Bristol special needs support may get £30m in new funding

bristol special needs support may get 30m in new funding - Bristol special needs support may get £30m in new fundingImage copyright Getty
Image caption Bristol City Council has been heavily criticised for its SEND provision

Nearly £30m could be spent on special schools in Bristol after years of criticism over the city’s provision.

The city council’s Labour cabinet is set to sign off on plans to create more places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

In November 2019 the council was accused of “failing to plan” for those pupils and Ofsted said the city’s performance was not fit for purpose.

Nearly 200 children who need places cannot currently be accommodated.

The £28.7m proposals, which will be debated by the city council cabinet in September, include major redevelopments at Elmfield School for Deaf Children and Claremont Special School.

A new independent living centre for young adults would also be built in the Ashley Down area of the city, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The proposals follow a commitment by Bristol City Council to look at special school provision last July, and years of frustration and anger among parents of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) children.

The 2019 report from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission said children with SEND in Bristol had been failed for years.

In 2018, the council was forced to restore £5m to its SEND budget after it lost a High Court case against parents who challenged the decision to cut funding.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve £15.6m towards the project, and it is hoped some of the remaining £13.1m could be found by selling the land at Elmfield when the school is demolished.

Even if the money is approved, however, council documents show no new places will be ready for at least a year.

Bristol parent Jen Smith, who has two children with SEND and has been a long-time campaigner for better services, told BBC Radio Bristol the situation is the result of “institutional disability discrimination on a huge scale” and means “we have to write off another generation of children”.

Cabinet member for schools, Councillor Anna Keen, said the council has “dramatically” improved its turnaround of EHC (education and health care) plans.

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