Updated with Government Press Statement
Inspire Special Free School, the only Free School in Medway, based in Chatham, has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED following an Inspection in January, less than two years after opening. You will find the full headlines of the Report later on in this article.
The then struggling Silverbanks Centre, a Pupil Referral Unit, was broken up into two parts in September 2014, following an OFSTED Inspection that failed the Unit, judging it to have Serious Weaknesses. Inspire, which was set up as a Free School strongly supported by Medway Council, and currently catering for 37 children with social, emotional or mental health needs has failed spectacularly, with leadership and management at all levels judged inadequate and a highly qualified governing body not fully understanding the issues faced by these same leaders, nor recognising that the quality of teaching and learning has declined.
Broomhill Bank ......
UPDATE 19 March in main article.
The first of three main reasons being put forward for the closure of this special school for high functioning children suffering from Autistic Spectrum Disorder is that parents have asked the Council to develop mainstream provision rather than further provision in Special schools. This assertion appears now to have been discredited for KCC has been unable to provide evidence for the claim and KCC’s Corporate Director of Education has now acknowledged that there is well-evidenced increased demand for Special School places.
The key problem that parents have had responding to the Consultation is the consistent failure of KCC to answer the central questions about the proposal to close. I have the same frustration and formally requested the answers to 11 questions from Mr Leeson, questions that are also being asked by parents at meetings and in writing. Sadly, his reply to me only answered three of these. The ‘Kent On Sunday’ newspaper also asked the same questions with little success. What is the point of a Consultation where the key facts are being hidden from parents, and can it really be regarded as legitimate?
This rather lengthy article explores the powerful case for keeping the Furness School open, albeit under a different name, and yet again exposes the failures of KCC over its mismanagement of the whole issue………
I am very disappointed there has been no response from KCC to my previous article on Furness School, considering the important issues of finance and integrity it raises. Neither has there been even an acknowledgment of my formal request for the evidence supporting the unlikely assertion that parents of high functioning ASD children are spurning Special School places in favour of Units attached to mainstream schools, critical to the closure proposal, but completely ignored in the closure Consultation document.
The failure of the Local Authority to carry out a proper Equality Impact Assessment, according to the Equality Act, places the whole closure proposal in legal jeopardy.
I have now written the following letter to Mr Patrick Leeson, KCC Corporate Director of Education and Children's Services:
Dear Mr Leeson,
Like me, you must be both concerned and embarrassed by the two mutually contradictory documents produced by KCC Officers about the future of Furness School, accompanied by the failure to produce an adequate and legal equality impact assessment.
The situation is made much worse by the fact that the first of the two documents, the Complete Proposal for the re designation of Furness as a Special School for high functioning ASD children left out crucial information whose absence will have misled KCC Education and Children's Services Cabinet Committee members and would surely have affected their decision to approve the proposal. In particular, the financial crisis that is the prime factor behind the proposed closure of the school just seven months later, would have been starkly evident back in July and so should certainly have been presented to members to make a reasoned decision, whereas there is no mention of finances whatsoever.
My immediate concern is that parents have been invited to a meeting to discuss the consultation document on 24th February, and are surely entitled to answers to the following questions to enable them to understand the issues. Many of the issues are amplified in my article, which I am sure has already been referred to you as a matter of grave concern………
CONSIDERABLY UPDATED WITH CORRECTIONS ARISING FROM FEEDBACK: 10TH FEBRUARY
Kent County Council has announced a Consultation on the closure of Furness School in Hextable. This is a scandal at the conclusion of four years of mismanagement by KCC, ending with a consultation that is a classic in misdirection. I wrote a previous article in 2012 entitled “Is this the most damning Kent OFSTED Report ever? Furness School”, which has set the scene for this denouement three years later.
Much of KCC’s argument for closure is false, based on two false premises, firstly that pupil numbers are low and getting lower, and secondly that education standards are low and not improving, as evidenced by the poor OFSTED Reports.
The school was redesignated to provide for high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children (ASD) last September, replacing Behavioural, Emotional and Social Disorder (BESD). This year, ASD numbers are already 22 including an unspecified number of high functioning children (rather an important detail I would have thought), with BESD just 8, and new admissions discouraged or prohibited for much of the second half of 2012 for two years. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the trend in ASD is upwards, whilst BESD numbers would soon become insignificant.
I find it difficult to know where to start to pick my way through the complexities that have led to the KCC decision to close the school, but the article that follows attempts to cast the story in a historical perspective……
Kent County Council is shortly to introduce an SEN and Disability Strategy seeking to improve and re-focus the provision of school places for children with Statements of Special Education Need (SSEN) and to raise standards of performance. This article looks at the Council's plans to increase the number of places in Special Schools and Specialist Resource Based Units by at least 275 children over the next four years. KCC has already published a Commissioning Plan that sets out its SEN provision needs, recognising an increase in the number of children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders), SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties); and BESN (Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs) across the county, putting great pressure on current provision. This article is based on that plan, and was reproduced in a slightly abbreviated form in Kent on Sunday on 24th January.....
Kent County Council is introducing an SEN and Disability Strategy seeking to improve and re-focus the provision of school places for children with Statements of Special Education Need (SSEN) and to raise standards of performance. This article looks at its plans to increase the number of places in Special Schools and Specialist Resource Based Units by at least 275 over the next four years. The strategy recognises an increase in the number of children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders), SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties); and BESN (Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs) across the county, putting great pressure on current provision.
Of some 6,500 Kent pupils currently with SSEN, around 3000 are in Special Schools, and 800 in Units. Most of the remainder are supported in mainstream schools. In total, these children comprise some 2.8% of the school population, but take up around 20% of the county direct school education budget.
Over half of the places in Special Schools are for children with Profound, Severe and Complex Needs, most of which have recently expanded to take in around 250 extra children in total.
Kent is now proposing a further expansion of 275 places for ASD, SLCN and BESN in Special Schools and Units.......
This page is now out of date as Statements of SEN are being replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans
I will be updating this page as soon as I am able
Last updated: 26 Jan 2011
Special Schools in Kent catering for children with Moderate Learning Needs are being phased out and are admitting no further children. In Kent there has been an increase in places for children with behavioural or social difficulties which has seen numbers maintained.
Special Schools in Kent cater for the following types of Learning Needs: Behaviour & Learning (B&L); Behaviour, Emotional & Social Needs (BESD); Communication & Interaction Needs (including Autism) (C&I); Physical Disability/Medical Needs (PD/MED); and Profound, Severe and Complex Needs (PSCN).
Parents of children with Statements of Special Education Need have the right to apply for any type of appropriate educational establishment. KCC will decide if the child fits the criteria for a particular Special School, and if there is room to offer a place. Some children travel considerable distance to attend particular Special Schools. If the Local Authority is not willing to name parents' desired school on the Statement, you have the right to appeal to HESC, but will need good reasons to justify your case.You will find some relevant statistics here.
There is information on Individual Special Schools here.
This page is now out of date as Statements of SEN have been replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans
I have made some updates, but recommend you seek assistance from one or more of the organisations below.
You will find considerable information and advice at: Information Advice and Support Kent including their Guide to Exclusions and Partnership with Parents, the well respected national Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA). IPSEA also offer specialist help at tribunal for parents seeking an EHCP.
Children have special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.
Children have a learning difficulty if they:
a) have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age; or
(b) have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the local education authority
(c) are under compulsory school age and fall within the definition at (a) or (b) above or would so do if special educational provision was not made for them.
Children must not be regarded as having a learning difficulty solely because the language or form of language of their home is different from the language in which they will be taught.
Special educational provision means:
(a) for children of two or over, educational provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children of their age in schools maintained by the LEA, other than special schools, in the area
(b) for children under two, educational provision of any kind.
A child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from a mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently impaired by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed. A person has a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to day activities.
From this one can see that a child is not entitled to Special Educational Need support unless he (or she) has a learning difficulty which is not the case for all disabled children.
IN SUMMARY, UNLESS YOU CAN DEMONSTRATE THAT YOUR CHILD'S LEARNING IS BEING DAMAGED BY HIS DISABILITY, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CLAIM PROVISON FOR ANY SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEED
Most children with Special Educational Needs are educated in mainstream schools, some of those with Statements are in Special Schools and some in SEN Units attached to mainstream schools.There is considerable debate over which type of institution is best for which children, with political and educational views changing over the past few decades. Kent is no stranger to these debates and is currently in the middle of Reviews of Special Education Services, Special Schools and SEN Units.There are separate pages for Special Schools and SEN Units.
- MENCAP also published an excellent advice website, and you will find many other sources on the Internet, including Network 81.
- I regret I am currently unable to offer professional advice on SEN issues for two main reasons: firstly, the legislation and rules are changing so rapidly, that I am finding it impossible to spend the time to keep up. Secondly, for many parents, the gaining of statements and support when these are resisted is becoming so time consuming, and in some cases confrontational, that I consider I am unable to devote the time necessary to offer a professional service. Sadly, this may say more about the complexity of issues than about myself.
- New policies on inclusion mean that many children who would once have been given Statements of Special Need or offered places at Special Schools no longer qualify. The relevant Special Needs funds have now been delegated to schools which have freedom to use them for other purposes.
- Many schools operate excellent polices to support pupils; others do not give the same priority. Parents often report great difficulty in securing proper support for their children. for Special Education Needs below the level of the Statement, provision is by agreement between school and parent. you should be prepared to press the school to secure the support you need, although parents are in a weak position as the school controls provision.
- There is practical free local advice and support for families in the Canterbury and coastal area from Special Needs Advisory and Activities Project.
- The Kent Special Needs budget is now 17% of the education budget, so Kent County Council is under pressure to keep this within limits.
- Kent is in the process of reorganising its Special School and specialist Provision, so that some children with moderate learning difficulties, who would previously have found places in Special Schools, are now bound for mainstream schools, who sometimes have neither the specialist resources or the capability to support them properly. Such children can also be a strain on other children in the class, so all are unable to learn effectively. However, a recent OFSTED report shows that a mainstream school can be best for most children with SEN if it operates effective policies. You can read this here
- Please refer to section on Exclusions for behavioural issues.
The issue of "inclusion" is a key political debate in educational circles. In 1978, Baroness Warnock wrote a massively influential Paper, arguing that children with SEN should increasingly benefit from inclusion in Mainstream Schooling, a policy which has gained ground ever since, until earlier in 2010, when she retracted her original views, looking at the harm the policy has done to many (but not all) children with severe SEN. A Paper by the Left Wing Bow Group, SEN: the Truth About Inclusion, probably written in 2009, contains a factual indictment of the policy. Some of the data it quotes are as follows:
On Statements and Special School Places:
Around 9000 places at special schools have been lost
The number of statements and assessments issued for children with SEN have fallen by over a third
Children on ‘School Action Plus’ schemes, which are replacing statements are twice as likely as other children with SEN to truant.
A fifth of all children of School Action Plus are persistent Truants.
Special Educational Needs pupils make up the majority of pupils expelled from school at 67%, though they comprise only 17% of the school population
SEN pupils are more likely to be suspended more than once in a year. Out of the 78,600 pupils who were excluded more than once in a single year, half (49.7%) were SEN pupils.
For the first time, this year over half of all suspensions from secondary school are pupils with Special Educational Needs (55%)
On SEN and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs):
Over half of pupils are suspended from PRUs — nearly three quarters have Special Educational Needs
Two thirds (66%) of all SEN pupils at PRUs end up being suspended
Special Educational Needs pupils in Pupil Referral Units has risen by 70% since 1997 On Parental choice:
Around 83% of the increase in Independent School numbers over the last ten years are children with SEN.
Over half all appeals are against a local authority’s decision not to assess or statement a child.
We conclude that whilst inclusion in mainstream school is very beneficial for some children with SEN, these figures are a compelling argument for an urgent systemic review of the Government’s ‘inclusion’
policy, particularly focusing on the failures of the School Action Plus scheme and support David Cameron’s call for a moratorium on the closure of special schools until a review of the statementing
process has taken place.
The Policy of Inclusion has been followed in some Local Authorities to the extent of near 100% Inclusion. Parts of KCC, but not the political leadership have tended to support this policy, which saw the abortive SEN Unit Review attempt to phase out all Units, so that the children they previously catered for would be forced into mainstream whether or not this was suitable for them.
The Audit Commission has carried out several Review of SEN provision in schools, coming from the perspective of whether provision is good value for money. An early paper (2001) states: "Most of the parents we met said they ‘had to fight’ to have their child’s needs assessed. This was often linked to a perception that the LEA did not want to pay more for their child". I believe in this aspect little has changed except that the perception may be incorrect, in that KCC does attempt to give a priority to the needs of children with SEN.