Children with special education needs sent hundreds of miles away to school

MORE than 300 Gloucestershire children with special educational needs are placed in other education authority areas with some being 256 miles away.

A recent investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism also shows the county had forecasted a £18,540,000 deficit in dedicated school grants funding by the end of 2021/22.

Their investigation shows that, as of December 2021, there were a total of 4,806 children with an education, health and care plan in the county.

And it found that some 311 Gloucestershire children are placed outside the county with the furthest 255.96 miles away in Prudhoe in Northumberland.

Some 53 children are placed over 20 miles away from the county. And there are also 249 children placed in Gloucestershire from outside the county.

Opposition councillors at Gloucestershire County Council say they are incredibly worried.

Councillor Linda Cohen (LD, Wotton-under-Edge), Lib Dem spokesperson for Education, said sending residents hundreds of miles away to receive an education away from support networks at home is appalling for the individual.

“The overspend in special educational needs is a long running issue and therefore needs a long-term fix.”

Labour group leader John Bloxsom (L, Rodborough) said SEND provision needs to be the right support, in the right place at the right time.

“We are concerned that there is a vicious spiral of late intervention, low confidence in the system and inefficient resource allocation. Properly planned provision, offered at the right time, would help meet local needs,” he said.

GCC‘s economy, education and skills cabinet member Philip Robinson (C, Mitcheldean) said there is an increasing need in Gloucestershire and across the UK for special school places.

He said this means children sometimes have to go to schools out of the county or to independent schools when there aren’t places available locally.

“We are committed to making sure all children get a high quality education, close to where they live, which is why we are investing vast sums into the county’s schools to provide more local special school provision,” he said.

“We have already increased the capacity of existing special schools and a new £9.5m special school opens in September 2022. We are also proposing to build a 60-place special school in Stroud.

The number of children and young people requiring support has been rising nationally for over five years.

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