational psychologists starting next year.
A BBC report declared, ‘The system is broken,’ and with never-ending increases in the number of disabled students, it can’t be fixed.
Last year, 1.4 million pupils in England were identified as having special educational needs - the proportion has been growing since 2017.
Local counties are going broke providing for special needs students. Budgets are heavily in the red all over England.
The Evening Standard summed things up this way:
Teachers and parents today made an urgent call for more money to help fix the “broken” special educational needs system, as the government launched its plan for the future of the provision.
In a long-awaited review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the government said it will overhaul the system so children receive better help at school from an earlier stage, and includes plans to digitise paperwork.
But school leaders said the pandemic has caused a “staggering” increase in the number of children needing help, and more money is needed to tackle long waiting lists for services such as speech and language therapy and mental health….
Under the new reform plan, school systems are required to mainstream more disabled kids.
Councils would be legally required to set up “local inclusion plans” which would bring education and health services together, and make providers’ responsibilities clearer.
Councils would also have a new national framework to simplify funding for pupils and young people with SEND up to the age of 25.
The paper also proposes that mainstream schools need to become more inclusive and identify SEND needs earlier to improve support.
Local councils will receive funding IF they make significant changes to how they handle special education.
Surrey is a good example of the changes the national government wants to see.
Surrey County Council is to get a £100million government bailout in exchange for reforming its special educational needs provision. The council has overspent on its special educational needs and disabilities (Send) budget by a total of £118.4m [$155M] - higher than expected, with a £34.5 million [$45M] overspend in the year 2020/21 alone….
…the authority must improve the skills and capacity of staff in mainstream schools to support children with Send. The DfE said this was to “reduce the escalation of need and push to move from mainstream to specialist provision". A principle set out in its Send green paper out today (March 29) is that mainstream schools need to become more inclusive.
Councillor Jonathan Essex, who sits on Surrey's children select committee, said the need for a bailout shows "outsourcing is not the way to go". He said the council's deficit came about because the council did not provide maintained specialist places soon enough, instead having to fork out for more expensive private placements and the associated out of county transport.
Meanwhile the stories of neglect continue.
A 4 year old in England has been at home for the past 5 months after being permanently excluded due to violent behavior toward staff and other children. His mother is waiting for an autism diagnosis.
In East Sussex an autistic 7 year old has run away from school 82 times in 15 months, as reported in a piece that painted a dismal picture of handling special education in England
But if a child with SEN requires extra support costing £10,000 [$13,000] or more, an EHCP is required, so it can help identify and support a child’s educational, health and social needs.
For the academic year 2020/21, 325,600 pupils in England had an EHCP – up more than 30,000 from the previous year. But obtaining an EHCP is often easier said than done. I
In January 2021, according to support group Special Needs Jungle, 5,600 children and young people with EHCPs were listed as ‘awaiting provision’, with some waiting months, even years, to get the education that they are entitled to.
One parent summed it up this way: ‘The whole system is rotten.’
In Hampshire County, special ed numbers have more than doubled in six years, and special needs places are in ‘high demand.’
A story from Warwickshire in central England had this to say about how bad things are for kids needing help.
Figures acquired under the Freedom of Information Act show that 2,835 autistic children referrals at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust have still not had a first appointment an average of 88 weeks after being referred. The longest wait at the time the response was sent in January stood at 251 weeks – nearly five years.
Meanwhile, 1,250 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) referrals at the trust have yet to have a first appointment, having waited an average of 46 weeks – and 195 weeks in the worst case. Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust has 2,801 autistic children referrals still awaiting their first appointment after 60 weeks on average.
Among the 2,443 children with ADHD referrals – who have waited an average of 87 weeks for a first appointment – the longest wait stands at 193 weeks or nearly four years.
The local government try to assure people things will improve.
A spokesman for Coventry and Warwickshire CCG said: “We acknowledge that our waiting times, particularly for autism and ADHD assessments, are longer than we want. We are investing £5.4m [$7.1M] in additional diagnostic capacity.”…
Despite the unexplained, unstoppable presence of autism in schools across the U.K., members of the media, officials and educators are also calling on the public to “celebrate” “World Autism Acceptance Day” as we’re told in a number of stories.
The message to the public is clear, no matter how often you hear about the cost and increases surrounding autism, it’s really nothing to worry about.
There’s one side note from the U.S. that signaled there might be a problem here. A piece from PBS/NPR covered the fact that there are lots of kids in America who are on waiting lists, just like in Britain, for an autism diagnosis. And we’re further told that even after a diagnosis, a child might wait months or even longer for actual treatment. Medicaid is unreliable and many families don’t have insurance.
This, of course, is the future. Waiting lists and delays because there are just too many kids that no one can reasonably explain.