Bristol City Council Response to Special School Places Shortage

Bristol City Council Special Schools Shortage Response:

With Judicial Reviews, Send consultations and the Bristol Schools Forum stating at the end of 2018 that special schools in Bristol were operating at capacity, particularly for autism and SEMH needs, I asked Bristol City Council at Full Council in December 2018 exactly what the council is planning to do. Here was the response we got from Marvin Rees:

Full Council Public Question 03&04

Dear Jennifer

Here is the written response to the questions you submitted for December’s Full Council.

Q1: What is the council doing right now and in the longer term – over the next five years – to make sure that every one of those children are able to access the right specialist setting they need when an EHCP is granted?

We need more money from the Government. Trying to balance this service with an underfunding problem – it is important we recognise where the blame lies. There is still existing capacity within Specialist Education Settings in Bristol for children and young people who have SEND with Education, Health and Care Plan and the most complex needs, for whom this is the right placement. Not all children and young people who have an Education, Health and Care Plan require their specialist educational provision to be delivered through special schools. Capital planning is undertaken by the Local Authority to explore opportunities and priorities with the city to ensure sufficient places in specialist education settings, resource bases as well as mainstream schools to ensure a broad spectrum of placements is available to meet a wide range of individual needs.

Q2: What is Bristol City Council doing right now about lack of access to educational psychologists which is taking those EHC Needs Requests months past statutory deadlines?

The Director has met with the Principal Educational Psychologist to explore means of building extra capacity into the EP service with effect from January 2019. A plan has been developed and the means of funding it is being explored.

Consultants have been retained to examine the efficiency of assessment processes in order to establish a baseline for appropriate resourcing and systems focused on the right balance of timeliness and accuracy, with both optimised. Those consultants have already met with the Principal Educational Psychologist and Commissioner of the Service Core.

Thank you for taking the time to submit your questions.

Kind regards

MR signature for letters

Marvin Rees

Mayor of Bristol

I Say: As a parent currently going through Needs Assessment and being told by specialists to look at special schools, I know from my own personal experience that there just aren’t any spaces for children with autism. One academy special school we wanted to look at had a three month waiting list for a tour, one independent specialist had a two month wait for a tour and one academy special school had cancelled their open day indefinitely because they were at capacity for a long time to come.

One specialist unit attached to a mainstream secondary school told us during a tour that they were at capacity, had a waiting list and would not go over their numbers and Bristol City Council could not make them do so. There just aren’t any spaces available for children with autism.

What I found even more stressful during School Place Hunt, is that children with the spectrum condition are not being taught by secondary school specialist subject teachers in Key Stage 3 lessons in specialist provision. This is deeply unfair on academic children who cannot cope in a mainstream environment. Not only are there no special school places, there are no suitable schools for many children full stop.

Educational psychologist wait times for Needs Assessments are also taking the process months past legal time frames.

I submitted my daughter’s EHC Needs Assessment to Bristol City Council on 06/08/2018 and my son’s on 14/09/2018. Both requests were agreed at panel but neither have made it back to the second panel for a final decision. The biggest hold up to this is access to ed psychs, a critical part of the Needs Assessment process. Hopefully, the promised plan has been actioned and the funding in place.

In the meantime, children and families are floundering in the Needs Assessment system, with no school places and for some, no suitable school place at the end of the process.

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