Calls for more government investment into special needs education as major concerns are aired about Leeds' "significantly short" provision
Leeds is still "significantly" short of special needs education and parents are angry and pressured by delays into a review of provision that has already taken two years so far, says the leader of one of the city's main facilities.
It comes as a campaign, backed by politicians and charities, is urging the Government to include disabled people and their parents and carers at the heart of its SEND (special education needs and disabilities) review.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, campaigners claim that those most directly affected have been “largely excluded and even misrepresented” in the document which got underway in 2019 to look at how services for families can be improved, but campaigners say they are not being adequately consulted.
Rachael Law, head of Rainbow Base and Horizons resource provisions as part of the GORSE Academies Trust, told the Yorkshire Evening Post, experts in the field have "major concerns" about the lack of special education needs provision at both local and national level.
She said: "There is significant anger amongst parents after both the delay into the review but the further added stress of central Government watering down the legal requirements to fulfil Educational Health Care Plans (EHCP) during the Covid-19 Pandemic. These plans are as much around the care a child receives as their education.
“There are major concerns moving forward that there is a lack of specialist places on both a national and local level. In Leeds alone, we are still significantly short of specialist provision places and while Leeds City Council is trying hard to rectify this through the expansion of current provision, along with a new specialist free school, more needs to be done at central Government level through investment in this area.
The letter sent to the Prime Minister said disabled children and young people have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the impact of Covid and school/college closure, they had lost essential special education provision and support, which damaged mental and physical health, undermined educational outcomes and left some children unable to access education at all.
It added that schools and colleges should be “adequately funded, resourced and supported to be inclusive”, with appropriate, early provision put in place to meet the needs of all disabled children rather than waiting until they are older and have reached "crisis" point.
“Too often provision and support for disabled children and young people is delayed until they reach crisis point, causing distress and long-term damage,” the campaigners say.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We aim to improve outcomes and better prepare young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) effectively for adult life through our Send Review, which is an ongoing process.
“These claims are misleading. This Government is committed to supporting and protecting children with SEND – ahead of our public consultation and publication of our proposals, we are working closely with children and young people with SEND, their parents and carers to ensure their views remain at the heart of this work.”