Closed petition Fund more specialist school places for children with special educational needs

The lack of spaces in specialist schools in parts of the country like the North East is affecting so many vulnerable children and their families. Specialist schools say they’re full, how can the authorities not think something is seriously wrong and insist these children go to mainstream school?

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The Government is not funding enough specialist schools provision. It must fix the broken education system and the severe lack of special needs teachers, teaching assistants and schools. These children need our help and the support of a government that understands its duty of care to them. Specialist schools up and down this country are overworked, understaffed and full, and children are unable to receive the education and support they so desperately need and deserve.

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Government responded

This response was given on 20 January 2023

The Government is investing £2.6 billion between 2022 and 2025 to support local authorities to deliver new high needs places in mainstream and special schools, as well as other specialist settings.

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The £2.6 billion investment in high needs provision announced in October 2022 represents a significant, transformational investment in new high needs provision, and will help fulfil the government’s 2019 manifesto commitment to deliver additional places for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or who require alternative provision (AP).

As part of this funding commitment, in March 2022, we announced High Needs Provision Capital Allocations amounting to over £1.4 billion of new investment. This funding is to support local authorities (LAs) to deliver new places for academic years 2023/24 and 2024/25 and improve existing provision for children and young people with SEND or who require AP.

This funding follows investment of £300 million in financial year 2021-22 and £365m between 2018 and 2021.

LAs in the North East have received allocations totalling £11.7 million in 2021-22, £25.6 million in 2022-23 and £31.1 million in 2023-24. They also received £12.5 million between 2018 and 2021.

High Needs Provision Capital Allocations for 2021 to 2024 are published at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-needs-provision-capital-allocations. SEND provision capital funding allocations for 2018 to 2021 are published at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-provision-capital-funding-for-pupils-with-ehc-plans.

Starting from Summer 2023 we will, for the first time, be collecting data from LAs on available capacity in special schools, SEN units and resourced provision, along with corresponding forecasts of demand for these places. This data will help the Department to more effectively support LAs to fulfil their statutory duty to provide sufficient specialist places.

In addition to the direct allocations to LAs, we have committed to delivering up to 60 special and AP free schools. This is in addition to the 90 open special free schools that already exist, including in Darlington, Middlesborough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Sunderland, as well as the 48 special free schools in the pipeline, including a further two schools in the North East.

The 2022 special free school application wave launched in June 2022, and the window for applications from LAs wishing to apply for a new special free school in their area closed on 21 October 2022. We received four applications from LAs based in the North East. These were in: Darlington, Middlesborough, Newcastle-upon Tyne, and South Tyneside. Further details of these applications can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/special-free-schools-local-authority-applications/local-authority-applications-to-open-a-special-free-school-2022

Applications are now being assessed, with successful LAs due to be announced in early 2023. Following this announcement, we will then invite proposer groups to submit applications to run new special free schools in the successful LA areas.

When it comes to identifying suitable provision for children and young people with SEND, the Children and Families Act 2014 permits a child’s parents or (from age 16) the young person to request that a certain school or other setting be named in their Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

The local authority must secure that the EHCP names the school or other institution specified in the request, unless the school or other institution requested is unsuitable for the age, ability, aptitude or special educational needs of the child or young person concerned, or the attendance of the child or young person at the requested school or other institution would be incompatible with the provision of efficient education for others, or the efficient use of resources. If one of those reasons above applies, the LA must secure that the plan names a school or other institution which the LA thinks would be appropriate for the child or young person, or specifies the type of school or other institution which the local authority thinks would be appropriate for the child or young person.

The number of teachers remains high, with over 465,500 (FTE) working in state-funded schools across the country – over 24,000 more than in 2010. However, we recognise more needs to be done to ensure teaching remains an attractive, high-status profession. Teacher retention is key to ensuring effective teacher supply and quality in all schools, including special schools. We are taking action to support teachers to stay in the profession and thrive. The Department has published a range of resources to help address teacher workload and wellbeing and support schools to introduce flexible working practices, including the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/education-staff-wellbeing-charter), which we are encouraging schools and colleges to sign up to, and the DfE school workload reduction toolkit (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/school-workload-reduction-toolkit) which, developed alongside school leaders, is a helpful resource for schools that we know can enable them to reduce workload and improve staff wellbeing, as shown in the report by the Education Development Trust (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teacher-workload-education-development-trust-report).

Alongside our continued investment in high needs, the Government remains committed to ensuring a financially sustainable system where resources are effectively targeted to need. We are committed to publishing a full response to the SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) green paper in an improvement plan early in the new year. We will continue to support the system in the immediate term to deliver change and continue to improve the experience and outcomes for children and young people with SEND and those who need AP.

Department for Education