EHCP Delay Process Bristol Reaching Week 40

EHCP Delay Bristol:

The last seven days has seen a slew of reports coming from the Department of Education regarding Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) and this week we had the publication of the Timpson Review.

The long anticipated review found that it was the most vulnerable groups of children who are most at risk from exclusion. A 78 per cent of permanent exclusions were given to children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or were classified as in need or eligible for free school meals (FSM). Boys with social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) but no EHCP were 3.8 times more likely to be permanently excluded than a non-SEN child.

Other groups of children were also found to be vulnerable to exclusion, including Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean pupils.

Children in receipt of FSM were 45 per cent more likely to be excluded than other pupils and children on a Children in Need Plan are 4 times more likely to be permanently excluded than those with no social care status. Looked after children were found to be around 2.3 times as likely to be permanently excluded than those who have not had social care intervention.

As well as formal exclusions, Edward Timpson’s review also found a ‘small minority’ of schools off-rolling. This is where children are removed from the school’s register without a formal exclusion. The result of this means the child is pushed out of education altogether.

The review made a total of 30 recommendations to Government, finding a variation in exclusion practice in different schools and local authorities.

The report came as zero surprise to anyone who has a child with Send, or other high-risk factors. What can actually be done about it in Bristol remains to be seen. Send education in the city has long passed crisis point with little hope regarding future improvements.

Bristol Independent Send Community has been instrumental in challenging unlawful EHCP processes, high needs block budget cuts, messy approaches to Top Up Funding and even child disability social care. You’d think disabled children in Bristol might at least have access to disability social care. But it’s no easier than getting an EHCP.

I complain frequently on Twitter about the difficulties we as a family face with Send education in Bristol. I have two children who have don’t misbehave in school. In fact, they find low-level disruption and the ‘bad behaviour’ of others extremely difficult to tolerate due to sensory processing difficulties.

Having glanced across the playground at the children my daughter has often referred to as ‘naughty’ in class, it is abundantly clear to me they are other children with Send who are not being properly supported due to a complete lack of appropriate funding in education. ‘Be kind and give space’, is the advice I often give her, though I admit my patience starts to run out a little when she’s pushed down a flight of stairs.

The EHCP process for us in Bristol has been a messy disaster from the start. We are nine months in, have an incomplete draft plan which has been sent out to our local mainstream schools to consult on.

Clearly, if any of the local schools were able to meet my daughter’s needs, she would already be there. One local primary school responded to the caseworker with a ‘very long’ response about why they were unable to meet her needs. When I asked what my daughter’s primary school response had been to the (unfinished) draft plan consultation, she said she had forgotten to send it to them and would do so now.

My daughter has dyslexia with associated difficulties, sensory processing difficulties and attention and concentration issues. She’s been referred for an autism assessment. I can’t imagine how Bristol education has got to a point where a mainstream primary school cannot meet the needs of a dyslexic child. What an absolute disaster.

The stress of trying to deal with fitting in with the challenging year 4 curriculum has seen her attendance drop to nothing, despite attempts by the school SendCo to make her day more accessible.

I am not a teacher but desperately trying to support my child’s education. Taking her out of school for home schooling would fix so many issues. I feel like it’s the local authority who are putting me in an off-rolling position.

The EHCP caseworker has received an 8 page list of things the draft plan needs fixed to make it lawful. The old Section F, specified and quantified is something many Send parents spend so much time dealing with.

I had to pay a few hundred pounds to a solicitor to make Bristol City Council do what it is supposed to do by law and the council is still not playing by the rules.

The caseworker will not be picking up my daughter’s messy, copy-paste, badly written draft plan again until next week, which will be week 41. By law, it should have been finished by week 20. That’s more than double the time it should have taken. There is no end in sight unless the private specialist school can find a place for her. There’s only one specialist dyslexia school in Bristol and competition for places is stiffer than the Britain’s Got Talent finale.

I’m still waiting to hear if my son’s Needs Assessment has been successful at second panel. His Needs Assessment is currently on week 34. Should it be declined, we will be going to appeal taking even longer. Should he be agreed a draft plan, this is likely to add another six weeks to two months on top. Also unluckily for children with ASD, there is a complete lack of specialist places in Bristol. You might get the EHCP, but then getting a place in a specialist provision is a massive fight all of its own.

During this time, my son has left mainstream, was in Alternative Provision and now dropped out to nothing. If he has managed 12-16 weeks of education in an entire academic year, I would be surprised. Bristol School Transport Team wouldn’t allow him transport to the AP because he can walk. I’d laugh if things hadn’t taken a deeply dark turn on that front.

There is nothing Send parents can do to make sure Bristol City Council follow the law. Any law right now would do. According to my daughter’s EHCP caseworker, the council is ‘running late’ which is ‘a fact and nothing changes that’.

Bristol City Councillors put their name to the Send Motion in September 2018. Parents have repeatedly called on Full Council and Mayor Marvin Rees to step up and do something even since that point. Apart from reinstating the High Needs Block budget and stopping the budget cut, nothing has improved for Bristol Send parents since the Judicial Review of July 2018. Bristol City Council has failed the most vulnerable children in the city. As a local authority, it consistently blocks children from their legal right to an education. Some of this is incompetence, some of this is unlawful and some of this is people who sit on various education boards forging the future of education in the city being complete asshats.

An inclusive education right now is just a pipe dream for the city. The council has failed Bristol children, it continues to fail Send children and shows no inclination, not even with faux political rhetoric to make any difference to their future education.