By Anne Dachel
As anyone looking at LossOfBrainTrust can see, the majority of my stories are from Britain and Ireland currently. Things are in crisis all over the British Isles. Everywhere there’s more funding for special education. Counties are building their own special schools, specifically ones for kids with autism.
Official evaluations show schools are failing miserably when it comes to addressing the needs of those in special education. Story after story features special needs kids without a school place for this fall. Children wait years just for an evaluation to be classified as needing special help in school.
The phrase “increasing demand” is a regular feature in news coverage on special education in both Ireland and Britain.
What do these stories tell us? Simple, there are more and more disabled children in these countries. It’s not a secret. They keep telling us about it.
“That’s more than 6,000 children in our mainstream schools on stage two of the SEND code of practice and around 3,000 with EHCPs….
CBC’s director of children services Sarah-Jane Smedmor said: “We’ve seen that demand for EHCPs double in the last few years. So it’s inevitable we need to ensure we meet the needs of our children individually.
Also from Bedfordshire:
Parents to protest lack of special ed services.
They lined up 52 pairs of shoes outside the building in September, one for each child without a place for the start of the academic year….
The Central Bedfordshire SEND action group is planning the protest and inviting families and their friends to attend.
Council chiefs say there has been an "unprecedented rise" in demand for specialist education - and there will be a need for hundreds more school places in the years ahead. Suffolk County Council has carried out an analysis of the first part of its multi-million-pound plan to improve SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) education across the county but admits there are still not enough places to keep up with the current needs with demand up more than 32%.
…the need is increasing every week.
They said: "Suffolk has seen an unprecedented rise in requests for placements within Specialist Settings with the Special Education Panel seeing between 60-120 new referrals on a weekly basis. When comparing autumn and spring terms over the past two academic years, the number of requests has gone up by over 32%....
If the current trend continues, another 230 places will be needed by 2023-24 over what is currently being created….
The council has already agreed - and is implementing - a £45million [$55M] project to expand SEND education and create 874 new specialist education placements.
A new 60-place primary special school could be given the financial sign-off when civic chiefs meet today. Funding for the new school is one of several initiatives that could benefit from an extra £1.5m [$1.8M] in funding.
The new special school in Stroud will support 60 children aged four to 11 with moderate and additional learning difficulties in the school building formerly occupied by Severn View Primary Academy. …
Council leaders say there is an increasing demand in Gloucestershire for special school places,…
Families are waiting more than three years to get help for children with special education needs and disabilities in Kirklees, an inspection has found. …
A joint Ofsted/CQC inspection over five days in February this year found lengthy waiting times for key health services ranging from 90 weeks for autistic spectrum disorder to 194 weeks - more than three years - for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Charlie, 19, from Launton, has been out of school for eight years. He was diagnosed with autism, aged eight, and found mainstream school overwhelming.
His mother Sharon said: 'We were left in limbo. It was like we just dropped off the face of the Earth. …
"Ours isn't an isolated case, unfortunately. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of families being failed." …
"There aren't enough places in special schools, but also the provision in mainstream is not really supporting the children adequately….
A new school for 80 secondary age children is to be built in Bury in the next year.
Planning approval has been granted in the past week for the two-storey SEND school …
“The proposal will provide much needed SEND facilities catering more specifically to children with autism and mild behavioural needs aged 11-16 years.” …
Earlier this month, Bury Council said it was seeking proposals from education trusts to open another new special school in Bury.
MLA Pat Sheehan made the call after a report revealed that 300 children with special educational needs are without a school place for September. He described the report as "deeply concerning".
He said: "Given the yearly increase in the number of children with special educational needs, the education minister should have prepared and planned for this eventuality.
Over 300 children with a statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) are without a school place for this September, including 91 who are waiting for a place in a special school and 202 that are seeking places in a mainstream school. …
More than 22,000 pupils in Northern Ireland currently have a statement of SEN, according to statistics from the Department of Education.
The Education Authority (EA) has said there has been a "significant rise" in demand for special school places
Every day 15,500 children have to travel outside their local school-catchment area;
Nearly 1,500 students who cannot get a school place are receiving home tuition, which “should only be used as it was intended – as a last-resort measure and temporarily”;
Around 4,000 children are waiting for a diagnostic assessment in order to qualify for a school place….
With around 25pc of pupils estimated to have SEN – including 1.6pc, or one in every 65 students, who have autism – the OCO predicts the situation will worsen unless proactive steps are taken.
Responding, the Tánaiste said there are more children with special needs in school than ever before. ...
He said 1,800 extra places in 312 special education classes are needed this year and that has exceeded the Department of Education's projections. …
"25% of the entire budget of the Department of Education, €2.5 billion is now expended on special education and rightly so," she said.
"The special education teachers now number more than 14,000, 19,000 Special Needs Assistants and 315 special classes will open this year, the 2022-23 school year, providing for 1,800 students. …
She told the Dáil that it is estimated there are "nearly 270 children in Ireland without a school place for this coming September", with "many more" waiting for a diagnostic assessment to allow them qualify for a school place.
Despite these dismal stories about the pathetic state of special education currently, many are oblivious to what it all means.
Two stories from Ireland stood out to me.
One was about a school where the principal is determined to create “a neurodiversity friendly school.”
(Of course with 25 percent of students in Ireland having special needs, according to official statistics, every school will have to be “neurodiversity friendly.”)
Another story announced the opening of an autism unit in a school in Galway. What got my attention was the photo of four ladies celebrating by opening a bottle of champagne.
I’m sure their intentions are laudable and this is a much needed addition to the school, but the fact is that Ireland is drowning in autism. A story from June 8th revealed that kids in Ireland wait 4 to 5 years just for an autism diagnosis.
Stories from Ireland/Britain are only going to get more depressing. Eventually the money will run out, but the statistics will only increase.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.