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Displaying items by tag: statement - Kent Independent Education Advice
Saturday, 25 May 2013 08:08

What a difference three days makes

Took three days holiday this week in gap caused by half-term between preparing clients for appeals. Naturally there was a sudden outbreak of news including the following, some of which I will cover over the next couple of days:

1) Judd School announces it is considering setting up its own 11 plus tests for 2015 entry.

2) Judd school confirms no successful appeals this year.

3) Two new proposed Free Schools announced for opening in 2014 if approved. Jubilee Primary, in Maidstone, will be run by  Jubilee Church. Also the INSPIRE Special Free School will initially have 40 places and be based next to Silverbank Park in Churchill Avenue. Medway Council has worked in partnership with three schools in submitting the bid to the Department for Education: Willimaosn School Trust; Bradfields Special School; and Greenacre School. I don;t have any further details yet.

4) Kent County Council has begun its consultation on the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School satellite

5) The usual assassins keep putting the boot into the Trinity Christian Free  School on the 11 plus website (not sure what it has to do with the 11 plus!) proposed for the same site

6) An OFSTED for Dame Janet Primary Academy in Ramsgate. formed out of Dame Janet Junior and Dame Janet Infants (failed OFSTED) receives shocking OFSTED  showing that  becoming an Academy is not the solution for everyone.

7) KCC to debate unacceptable delays in preparing Statements of Special Education Need. It is claimed that these are down to failures by the medical services to provide timely appropriate evdence. 

Published in Peter's Blog
There has been considerable debate about the article I wrote for Kent on Sunday, based on figures I  found through FOI, for the very high number of Kent children permanently excluded, especially those with Statements of Special Education Need. The BBC 1 Politics Show for viewers in the South East (not London) is featuring the issue on Sunday at 11 a.m., including.......
Published in News Archive
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 00:00

Kent & Medway SEN Statistics

Last updated: August 2015

Please note that there are discrepancies between some of these tables, as some area cross calender years, some academic years and some decisions run from one year to the next.

Pattern of application for statements in Kent: Calendar Years 2010 - 2014

The remainder of the data in the two tables immediately below are waiting on a Freedom of Information request.

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Requests for a statutory assessment of SEN
Statutory assessments carried out 905
New Statements of SEN or EHC Plans issued 195
% of primary School pupils with statement
% of secondary school pupils with statement

Pattern of application for statements in Medway: Calendar Years 2010 - 2014

  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Requests for a statutory assessment of SEN        
Statutory assessments carried out         880
New Statements of SEN or EHC Plans issued         190
% of primary School pupils with statement  
% of secondary school pupils with statement  

  

Children with Statements of SEN or EHC Plans in Kent and Medway, based on where child attends school as of 1st January 

2013 2014 2015
Total
Pupils
Pupils with
Statements
%
Total
Pupils
Pupils with
Statements
%
Total
Pupils
Statements
EHC
Plans
Total %
ENGLAND  8,249,800 230,155 2.79  233,430 235,980 4,205 240,185
SOUTH
EAST
 1,336,155
38,130
 2.85
38,815
39,190
655
39,845
KENT  235,320 6,270  2.66 6,450 6,655 230 6,885
MEDWAY  44,413 1,410  3.17 1,410 1,415 85 1,500

 

New Statements & EHC plans Issued during Calendar Year (Government data) 

2012 2013 2014
Statements
Statements
Statements
EHC Plans
Total
England 28,635 29,110 25,780 1,360 27,140
South East 4,895 4,600 4,350 235 4,585
Kent 885 790 795 85 880
Medway 120 125 125 65 190

 

Children assessed for Statements or EHC Plans Calendar Year 2014

 
Total children assessed
for SEN during 2014
Children assessed for
whom no statement was issued
Total New Statements
or  EHC Plans
  Number Number % Number %
England  28,190  1,,050  3.7 27140  96.3
South East  4,695  110  2.3  4,585  97.7
Kent  905  25  3.0  880  97.0
Medway  195  5  1.0  190  99.0

% of children with statements or EHC Plans on 1st January 2015 by each type of provision

% of children with statements or EHC Plans on 1st January 2015 by each type of provision
 
SEN Units
 
Mainstream
Academies &
Free Schools
Special Schools
Academy & Free School
Special Schools
Non-Maintained Schools
including Special Schools
Hospital Schools
& Pupil Referral Units
Educated Other
Than in School
Awaiting
Provision
England 2.1 32.7  15.9 34.5 5.7 6.5 0.5 1.0 0.4
South East     2.8 30.5  13.1 37.0 5.3 8.4 0.4 1.3 0.8
Kent 6.2 25.1  8.5 48.1 X 8.1 0.3 1.2 1.9
Medway 8.3 7.3  26.1 26.3 20.2 8.3 0.0 2.2 2.3

 

Percentage of Statements Issued within 26 weeks of assessment

There are certain cases which are defined as exceptions, and are not required to be completed within 26 weeks of assessment. These are also shown in the tble below

% Excluding Exceptions % Including Exceptions
2013 2014 2013 2014
England 89.7 89.0 81.8 79.1
South East 94.6 85.0 87.8 79.8
Kent 95.6 90.4 92.2 84.7
Medway 98.0 85.7 90.2 77.0

 

From the above tables, it is clear that Kent has a much higher proportion of children in Special provision than the national  norm, reflecting its commitment to such provision. Medway appears to have a higher proportion than the norm who successfully follow an assessment through to a statement and a much higher percentage of children in SEN Units in mainstream schools than the national norm.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal

I am currently awaiting the results of two Freedom of Information Request to provide up to date data for the following two tables.

For 2012/3 appeals registered: nationally, there were 4.4 per 10,00 of school population; in the South East there were 6.2; in Kent there were 9.1 and in Medway 8.3. 

Appeal  Registered National Kent Medway
  Number
%
Number
%
Number
%
Against refusal to assess            
Against refusal to make a statement            
Against refusal to re-assess            
Against refusal to change name of school            
Against decision to cease to maintain statement  

 

 

     
Against school named in statement            
Against failure to name a school            
Against contents of the statement - parts 2 & or 3 (sometimes with 4)             
Against contents of the statement - part 4            
Total Appeals Registered            

 

Where decisions were reached by Tribunals, these were as follows.

Outcome Number of Decisions
  National Kent Medway
Dismiss Appeal      
Order LA to make and Maintain a Statement      
Remit Case to LA to Consider      
Order LA to continue to Maintain a Statement      
Order LA to cease to maintain a Statement      
Order LA to name parent's preferred school      
Order LA to make a reassessment      
Order LA to change School  named      
Uphold Part of Complaint      
Upheld Parts 2,3 & 4      
Upheld Part 4      
Appeal Struck Out      
Total      
Thursday, 27 May 2010 10:27

SEN Unit Review May 2010

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

 How has this chaos come about?  In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

 What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 09:17

Background to SEN Unit Review

The Kent SEN Unit Review was initiated in 2003, and scrapped in September 2010. It introduced a wholly misguided policy of closing Units to new admissions and setting up a system of Lead Mainstream Schools,  whic would fully integrate the children. KCC denies there was ever such a policy, but it was on their website until Autumn 2010, and i still have a copy. Sadly, the damage the policy has done to the SEN Unit system will take years to repair.

The comments below were prepared in 2010, and are reproduced here, for those who wish to understand the background.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

IF YOU ARE AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE ISSUES BELOW, I WOULD BE HAPPY TO HEAR FROM YOU ON A CONFIDENTIAL BASIS

Until recently, KCC  contained a policy document on its SEN wewbsite pages that states: "Units and designations which exist currently and which have agreed to become lead schools will gradually be replaced by the lead school model.  There will be no new admissions to the units but all children and young people currently in them will remain there until they are due to leave or until a review of the Statement of SEN determines their placement should change"

Since I first challenged the policy last December, KCC has consistently argued that no such policy exists.  KCC has now issued an important letter to all headteachers in the Pilot areas, signed by Rosalind Turner, Managing Director Children, Families and Education. You can find this here. It is clearly written and unambiguous (unlike some previous communications). It states that KCC is minded to end the Pilot project next March. It will remove the swirl of misunderstandings that are still circulating.

It makes clear that no Units are closing to children, but acknowledges that some parents may have been misled into thinking otherwise and the authority apologises if there have been any such misunderstandings. It makes clear that there is no block on naming schools with Units on statements and asserts that there never has been.

It also gives an undertaking that KCC will look again at any case brought to its attention by parents who feel that as a result of misunderstanding they have been influenced to accept provision with which they are unhappy.

Whilst I disagree with several of the assertions of what has happened in the past, that is in the past, and given the LA’s assurance on support for families who may have been misled, we should now be able to look forward positively to the future.

The remainder of this page now relates to issues that may have gone, and will be revisited as time permits.

Update on information that follows this section:

There were a series of interviews on Radio Kent recently on the phasing out of SEN Units.  Rosalind Turner, Managing Director Children, Families and Education maintained the KCC line that (1) Units were never going to be closed, (2)there had been no change of policy, (3) they knew of no children with statements naming Units had been turned away, and so (4) there was no need to take action to inform parents of any change of policy.  As you may imagine, my own contribution focused on challenging these claims.

Three parents were interviewed, including two who had children who had been turned away from Units. One, whose child was appropriately placed at Linden Grove Primary School Speech and Language Unit in Ashford, had been told both by the Unit and KCC Officers that there was no point in applying for a statement naming the Unit as it was closing. This enables KCC to make the claim about no children with statements naming a Unit being turned away - parents have been told there is no point in applying for one!! Another was told by the school and KCC officers that as York Road Speech and Language Unit in Dartford was closing, there was no point in applying for a place.

It is now clear that the KCC statement that no Units were ever going to be closed is 'technically correct'. Its just that they are going to be closed to children! One parent who was told that the Unit was going to be closed fought to secure a place and was then told that the policy had been changed and she could now have a place. However, when the statement came through, the child had been allocated to the mainstream school - with support from the Unit. I have now been told of another case of the same at the Morehall School Unit in Folkestone. This of course is the Lead School Model designed to replace Units that so many parents are unhappy with.

I am therefore still unclear whether Units are closed to children or not. Five months after I first asked the question!

There are therefore still three key questions to be answered. Please ask these if you have the opportunity, or alternativel I would welcome the answers:

1) Are Units in the Pilot area being closed to new children for admission on the previous full time basis (sorry if the wording is still not quite correct - but it is evident that KCC is expert with semantics)? This discounts children being placed in the mainstream school with access to support from the Unit.

2) What is KCC doing to alert parents whose children have been told by KCC Officers  or schools that the Units are closing and so there is no point in applying for them?

3) Will such children now be fast tracked for admission to these Units.

I have now seen the Minutes of a fascinating meeting in July 2009 where it was agreed by KCC Officers and the Deputy Cabinet Member with responsibility for SEN, that a new Secondary  SEN Unit would be set up in Swale,  catering for autism and Speech and Language for September 2010!  This was to cater for the large gap in provision in this area for children with these conditions. The  proposal is clearly inconsistent with the County policy at the time,  but consistent with the new policy. However, there appears no sign of the Unit scheduled for Sittingbourne Community College, although I suspect it has become a Lead School.

The document also explains how the Pilot areas were chosen. Apparently in Ashford, Shepway and North West Kent concerns about the Lead Schools concept were lowest so they were selected for Phase One. If the problems that have emerged reflect low concerns, it makes one wonder what would have happened if they had chosen the others! Warning - if there are proposals that you don't like, your school or area may be chosen ahead of others if you don't shout loudly enough.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And now back to the beginning with my Kent On Sunday Article of May 23rd:

SEN Units have been in a state of utter confusion in recent years as KCC has planned to phase them out, the proposal being for children who would otherwise be placed in Units to attend mainstream classes and be supported by visitng teachers from Lead Schools in each of the specialisations.

KCC claim they don't know of any child who has been deprived of a place at a Unit in one of the Pilot areas, but I have now identified several and would be very happy to hear of others to  understand the scale of the problem. It is now late in the day to get a statement changed to name a Unit, but KCC ought to be prepared to do so. 

The following article (abbreviated) appears in Kent on Sunday and Kent on Saturday this weekend (22nd & 23rd May):

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

How has this chaos come about? In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

 Kent County Council has responded as follows, my comments in red:

A spokesman said: “It is Kent County Council’s aim that every child with special educational needs gets the care and education to fulfil their potential. Everything we do in this important area of work is done in the best interests of children and their families. KCC has not reversed its policy on specialist units in mainstream schools". So why has a senior KCC officers attended a meeting of parents at a Unit to tell them that Units would be admitting no new pupils.

"A pilot is currently running in Ashford, Shepway and north-west Kent and it is the subject of evaluation. In running the pilot, it was never the council’s intention to lose the expertise that exists in our units but to strengthen them and to build on the opportunities for using that expertise to support and build capacity in the other mainstream schools". The Council did plan to close those Units and lose that expertise - only when they belatedly realised earlier this year that this was going to happen did they reverse their policy.Another interpretaion told to some parents was that where they coincided with Lead Schools, the Units would not close as such. Instead, the teachers would become specialists in outreach going out to schools, but there would be no pupils coming into the Units! Use of language is everything in this debate.

At no point before or during the pilot were any decisions taken by elected members to close units". The KCC Cabinet Paper of 12 October 2009 headed REVIEW OF SPECIALIST UNIT AND DESIGNATED PROVISION IN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS – LEAD SCHOOL IMPLEMENTATION, by Sarah Hohler, Cabinet Member for Education,  hardly mentions Units. However, it does state: "All lead schools in the pilot area are progressing although there are different development needs between new lead schools and those that previously had units". previously had Units - so where were they going? Some parents have had it explained to them that the budget from Lead  Schools comes from the phasing out of Units. KCC papers are littered with references to the phasing out of Units. Who authorised KCC Officers to tell parents that Units were being phased out and no new children would be admitted in the pilot areas for September 2010? Did elected members really not know what was being done in their name?

"The council will be reporting on the evaluation during the summer and this will inform, not just how we proceed with specialist provision in mainstream schools, but how we develop our special educational needs strategy to make sure all children and young people in Kent can have equal access to quality provision that delivers improved outcomes for them. The letter that was sent to schools recently and also placed on the council’s website was not announcing a change of policy but was for the purpose of keeping schools informed about the review and its evaluation". Schools believed and knew that Units were being phased out. Somewhere in the confusion of Letter One, it implies they are not. That is a reversal of policy.  

When Kent embarked on the pilot, it gave a commitment that the project would not compromise the education of those children who were already in units" Where is this commitment, and what about those who were told there were no places in Units? and it has stuck to that commitment? “Nothing in Kent’s policy or practice can supersede or set aside special educational needs legislation, and the council takes seriously its legal duty to make sure it arranges provision for children who have a statement of special educational needs, in order to meet their needs". A statement of Kent's legal duty is always helpful, but this issue is about the nature of that provision, described as dated by KCC in an earlier paper that proposes they are replaced by Lead Schools. It is not primarily about the law.  

In 2010 some parents expressed a preference for a school with a specialist unit within one of the pilot areas. These preferences were agreed where the child was considered to need that placement". Might these be the recent ones after the decision to change the policy was made? I was talking to a parent yesterday who was told the Unit would close but after persistent lobbying has now been told they can have a place. Certainly the parent I was talking to today, whose case has been put forward by his  MP, had been told the Unit he wanted was not accepting new children.  Only yesterday did he learn of the change of policy from his MP.  

“The council is not aware of any children with statements who have been offered an unsuitable school". I found this an astonishing claim. Then I examined it closely. Clearly the Council consider that a main stream placement with outreach support is suitable provisionl, and hence can make this claim. The fact that they are aware of children who wanted places in Units but were told there were none is not covered by this statement. Sadly, I believe it is purely an attempt to mislead the reader as I was initially misled.   

All parents are advised of their right of appeal to the special educational needs tribunal if they are unhappy with the school named in their child’s statement. In the pilot areas, no appeals have been lodged by parents seeking places in schools with units.Well they wouldn't would they! If parents are told the Units are being phased out, with no new admissions there is no point in going through the lengthy and stressful appeal process to SENDIST (Special Educational Need and Disability Tribunal). Some have already been down this route to secure their statement and come face to face with a barrister employed by KCC to shoot down cases. However, whilst parents now know that there are places it may be too late to change direction for September.

Why can't KCC simply acknowledge that they have changed policy for the benefit of Kent children, and attempt to contact those they have misled earlier, offering to fast track any late applications through to Units. Instead this policy of obfuscation and refusal to acknowledge the truth continues to drag out the misery. To quote the first sentence of this response again: "It is Kent County Council’s aim that every child with special educational needs gets the care and education to fulfil their potential. Everything we do in this important area of work is done in the best interests of children and their families". I just wish it were so!

 The good news is that SEN Units, attached to mainstream schools are all to remain open, although KCC has been telling parents for the past four months that they are to close. Sadly, some have already closed for lack of children.  For further information, or if you are affected by these issues please go to Units. You will also find a list of the Units with the disability that each covers.

 

Thursday, 16 December 2010 00:00

Special Schools

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.

Tuesday, 05 October 2010 00:00

SEN 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

SEN Units are designed for Students with Statements of Special Education Needs, who would benefit from specialist provision, yet have the opportunity to access main stream schools for part of their learning. They are attached to main stream schools, but provision across Kent and Medway is partly for historical reasons. The Kent Special Education Need Units each support children with one or more of the following disabilities: Autism; Hearing or Visual Impairment; Physical Disability; Speech & Language problems or Specific Learning Difficulties. Each is attached to a mainstream school so that children can integrate into normal lessons as appropriate, for some in preparation for a full transfer to mainstream school. A child will need an SEN statement naming the Unit if they are to be offered a place. If a child has a SEN Unit named in his statement, the Local Authority is required to arrange transport. An SEN Unit has a total capacity and can admit children in there are vacancies in the Unit as a whole, so there is not an intake figure for any particular age group. Most common age of admission is in Year 1 for Primary Units, after the child has been assessed in the Reception Year of a mainstream school.

In the summer of 2009, after a six year Review of SEN Units in Kent, KCC quietly published a policy stating explicitly that there would be no admissions to SEN Units in Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford or Shepway for September 2010, and for the remainder of Kent from September 2011. This policy was actioned, although when I exposed it, KCC denied it had ever existed, although it remained on their website and field officers continued to advise parents that the policy was in place until Autumn 2010. I then initiated a media campaign to demonstrate the effects of this policy, and KCC finally decided in September 2010 to scrap the policy and carry out a fresh review of all specialist SEN provision. You will find several articles I wrote on the subject through the SEN Unit Review tag at the bottom of this article.

However the consequences of the aborted policy remain significant especially for Primary Units, with many SEN Units run down and some effectively closed through lack of children, as the data published here shows. During the debate KCC maintained that no children were misplaced by not being offered places in Units, in spite of the dramatic fall in placements. If this policy of discouraging placements in SEN Units continues, parents who believe their child is being disadvantaged by not being offered a place should be prepared to go to Tribunal to argue their case that the Unit should be named on their child's Statement.

You will find a summary of Individual Units here.

I provide some of the historical background to this issue here.

Tuesday, 05 October 2010 00:00

General Information

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.
  • An organisation called "The Fathers Club" supports parents of Autistic Children. It was founded in North West Kent and now also has branches in Maidstone and Folkestone. Contact through the Kent Autistic Trust: jo@kentautistic.com.
  • 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
On Truancy:
 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.
On Exclusions:
 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.