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Displaying items by tag: SEN Unit Review - Kent Independent Education Advice
Monday, 27 January 2014 12:28

Places in Special Schools and SEN Units

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.....

Published in News and Comments

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.......

Published in Newspaper Articles
Thursday, 29 September 2011 15:42

Good news for Kent Special Education Needs

I was delighted to accept an invitation to the opening of the Laural Centre, an SEN Unit  for children on the Autistic Spectrum, attached to The North School in Ashford. This is the first Unit to be opened since the reversal of county policy two years ago that sought to phase out all SEN units in the county. The Centre was opened by Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has been a strong champion of SEN Units and Special Schools in Kent........

Published in News Archive
Monday, 17 January 2011 21:20

Medway Special Schools & Units

Where there has been a recent OFSTED Report, there are more details for each School below.

ALL FAITH’S CHILDREN’S COMMUNITY SCHOOL – TOTAL COMMUNICATION Unit (Primary), Strood

ABBEY COURT COMMUNITY SCHOOL Severe and profound learning difficulties RAINHAM CAMPUS, Gillingham (4-11years)  STROOD CAMPUS, Strood  (11 –19 years) 

  (OFSTED July 2010 - Outstanding) Abbey Court is based on two sites 12 miles apart. It has a capacity for 150 pupils aged from three to 19, all funded by Medway local authority. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs including severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties. An increasing number of pupils joining the school have very complex medical conditions or extremely challenging behaviour. There are fewer girls than boys. The vast majority of the pupils have a White British heritage. A few pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds and have English as a second language. A small minority of pupils are looked after in public care. Secondary pupils, including sixth-formers, are based at the Strood site. The site for primary-aged pupils is in Rainham and this has recently added a nursery to its provision. The school has specialist school status for cognition and learning. OFSTED 2012 - Outstanding; Excerpts: Information about this schoolAbbey Court is based on two sites, some 12 miles apart. The Rainham site provides for Early Years Foundation Stage, infants and juniors. The Strood site provides for secondary and students aged 16 to 19. Currently, the school has more than its official capacity of 150 places; Pupils have severe learning difficulties or profound and multiple learning difficulties as their main need; Some have additional needs such as visual impairment, hearing or sensory impairment, severe autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and physical disability; A few have life threatening medical conditions; All have statements of special educational needs; The school continues to experience a shift in the complexity of levels of need, including severe challenging behaviours; A minority of pupils require a minimum of full time one-to-one staff support to meet their needs; Currently, the large majority of pupils are boys and most are of White British heritage; The proportion known to be eligible for the pupil premium is well above the national average. Key findings - This is an outstanding school; Pupils make outstanding progress, particularly in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology (ICT); Those with speech, language and communication needs make significant strides in developing and improving their communication skills through signing, the use of picture symbol cards and the use of a range of new technologies; Children attending the part-time sessions in the Early Years Foundation Stage make excellent progress, which prepares them for learning and enables them to proceed successfully to the next stage of their education; The outstanding sixth form provision enables older students to continue their seamless progress through the school and achieve nationally recognised qualifications - They improve their independence and social skills and this prepares them successfully for life beyond the school; As a result of a robust and sustained focus on improvement by the senior leadership team since the previous inspection, the quality of teaching across the school is now outstanding; Other strengths of the school’s work identified at the last inspection have been sustained and further improved; Pupils’ attitudes to learning and behaviour are excellent, which is a result of highly effective class management by teachers and other adults supporting in the classrooms; Pupils told the inspectors that they are safe and well looked after, which is further confirmed by the school’s own surveys, which are carried out regularly; The headteacher’s inspirational leadership of the school, together with the support of her highly effective senior leadership team, ensures the school meets fully its vision and aims and lives up to its motto, ‘We grow people’; The highly experienced governing body is outstanding in its role as a critical and supportive friend and successfully ensures the school is financially stable.

 BRADFIELDS SCHOOL, Chatham. OFSTED October 2013. Good. Excerpts from Report - Information about the school: Bradfields provides for students who primarily experience complex learning difficulties and disabilities, including speech, language, emotional, sensory, physical and autistic spectrum disabilities. Since September 2012, the school has been re-designated to include Early Years Foundation Stage children and Key Stages 1 and 2 pupils with autism and severe learning difficulties. The Lower School site has been redeveloped so that the Key Stage 3 MLD provision now includes additional and new build facilities for students with autism and in some cases additional challenging behaviours; Currently, the large majority of students are boys; The school is organised into five Learning Zones where most classes are taught by the stage of their learning. The Blue Primary (including the Early Years Foundation Stage) and Blue Secondary Zones are for students whose primary need is autistic spectrum disabilities. The Yellow Zone is for lower school Key Stage 3 classes, the Red Zone is for Key Stage 4 classes and the Green Zone is for is for Years 12 to 14 classes. In addition, there are three separate mixed-aged ‘special programme’ classes in the lower and upper schools and the sixth form for students with more complex needs, including severe learning difficulties. Key findings: This is a good school; Students make outstanding progress over time, particularly in English and mathematics. There has also been a year-on-year improvement of the proportion of students achieving GCSE passes, as well as successes in other accredited courses such as BTEC; Children attending the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2012 to 2013 made outstanding progress. This prepared them for learning and enabled them to move on successfully to the next stage of their education; The sixth form is outstanding. Many students continue their seamless progression throughout the school, others move directly to other further education provision, and some now join the school from other mainstream settings. All are prepared very well for the next stage of their lives beyond school; Students benefit from teaching which is mostly good and sometimes outstanding. However, a small amount of teaching requires improvement; Students’ behaviour is good. This is as a result of the highly effective care and support that staff provide. In lessons, students were highly motivated and wanted to do their best; Students say they feel safe and happy at the school, as well as at the off-site provision they attend weekly; Leadership and management are good. The headteacher and his senior leadership team have a strong focus on continuing improvement of all aspects of the school’s work; The governing body is highly supportive of the school, knows it very well and supports on-going improvements in all aspects of the school’s work.

 BROMPTON ACADEMY, Gillingham

(11-16 years) SPLD & Speech & Language @ COMMUNICATION CENTRE

CHALKLANDS CENTRE, Elaine Primary School, Strood

(5-11 years) Emotional & Behaviour difficulties.

DANECOURT COMMUNITY SCHOOL, Gillingham (4-11 years)  OFSTED 2012 - Outstanding. Excerpts from Report: Information about this school - Originally designated as a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties, Danecourt is now increasingly catering for pupils with severe learning difficulties and more complex needs, including speech, language and communication needs. It also has a designated unit for pupils with severe autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) with two classes in Key Stage 2 and one class in Key Stage 1. In addition, it has a commissioned ‘hub’ class, based in a mainstream primary school for pupils who do not need full time specialist provision. The school also operates an outreach service, through which its staff provides advice and support for pupils identified as having special educational needs in mainstream schools within the local authority. Currently, the large majority of pupils are boys and most pupils are of White British background. All have a statement of special educational needs. A few pupils are looked after by a range of local authorities and the proportion known to be eligible for the pupil premium is well above the national average. Key findingsThis is an outstanding school; Pupils make outstanding progress, particularly in the key skills of literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology (ICT); Those with speech, language and communication needs make significant progress in developing their communication skills, both through the use of picture symbol cards and use of new technologies; Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage make excellent progress, which enables them to proceed successfully to the next stage of their education and, in some instances, reintegrate into mainstream education; As a result of a rigorous and sustained focus on improvement by the headteacher and his deputy, the quality of teaching is now outstanding; this is a significant improvement since the previous inspection; Because of highly effective class management by staff, pupils’ attitudes to learning and behaviour are excellent. Learning is rarely affected by disruptive behaviour;The headteacher provides highly effective leadership of the school, ensuring it meets fully its core aim of providing a safe and caring environment in which to develop pupils as individuals and maximise their learning; The governing body is outstanding in its role as a supportive and critical friend of the school.

MARLBOROUGH CENTRE, Hoo St Werburgh Primary School

(5-11 years) Autism

RIVERMEAD COMMUNITY SPECIAL SCHOOL, Gillingham (11-19 years) complex emotional and behavioural needs including Autism: OFSTED 2012 - Good School. Excerpt from Report: Information about the school -  Provides for students aged 11–19 with complex emotional and behavioural needs. It is smaller than average in size and the overwhelming majority of students have a statement of special educational needs mainly related to autistic spectrum disorders. Most students have additional communication and language needs and/or medical/mental health needs. The length of placement at the school depends on individual needs, and many students have spent a considerable amount of time away from mainstream education before admission. The provision in the sixth form is still under development. It will be implemented fully in September 2012 and until that time there are no students of this age in the school. Key findings - Rivermead is a good school. The development of the sixth form is progressing well in preparation for September 2012 when new students will start. Students of different ages, backgrounds and abilities make good progress and achieve well. They achieve particularly well in the development of their skills in communication and in mathematics. In the vast majority of lessons, teachers provide students with activities that engage their interest and they use information and ICT well to enhance learning. They assess students’ work regularly and accurately and ensure that students know what they need to do to improve. The overwhelming majority of students make significant improvements in learning to manage their own behaviours, and bullying of any kind is almost non-existent. Students feel extremely safe and secure in school at all times. They enjoy school, support each other well and attendance levels are above average. The school is very well led and teachers’ performance is generally managed effectively. The strong leadership team ensure there is a sustained focus on improving classroom practice and outcomes for students.  The very effective way in which the school promotes students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is a key factor in its success.

RIVERSIDE VI UNIT, Riverside Primary School, Rainham

(5-11 years) Visual Impairment

RIVERSIDE HUB, Riverside Primary School,Rainham

 (5-11 Years) Autism


SILVERBANK PARK, Chatham

(11-16 years) Emotional & behaviour difficulties.

ST WERBURGH CENTRE FOR AUTISM, Hundred of Hoo Comprehensive, Hoo

(11-16yrs)  Autism

THE ROBERT NAPIER SCHOOL – VI UNIT, Gillingham

(11-16 years) Visual Impairment

 

 TWYDALL INFANT PD Unit, Twydall Infant School, Gillingham

 

(4-7 years)  Physical Disability

TWYDALL JUNIOR PD Unit, Twydall Junior School, Gillingham

(7-11 years) Physical Disability & Complex Medical Conditions

WARREN WOOD COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL Speech & Lang UNIT,Rochester

 (4-11 years) Speech and Language difficulties

WILL ADAMS CENTRE, Gillingham

(11-16 yrs) Emotional & behaviour difficulties

WOODLANDS HUB, Gillingham

(5-11 years) Moderate learning difficulties

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00

Kent Special Schools and Units

Index

(Last updated August 2016)

Special Schools in Kent are listed on Page One of this section, with SEN Units on Page 2. Entries are initially the designation, the OFSTED Grade for each Special School as they are published, together with the OFSTED description of the school.  You can read the full Report on each Special School at OFSTED.

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OFSTED gives each school a main Grade: Outstanding, Good, Satisfactory, Notice to Improve, or Special Measures, before justifying this in more detail. I regret I am unable to comment on Independent Special Schools. 

Schools are all age and non-residential, except where otherwise specified). You will find the official KCC List of Special Schools here

Details of SEN Units are on Page 2.

Bower Grove School, Maidstone. Behaviour & Learning Needs; Behaviour, Emotional & Social Development Needs (Primary); Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). OFSTED Feb 2014 - Good. Some excerpts from Report - Information about the school: Bower Grove School is a special school for children and young people with behaviour and learning difficulties. The majority of pupils have complex needs and/or a diagnosis of autism; Pupils are generally admitted from nurseries and maintained schools from across Kent. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs; Just over 33% of pupils across the school are involved with the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) as a result of their behavioural needs; The school works in partnership with many different bodies and organisations; In addition to the provision offered at Bower Grove School, a few pupils attend Satellites in a local primary school and a secondary school. A very small minority of pupils on roll at the school receive home tutoring from Write-Trak or attend alternative provisions at Kings Reach and Horizons which offer a more individually tailored programme to meet each pupil’s needs. Key findingsThis is a good school; 

Broomhill Bank School, Tunbridge Wells. Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties.  OFSTED Dec 2013 - Good. Some excerpts: Information about the school: In this special school all students have a statement of special educational needs for severe communication and/or interaction needs (autistic spectrum disorder and/or severe specific language impairment. Significantly increasing numbers of students have additional behavioural, and emotional difficulties; Students enter the school at various starting points across all key stages. The size of student groupings varies from year to year; The majority of students are girls (PETER: because of the school's history); The proportion of students known to be eligible for the pupil premium is below average; There has been significant staff turnover since the previous inspection; The school uses a range of work placements, including in local hotels and businesses, as alternative provision to support students in Key Stage 4 and in the Further Education Department (the sixth form). Key findingsThis is a good school. Now runs an annexe in Hextable called Broomhill Bank North, which caters for children with high functioning autism, from primary age through to Sixth Form, opened in September 2015. 

Five Acre Wood School, Maidstone. Profound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). OFSTED Mar 2015 - an outstanding school, up from good: Some excerpts: Information about the schoolFive Acre Wood is considerably larger than the average special school. The number of pupils has grown by more than a quarter since the previous inspection.  It is a district provision for pupils with moderate, severe, profound and complex learning difficulties, and autism. The school calls each of these a phase, and this determines how pupils are grouped. Classes are determined by pupils’ age and the teaching style that they require, based on the nature and severity of their learning difficulty. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan; The school is situated across three sites. Pupils on the main site cover the full age range. In addition, four classes of the most able pupils and students are located in two nearby mainstream schools. One Key Stage 4 class and two post-16 classes have their own accommodation at Aylesford School Sports College. One Key Stage 2 class is based in Eastborough Primary School. The secondary link is long established, while the primary one only began in January 2015; Almost half of all pupils are in Key Stages 1 and 2. There are only a small number of children in Reception and all of them attend full time; The school receives pupil premium funding for a third of its pupils, which is higher than the national average; The school’s senior leadership team was restructured with effect from January 2015 as new posts and responsibilities were established. Two heads of school were appointed, for primary and secondary respectively, and each of these is supported by an assistant headteacher who was newly appointed to that role at the same time. A third assistant headteacher is responsible for pupils’ well-being; The restructuring process also saw significant changes to middle management. Key stage leaders were replaced by five middle managers, who are referred to as lead teachers. Four of these have responsibility for a particular ‘phase’, such as autism, across the school. The fifth middle manager is the lead teacher for post-16 provision; A few pupils on the Aylesford School Sports College site attend some GCSE classes in the main school. Key Findings: This is an outstanding school; Leadership and management are outstanding. Highly effective senior leaders and an increasingly influential governing body have raised standards significantly since the previous inspection; Exceptionally good procedures for checking how well the school is doing, and drawing out the few priorities that will improve it even more, have been instrumental in driving the school’s raised performance.

Foreland School, The, BroadstairsProfound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). OFSTED 2013 - a good school (as in 2010). Some excerpts - Information about this school: The Foreland School provides for pupils with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties; Many pupils also have autistic spectrum disorder or medical or physical disabilities and/or sensory impairments; A growing proportion of pupils have complex learning difficulties; All pupils aged three to 19 have a statement of special educational needs - Pupils aged two and three have their needs assessed in the Nursery in order to inform the statutory assessment process; Approximately two thirds of the pupils are boys; Some pupils attend one of three classes part time in Garlinge Primary School, Hartsdown Academy or East Kent College - These classes are taught by Foreland School staff - They also attend some mainstream classes with support; The Foreland Inclusion Service, known as ‘FISS’, additionally provides outreach support to local mainstream schools; The headteacher was appointed in September 2012 and two deputy headteachers were appointed in January 2013. Key finding: This is a good school;

Foxwood School, Hythe. OFSTED Jun 2014 - Outstanding, up from Satisfactory in 2012.  Excerpts from Report - Information about the school:  Foxwood is a special school for pupils between the ages of three and 19 years old who have profound and severe learning difficulties; Very few pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds or speak English as an additional language; Pupils at post-16 are not entered for GCSE, but take another accredited course that prepares them for life and living; The school is part of a hard federation with another special school and has been involved in a new building project where staff from both federation schools have been working closely to prepare for the move in 2015; The school has an ‘outreach team’ of 17 teaching staff who work with the Early Years Foundation Stage and pupils who need support with cognition and learning, communication and interaction, behaviour, and visual and hearing impairment. Thirty five primary schools, six secondary schools, and two pupil referral units benefit from this specialist service; The school is a centre for excellence for Early Years Foundation Stage education. Key findings: This is an outstanding school; The headteacher, senior team and governors lead the school outstandingly well. Is merging with Highview (see below) in new buildings in 2015.

 Furness School, Hextable, Closed after a 'colourful' recent history, in July 2015 and replaced on the same site by an annexe to Broomhill Bank Special School, called Broomhill Bank North, catering for day and boarding pupils with high functioning autism. 

Goldwyn Community Special School, Ashford.  Secondary. Behaviour, Emotional & Social Development Needs. OFSTED June 2014 - Outstanding, up from Good. Excerpt form Report - Some Information about this school: The school caters for secondary-age students who have autistic spectrum conditions, or behavioural, social or emotional needs. All have a statement of special educational needs; Almost all students are from a White British background, and the vast majority are boys. About 40% have joined the school later than the start of Year 7; The school enters students early to sit French GCSE so that they are then able to take Spanish GSCE two years later; The school coordinates the work of an outreach team who provide a range of special educational needs support services to local mainstream and special schools; Goldwyn has a vocational centre on site which runs courses for its own students and about 60 students from mainstream schools; The school’s Global Dimensions programme links students and staff to other schools in Europe, Africa and Asia using funding from the British Council; To extend their learning opportunities, some students spend part of each week with the following alternative providers: The Brook, Baked Boutique, Seal of Approval, Catch 22 Charity, Write Trak, Cycle Circle and Challenger Troop. Some key findingsThis is an outstanding school; The senior leadership team work very closely together. They set very high standards in pursuit of the best possible outcomes for students; The headteacher is a highly regarded leader. 

Grange Park School, WrothamSecondary. Severe Communication & Interaction Needs and Learning Difficulties; Autistic Spectrum Disorder and severe cognitive impairment. OFSTED 2012 - Good. Excerpts: Information about this school: Grange Park School is located on three sites; The main school, for secondary aged students, is contained in new, purpose-built, accommodation next door to a mainstream secondary school; Post-16 students are provided for in two separate technology colleges; All students have a statement of special educational needs for autism; The large majority of the students are boys; An above average proportion of the students are known to be eligible for the pupil premium. Key findings: This is a good school; The school has improved since its last inspection, and students from all backgrounds now achieve well thanks to good teaching; 

Harbour School, Dover. Behaviour & Learning Needs; Behaviour, Emotional & Social Development Needs (Primary). OFSTED Jan 2014: Outstanding. Some excerpts: Information about the school: The Harbour is a special school for pupils aged from six to 16 years of age, most of who are from White British backgrounds. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs. Most have complex behavioural, emotional and social difficulties and additional learning difficulties. A few have autistic spectrum disorders. Most pupils are boys; Pupils travel from a wide area across Kent to attend the school; Some Key Stage 4 pupils attend vocational courses part time at K College in Folkestone, Dover and Ashford, and at Canterbury College; The school has specialist status for behavioural, emotional and social difficulties and provides support and training services to other schools within the Dover, Deal and Sandwich cluster. Key Findings: This is an outstanding school; The quality of education and care at the Harbour is exceptionally high; Pupils start school with gaps in their learning and with very low levels of attainment for their age. They make rapid progress in all subjects as a result of exceptional teaching; 

Highview & Foxwood  School, Folkestone, a Federation of two Special Schools, OFSTED Jun 2014, Outstanding up from Good. Some excerpts: Information about the schoolThe school caters for pupils from across Kent who are supported by statements of special educational needs for their learning difficulties; All pupils have moderate and complex learning difficulties. About 40% of pupils have autistic spectrum disorders and a few others have additional sensory, physical or behavioural, social and emotional difficulties; The school has sixth form provision for pupils in Years 12 to 14; The school federated with Foxwood School, another local special school, in September 2011. The headteacher and the governing body work with both schools. Some key findingsThis is an outstanding school: Outstanding leadership and management have resulted in rapidly improving achievement over the past three years; The headteacher, very ably supported by other leaders, staff and the governing body, has a highly ambitious vision for the school;  

Ifield School, TheGravesend. Ifield School is a special school for children and young people with profound, severe and complex needs. OFSTED Feb 2014, Outstanding for the second consecutive time.See article. Some excerpts: Information about the school:Almost half of all pupils have a diagnosis of autism, and speech and language difficulties; some have complex medical needs; The sixth form is based at North West Kent College and nursery-aged children attend The King’s Farm Nursery, both being taught by Ifield staff; The school works with many different bodies and organisations, including the Gravesham Learning Partnership, Thamesview School, Hadlow College, and the Challenger Troop; In 2012, the local authority devolved the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service (STLS) to 12 special schools in Kent, of which Ifield currently manages two districts. Since this time, Ifield staff have strengthened outreach services in partnership with other schools by providing specialist staff training and resources through SMILE (Supporting Multi-Professional Inclusive Learning and Education) based at the school, for 36 Gravesham schools. It also leads on research and development in the training of new teachers in partnership with two universities;The school is located on an attractive and spacious nine acre site. There is also a six acre managed woodland area off site that provides a stimulating outside classroom. Key Findings -This is an outstanding school: Inspirational leadership by the headteacher, supported by senior and middle leaders, has created a clear vision for the future of the school, and improved learning and achievement in recent years All pupils achieve exceptionally well throughout the school because staff know each one very well. Pupils make excellent progress from their starting points. Now Federated with the nearby Kings Farm Primary School. 

Laleham Gap School, Margate. Residential and Day. Higher functioning severe Communication & Interaction Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Needs and learning difficulties (secondary). OFSTED 2013 - Good. Excerpts from Report. Information about this school: Laleham Gap is a special school for high-functioning pupils with autism spectrum disorders and/or specific language impairment; A few pupils also have challenging behaviour difficulties linked to their autism; The school has weekly residential provision for up to 20 pupils of secondary age at the Margate site and takes pupils from the whole of Kent; The school occupies two sites five miles apart; Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage and those aged 5–11 are educated at the primary site in Broadstairs - Older pupils aged 11–16 are educated at the main school site in Margate; There is one leadership team and governing body. key findings: This is a good school; All groups of pupils, including those with additional special educational needs, achieve well; Outcomes for pupils in the residence are outstanding, preparing them extremely well for their futures; OFSTED Feb 2014. Social Care Inspection - Good. Down one. 

Meadowfield School, Sittingbourne. Profound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). OFSTED Nov 2014 - Outstanding, up from Good: "Meadowfield is a community special school for pupils aged four to 19, who have profound, severe and complex needs. These include profound and multiple learning difficulties, severe learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorders. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs; There are more boys than girls. The school has Nursery provision on site, which offers observation and assessment for up to 18 children who are dual registered with mainstream nurseries. These children attend two or three sessions a week; Children attend full time in the Reception class; Forty four students aged 16 to 19 attend the sixth form. Some attend courses part time at Canterbury College and MidKent College; The school manages and provides an outreach specialist teaching and learning service for the local authority to 60 schools in the Swale area. This includes supporting teachers in other schools. A comprehensive training programme is also offered to teachers, covering many aspects related to special education; The school is working towards becoming part of a Co-operativeTrust with six other special schools in the area.

Milestone School, New Ash Green. Profound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). The school is an Academy, part of the  Leigh Academy Trust, based in Dartford. . OFSTED April 2016-Outstanding, for the second consecutive Inspection: Excerpt from this Inspection: "This school continues to be outstanding. The leadership team has maintained the outstanding quality of education in the school since the last inspection. You have successfully established a culture that is driven by the school’s core moral purpose so that staff work tirelessly together to ‘provide expertise to deliver a personalised curriculum for each pupil’s learning’. Ably supported by the senior leadership team, you consistently communicate the highest expectations. All staff know their place in delivering a first-class level of provision for the pupils and their families. Consequently, pupils make exceptional progress and achieve outcomes of which they, their parents and the staff are rightly proud". From the 2011 Inspection:  "Milestone is a large school when compared with other special schools, but is smaller than most mainstream schools that teach the same age groups. All pupils have statements for special educational needs or attend for assessment. Broadly, 20% of all pupils have complex medical conditions, which require specialist on-site nursing care. Broadly, 19% have profound and multiple learning difficulties. The large majority of pupils use signing to communicate and a high proportion have a diagnosis of autism. Most pupils come from a 20 mile radius although some come from other local authorities. The school has an Early Years Foundation Stage, which is made up of a Nursery and Reception class. There is also a sixth form, which includes a further education centre. Further education was not part of this inspection"

Oakley School, Tunbridge Wells. Profound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). OFSTED 2013 - Requires Improvement. Excerpts From Report. Information about this school: -This is a special school situated on a split site, with the primary and secondary sections seven miles apart; About a quarter of the pupils are girls; Since the previous inspection, the school has experienced a period of turbulence with major changes; The headteacher had been in post for only eleven and a half weeks prior to this inspection; Many staff are new in post and half the governing body is also new; All pupils have a statement of special educational needs; About three quarters of pupils have severe learning difficulties (SLD), moderate learning difficulties (MLD), or are on the autistic spectrum (AS) - The rest have complex medical and physical needs; A large proportion of pupils have underlying speech, language and communication difficulties and a few have motor skills difficulties; The school offers outdoor learning, advice, support and training through the Woodland Learning Lodge for its pupils, schools and colleges within its community - This is an outreach service. Key findings. This is a school that requires improvement. 

Orchard School, The, Canterbury. Behaviour & Learning Needs: Behaviour, Emotional and Social Development Needs (4-19) OFSTED October 2013 - Requires Improvement. Excerpts from Report: Information about the school: The Orchard is a school for up to 96 pupils aged five to 16 who have behavioural, social and emotional difficulties. All have a statement of special educational needs. Some have additional needs such as autistic spectrum disorder or learning difficulties; Almost all of the pupils are boys; The majority of students are White British. Approximately four fifths of the pupils are eligible for pupil premium funding (additional funding given by the government for students who are eligible for free school meals, students from service families and those in care), which is much higher than the national average.  Four fifths of the pupils join or leave the school at different stages of their school career. This is much higher than the national average; Some Key Stage 4 students attend placements at the Challenger Troop Community Interest Company, the Goldwyn School in Kent and at Canterbury College.Key finding This is a school that Requires Improvement. 

Portal House School, Dover. Behaviour, Emotional & Social Difficulties (Secondary). OFSTED June 2015 - A good school, no change for 2012: "Portal House School is a special school that caters for secondary-aged students with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. A significant proportion of students have underlying complex mental and learning needs, including autism.All students have a statement of special education needs. More than half of students did not join the school in Year 7. A significant proportion of students have gaps in their education because they had not attended school for six months to two years prior to their entry to the school. Although designated as mixed, this school has not had girls on its roll in the last five years. More than twice the proportion of students compared to the national average are supported by the pupil premium.  A significant number of students are looked after by the local authority."

Ridge View School, Tonbridge. Profound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Difficulties (with  Autism). OFSTED 2011. A Good School. "Ridge View School provides for pupils with profound, multiple, and severe learning difficulties and autistic spectrum disorders. Over a half has autistic spectrum disorders as a primary need. In addition, many have a range of complex needs including sensory impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment and delayed cognitive development. All except for six children in the Oakridge Assessment nursery have a statement of special educational needs and a high proportion use alternative or augmentative methods of communication. Apart from attending Ridge View, nursery children enter a variety of other special schools, specialist mainstream schools and mainstream provisions. Almost all pupils are White British. Boys outnumber girls by two to one" 

Rowhill School, Longfield. Behaviour & Learning Needs; Behaviour, Emotional & Social Development Needs (Primary). OFSTED May 2014 -Requires Improvement "Rowhill is a larger than average special school, in which the vast majority of pupils are boys; Approximately two thirds of pupils are of secondary school age; All pupils have a statement of special educational needs that is primarily for their behavioural, social and emotional difficulties. However, a significant number of pupils also have additional needs associated with, for instance, their autism or speech and language difficulties; Many pupils receive support from other agencies, such as social services, the youth offending service, and child and adolescent mental health services. More than a tenth of pupils are children who are looked after by the local authority; Three of the four senior leaders, including the headteacher, have been appointed to their post since the previous inspection. The Chair of the Governing Body is also new to the role; The school receives the pupil premium for almost three quarters of pupils, which is well above the national average;  Key Stages 3 and 4 pupils receive part of their education in other settings, such as Hadlow College, Challenger Troop and the Archway Project; The school is the base for one of the local authority’s specialist teaching and learning services, which is a partnership between educational services and other agencies that work with children with special educational needs, their families and schools. It is managed by the headteacher of a different special school".

St Anthony's School, MargateBehaviour & Learning Needs; Behaviour, Emotional & Social Development Needs (Primary). OFSTED 2011. A good school: "St Anthony’s, originally a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties, is now catering for pupils who have both behavioural and learning difficulties. In the last two years, pupils with more complex difficulties, such as being on the autistic spectrum, have also been admitted. Within the primary department, there is provision for up to 12 pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. Currently there are six such pupils. The number of pupils admitted who are in the care of the local authority is well above the national average and the proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is above average. Boys outnumber girls by a ratio of four to one". 

St Nicholas' School, Canterbury. OFSTED 2014. Good. Excerpts from Report - Information about the schoolSt Nicholas School is a special school for children and young people with severe and profound learning difficulties. The majority of pupils have a diagnosis of autism and/or complex physical and sensory needs; In addition to the provision offered at St Nicholas School, a few pupils attend satellite classes in four local secondary schools; Students in the sixth form attend classes at Canterbury College on a full-time basis; Due to their complex medical needs, a very small minority of pupils on roll at the school receive home tutoring from the St Nicholas School outreach service. Key FindingsThis is a good school; Leadership and management are good. Through robust monitoring, the headteacher and senior team have improved the quality of teaching and learning; Pupils make good progress over time, particularly in English and mathematics. They make significant gains in their personal and social development because of the excellent enrichment activities that are available; Children make outstanding progress in the Early Years Foundation Stage; The sixth form is outstanding and provides excellent opportunities for students to put their work skills into practice in the local community; The school has developed an innovative range of strategies and methods to meet the needs of the less able pupils very well; Good teaching successfully ensures that the majority of pupils make good progress in literacy and numeracy; Pupils are kept safe and their behaviour is good as a result of effective management and the sensitive care and support provided by staff; Effective partnerships with other educational providers enhance the excellent range of lessons; The governing body has made significant improvements to its organisation and work since the last inspection, and is now well placed to support and challenge the school to improve even further.

Stone Bay School, Broadstairs. Secondary. Combination of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and severe cognitive impairment; Severe Communication & Interaction Needs and Learning Difficulties

 Valence School, Westerham. Residential and Day. Physical, Sensory and Medical Needs. OFSTED Nov 2013 - Good. Some excerpts - Information about the schoolAll pupils have a statement of special educational needs for physical difficulties. A significant proportion has complex medical, health and communication difficulties; Pupils enter the school at various starting points across all key stages. Pupil groupings vary in size from year to year; Pupils are taught in mixed-aged classes across the school due to the varying numbers in each year group; The majority of pupils are boys; A large number of pupils use the school’s residential provision on week days during the school terms. Each boarder has a personalised package of time and support in the residential provision; There has been significant staff turnover since the previous inspection including at middle leadership level; The school has specialist status for sports. Key findings -This is a good school: In relation to their starting points, pupils make good and sometimes exceptional progress, particularly in their communication skills and personal development; Teaching is mainly good and some is outstanding. There are excellent and caring relationships between staff and pupils; Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage make rapid progress from very low starting points; The sixth form is good. It ensures pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their lives; Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is promoted exceptionally well especially through opportunities to learn and play sport with mainstream pupils; Pupils’ behaviour is good because they enjoy coming to school and want to learn; The school meets the national minimum standards for residential special schools; Residential pupils feel safe and are confident in the knowledge that they can share any concerns they may have with staff; The headteacher and senior staff lead the school well. They robustly monitor standards and ensure that teaching continues to improve; The governors provide a good level of challenge and support to leaders. They ensure that government funding is well spent for the benefit of all groups of pupils; All staff, including residential, medical and therapy staff, work highly effectively to provide all-round care and support that fully meet the personal and learning needs of each pupil. 

 Wyvern School, Ashford. Profound, Severe or Complex Needs; Severe Communication & Interaction Needs and Learning Difficulties (with  Autism). Some excerpts from a Special Inspection by OFSTED Jun 2011: The inspection was carried out by two of Her Majesty’s Inspectors in response to complaints made to Ofsted which raised serious concerns. These were deemed to be qualifying complaints that warranted further consideration under Ofsted’s powers to investigate complaints about schools. As a result of the investigation Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector decided that an inspection of the school should take place to follow up the issues that were raised. Inspectors sought to evaluate pupils’ well-being and safety, including the management of their behaviour and their physical needs. Having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that pupils’ wellbeing is adequate and the school has appropriate procedures to keep them safe. There are some weaknesses in the quality of support that staff give to pupils to help them to manage and improve their own behaviour. However, the school has recently started to make satisfactory progress in tackling these aspects. Senior leaders are
developing a strategic view of issues that is usefully beginning to inform practice. The actions that the headteacher and heads of education have taken so far and their appropriate written plans for the next steps demonstrate that the school has a satisfactory capacity to improve further. Relationships between staff and pupils, and between pupils, are largely positive. Pupils appear to be relaxed both in lessons and during unstructured times, and they relate well to teachers and teaching assistants. When pupils are given interesting opportunities to learn they respond well and try hard to concentrate.
Both sites of the school had a calm atmosphere throughout the inspection. Routines are clear, for example, when pupils move from one area of the school to another they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Lunchtimes for all age groups were calm and pleasant. At break-times pupils played co-operatively with each other or chatted together in pairs or groups. Staff helped younger pupils to learn new play skills, and older pupils were supported to interact positively with each other as needed. The high ratio of staff to pupils results in a suitable level of supervision to keep pupils safe. Individual pupils’ records are used to ensure that welfare concerns are followed up with appropriate partners. The school is committed to involving parents more fully in their children’s education and the life of the school. The school has recently updated its behaviour management policy. This has some useful elements but does not fully reflect current government guidance and is not altogether suitable for the school’s current population. The local authority’s recent review has crucially highlighted to the school the need to ensure that staff feel confident to intervene appropriately with pupils, including to ensure their physical safety. Almost all the longer-established staff have recently completed appropriate training to refresh their skills in using physical intervention, and newer staff have completed their initial training in this aspect. The management of pupils’ behaviour is not consistent, either across the two sites or from lesson to lesson. In lessons, pupils’ behaviour was generally at least satisfactory. Where pupils did not engage with the lesson, staff re-engaged most of them appropriately. The development of communication skills does not sufficiently underpin the management of behaviour and there is no consistent approach to developing the communication skills of pupils who have more complex needs.

Go to the following page for details of SEN Units

Monday, 08 February 2010 18:21

SEN Unit Review: KOS February 2010

There are major changes ahead in Special Education Needs (SEN) provision in Kent as KCC begins to phase out its SEN Units. These are attached to mainstream schools across the County and offer education to children with particular learning and medical conditions, whilst giving them the opportunity to benefit from education with mainstream children through integration into some lessons.

Instead ‘lead schools’ are being designated in each specialism, across the county that will offer support to such children as they are now admitted to all mainstream schools and classes in their area.  This full inclusion of such children has been government policy for many years, but has now been challenged, as it is apparent that it leads to a dilution of specialist teachers, additional strain on teachers in mainstream classes as they come to terms with  an even wider range of challenges in their classrooms and an uncertain future for the quality of education to be provided for the children themselves.

Currently there are primary and secondary school units catering for conditions such as autism, speech, language and communication, specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, hearing and visual impairment, and physical difficulties. All children currently in Units will retain their places.

Pilot areas for the new schemes have been set up in Gravesham, Dartford, Shepway, Ashford and Swanley and a decision will be made to extend the scheme across the remainder of Kent this Autumn on the basis of the evaluation of this pilot, although the first children in the Pilot will only be affected in September.  It is therefore difficult to see on what real experience of how such children fare in mainstream will be available.

The main advantages of the scheme are identified by KCC as: providing more potential to access local provision for children and young people with SEN; enabling them to benefit from learning with their local peer group and providing more flexibility to use resources to meet changing needs of children and young people in the locality.

 

Concerns include: the breaking up of  centres of expertise and excellence in these specialisations; the dilution of such skills across schools in the locality; the pressures on teachers in mainstream schools now having to come to terms with a wider range of learning conditions in one classroom and  consequent effect on the learning of other children in that class.

 

Meanwhile KOS reported last week that many children coming up to secondary school transfer have found their proposed Statements of SEN have been delayed. The Statement spells out educational provision and the school in which it is to be offered, and any delay would cause enormous problems for parents if they wish to challenge the decision.  Such parents will be doubly dismayed if they now find that any hopes of a place in the Unit to cater for their child’s needs have been dashed,

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 19:01

SEN Units: KOS 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.

Note: The counter for this article went back to zero because of an error by me and was only reset on 18/1/2014 

 

 

Published in Newspaper Articles
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.

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