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Kent Lacks Special School Places Finds Report

April 23, 2013

Children with special needs in Kent are not getting the necessary support, according to a new report from the county council.

The report said there was a lack of spaces in mainstream schools, children travelled “considerable distances” and there were assessment delays.

Kent County Council said an extra 650 places at special needs schools would be created over the next three years.

Kent Parents as Equal Partners said staff needed to have more training.

The Kent County Council draft strategy for children with special educational needs, said: “In many schools, pupils with special educational needs do not make good enough progress and there are wide achievement gaps between them and other learners.”

It said some children were being transported “considerable distances”, and it cost the council £17m each year to get 4,000 pupils to specialist schools and units.

‘Travel too far’

Patrick Leeson, director of education at Kent County Council, said: “We need to do more and we need to do better.

“It is an issue that children should not have to travel too far from home. There is a gap between the needs that we’ve got and the number of places.”

Of the 233,000 children in Kent schools, more than 6,500 are subject to a statement of special educational needs (SEN). Almost 23,000 children are registered disabled.

Kent County Council said more than 400 children went to independent and non-maintained schools because their needs could not be met by a local authority Kent school, with 40 going to schools outside the county.

The council runs 23 special schools and one academy.

‘Lack of resources’

Kent Parents as Equal Partners was set up in 2008 to help parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Debs Aspland, who has three children with special educational needs, said: “I think there’s a total lack of resources, and there has been a total lack of consultation with parents and children and young people themselves.

“I don’t think there is the staff cover and I don’t think there is the appropriate staff training.”

Mr Leeson said more children were being diagnosed with autism and emotional and behavioural needs.

He said: “We need to make sure there are more staff in mainstream schools who are better trained to meet those needs in any school as well as special schools.”

There will be 650 additional spaces at special schools, over the next three years, with money saved on transport costs being spent on specialist education, he said.

“Many children who have to go to schools outside the county, some on a residential basis, will no longer have to do that,” he added.

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