Bristol children with EHCPs are too often deliberately placed in alternative provision as an answer to lack of investment in Send school places:
By Jen Smith
The number of children with Send in Bristol who are out of education due to a lack of special school places in the city has been a figure difficult to pin down through official channels. When it comes to Send, Bristol City Council are not keen to disclose information through the Freedom of Information Act. That which comes through official channels, reports and questions to executive directors overseeing the process is muddled and contradictory.
In May 2019, the Department for Education (DfE) released document Statements of SEN and EHC plans: England, 2019. The publication detailed the number of children on EHCPs, along with associated data and statistics. As part of the overall compilation of results, local authorities – including Bristol City Council – provided numbers of EHCPs held within their jurisdiction.
Amongst the data in the publication is information about the type of establishment children and young people with EHCPs in England were attending in January 2019. This included:
Non-maintained early years settings 1,708
Mainstream school 138,630
Special school 136,630
Alternative Provision (AP) / Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) 2,731
Further Education 57,191
The data collected also included that for children and young people with an EHCP who were not currently receiving provision in the establishment types listed above.
The below table from the publication shows the alternative classifications that those with an EHCP but not placed in a traditional setting were currently logged as.
The DfE says awaiting provision ‘includes children and young people who are awaiting the provision specified on their EHC plan. This includes some children and young people who are in an education setting but are awaiting provision in another setting, for example, those currently attending a mainstream school and awaiting provision in a special school. This also include some children and young people who are not currently in an education setting but are awaiting placement.’ It is the first year this data has been collected, but Bristol would have contributed to its findings as part of the School Census.
As our Send FOI requests had been unsuccessful, I asked Marvin Rees to supply the information as a question submitted to Full Council – P13 and P14 – for the July 2019 meeting.
What is the number and percentage of children and young people in Bristol with EHC plans who were elsewhere from September 2018 until July 2019 broken down by month under:
Awaiting provision as named on their EHC plan
Other arrangements made by the local authority
Permanently excluded and not yet placed elsewhere
Not in employment, education or training (NEET)
Additionally, what does Bristol City Council class as ‘other’
The question was structured in exactly the same way the DfE classified it, with this being Marvin Rees’ response:
Here is the written answers to the questions you submitted to Full Council earlier this month regarding EHC process.
It has not been possible to identify monthly figures in the way requested. As of the week before Full Council there were 16 pupils with EHCPs awaiting confirmation of substantive places for next September; this is typically to do with waiting for responses to consultation on placements before finalising proposals.
Pupils with EHCPs are frequently placed in alternative provision or have individual packages of support if waiting for a substantive placement.
There are 62 (of 2800) EHCP pupils in alternative provision
There have not been any permanent exclusions of pupils with EHCPs in the last year.
NEET figures for 16-19 year-olds (8.5% NEET/not known) are much better than 19-25 (51.5%)
Thank you for submitting your questions.
Attempting to present this answer within the framework of the DfE, the answers would be:
Awaiting provision as named on their EHC plan 16
Other arrangements made by the local authority 62 in alternative provision
Permanently excluded and not yet placed elsewhere 0
Not in employment, education or training (NEET) Unclear answer
Other No response
The fact that Bristol City Council ‘frequently’ places children and young people with EHCPs in alternative provision strongly suggests that it is being used to dump an excess of Send children into potentially part time and unsuitable education due to a lack of special school places.
On a personal level as a parent, Bristol City Council were incredibly keen to place one of my own children in an unsuitable part time AP simply because there were not enough autism special school places available. I received several phone calls from Bristol City Council, trying to persuade me to name the Bristol Hospital Education Service as the named school in a finalised EHCP. This was despite everyone knowing that the placement had failed before because the service for ill children was simply not suitable as a long-term educational provision for my autistic child.
As it is, my child’s EHCP, finalised at the end of July 2019, states that they will remain in mainstream with an intensive package of support until a place at a special school becomes available. Although they are on a waiting list for two Bristol special schools, the schools in question are oversubscribed, with successful legal appeals at tribunal bumping names further down the list.
Bristol City Council should not ‘frequently’ be placing children with Send in AP. It is done due to ten years of poor place planning and provision, a lack of investment, a failure to increase Send places in line with mainstream bulge years resulting in children pin-balling between services, provisions and part time education detrimentally affecting their education in the interim.
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