Bristol EHCP Statistics for 2022 Data Release

The latest data for Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) in England dropped last week and entirely predictably, the number of new EHCPs has risen. Who would have guessed?

A further 62,180 new plans were made during 2021. A time when children’s education has been hugely impacted by a global pandemic, the Government deciding the SEND reforms were unsuccessful and needed looking at – despite not funding them properly to begin with. And a time where those pesky Send families are regarded as having their sharp middle class elbows battering others out of the way for a Golden Ticket Rolls Royce education – or what is basically equity in education for disabled children.

We heard off the record that Willy Wonka is quite frankly sick of having his chocolate PR campaign dragged through the mud by those who had the chance of a university education whilst blocking the very basics of primary and secondary education for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

As Local Authorities plead poverty under the explosion of High Needs Budgets, of course there’s always a hefty pay packet for LA Directors, Consultants and Directors turning freelance consultant, just 59.9 per cent of new plans issued by Local Authorities in England met the 20 week deadline – which is a legal requirement rather than a serving suggestion.

There were overall, 93,300 initial requests for an EHCP during 2021, with a total of 73,300 children and young people in total with EHCPs as of January 2022.

The headline grabbing numbers are merely an indicator of failure which is spun into a narrative of children taking resources from others. ‘But what about the other 29?’ bleat behaviourists on Twitter, when an unsupported Send pupil has a meltdown and throws a water bottle.

The narrative should be flipped and seen as the education failure that it is. Send provision in mainstream has historically not been good enough. This is a combination of a failure to fund the Send reforms, academisation, disability discrimination and Local Authority failure. These are a few of my favourite things we have covered in-depth over the last few years.

So what’s going on in Bristol? Does anyone ever know what’s going on in Bristol? The statistics come the same week that a rumour – turning out to be true – that Director of Education Alison Hurley had resigned. Hurley has stated in email we have seen, that her resignation is for ‘personal reasons’, but again, this coincides with the week it was discovered the Executive Director structure at Bristol City Council will change.

In true Bristol style, this is all presented and branded through a tidy website and Mayor Marvin Rees managing to talk about creating an ‘inclusive…City of Hope’ to camera with a straight face.

It also comes the same month that the city went to the polls to vote whether to keep the current mayoral system or move to a committee model of governance.

The city opted to ditch the mayoral system, which is quite frankly baffling. Who wouldn’t want unelected randomers chosen by the mayor to influence policy and direction over and above elected members? Who wouldn’t want Bristol on the World Stage instead of having school places, toilets and a Local Authority capable of meeting statutory duties rather than witch hunting people who dare resist the narrative of the One City? That’s right, because bizarrely, for a city known for its lefty, diverse and authority resisting nature it’s ended up with an Authoritarian system of governance.

The political landscape of the city has had unfortunate effects on education. A failure to implement the 2014 Send reforms has been disastrous to the generation of children encompassed by it. Ofsted and the CQC found ‘significant weakness’ in the city’s Send provision in 2019. Cabinet lead for Education Anna Keen herself said in the summer of 2019 that Bristol’s issues with Send were over and above the difficulties other LAs were facing – a fact that is always conveniently overlooked by Labour party cheerleaders.

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But does it matter that these Labour party cheerleaders exist? It shouldn’t matter but it does because they have engrained themselves in boards, school governance and as education leads, with some of them being guilty of blocking access to education for children and young people with Send through unlawful exclusions and failing to adhere to the Equality Act 2010.

Bristol is a city where Cabinet decisions are made long before they hit the meetings to actually approve them. The city is governed by highly secretive boards outlining its One City Plan. There is no effective opposition to long-term failure and ‘influential city leaders’ some of whom do not even live in Bristol have the ear of the Mayor. This means there is nothing to keep cheerleaders in check when they block access to education.

This is dangerous when education policy and philosophy is decided by a mayoral office led by someone who has publicly stated that specialist schools are a form of ‘segregation’ despite being the child or young person’s preference. Is the severe shortage of specialist places deliberately enforced through one person’s ideology, a general LA cock up, or a mixture of both? Whatever it is, it’s resulted in children who should have been able to progress through education and take GCSEs completely unable to do so, with no accountability at all.

Perhaps Education Director Alison Hurley’s swansong Ordinarily Available Provision (OAP) document is the one slap back families have against the system ahead of being forced to take legal action against pretty much everyone. The document is a clear and welcome attempt to make schools implement the Send provision they should be putting in place.

But whilst the OAP document is welcome, it is only local policy. Any trend locally in the rejection of Education Health Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA) should be treated with care. OAP or no OAP, Bristol City Council found itself in hot water in 2018 after not using the lawful test for EHCNAs in 2016, the same time Mayor Marvin Rees attempted to cut £5m in funding for Send.

Bristol statistics in the recently released data shows that the number of children and young people holding EHCPs in 2022 – according to January’s data – is 3,424, with the most held by secondary age pupils, although the rate for primary aged children is not far behind.

In 2021, there were a total of 3,124 EHCPs held in Bristol. The 11 to 15 age group held 1090 of those. The 16 – 19 age group held 746. The 20-25 age group held 276. The 5-10 age group 913 and the under 5 age group was 99.

A total of 71 requests for an Education Health Care Needs Assessment were turned down and 49 who were assessed were refused a plan at the end of it.

Tribunal statistics in the data release don’t go nearly far enough. The only numbers released are for those going through mediation. This is not a necessary step for appealing to SENDIST so does not include those families going straight to appeal.

Historically, Bristol has experienced a critical shortage of specialist school places or settings. Statistics for 2022 aren’t great.

There are 12 pupils of compulsory school age not in education. A total of 08 pupils are of compulsory school age and in education though awaiting provision. A whopping 32 are in other arrangements by the LA, double on last year’s stats. 12 have had other arrangements made by parents. A 209 are NEET, meaning they have an EHCP and are not in education, employment or training.

What the data doesn’t tell us is about children with an EHCP on the roll of a school – either mainstream or specialist – but in Alternative Learning Provision (ALP). It doesn’t feel possible to ever get a transparent picture on what is going on in Send. Nailing down hard numbers feels a bit like chasing ghosts.

There has also been a significant movement of pupils between types of education settings.

112 children with an EHCP transferred from mainstream to specialist settings last year and 76 transferred from specialist settings to mainstream, both numbers a huge jump on the previous year’s figures. This is clearly a ‘hang on a minute moment’ but we do not have the reasons behind the data.

The jump from mainstream to specialist would perhaps indicate an increase in specialist provision becoming available. The movement from specialist is not necessarily a success story. Looking to our own Send journey, one of my children has moved from specialist to mainstream after the specialist in question broke equality laws and left us with precious little alternatives due to a shortage of the right type of specialists.

The Timeliness of EHCPs has also been a massive issue in Bristol, who once languished at the bottom of the LA charts as the worst in England.

In 2021, the number of EHCPs issued within 20 weeks including and excluding exception cases was 185. This has increased from 145 in 2020 and 03 in 2019.

But how does this timeliness compare to the cities historically used as our statistical neighbours? Stats from 2021 show that in this chart, Bristol is fourth from the bottom.

Increased timeliness does not show what the quality of the plans are actually like and whether children are having a proper assessment of their needs, especially when trying to access health and social care advice.

Bristol City Council believes their timeliness issues are affected by the way they choose to process them. Cases are not necessarily prioritsed in order of arrival to the SEN team – in an agreement with the Department for Education.

Alison Hurley told People Scrutiny Commission on 07 March 2022, that the reason there was a timeliness issue in Bristol is because they were taking an ‘ethical approach’.

Hurley said the team were trying to approach the ‘backlog’ from ‘both ends’ to make sure they are ‘not just prioritising those within timescale to get our statistics higher and making sure they were targeting those legacy cases as well.’

Councillor and People Scrutiny Chair Tim Kent, was not impressed with delays, calling them ‘unacceptable’ and at around 500 late cases, worse than the infamous 2019 Bristol backlog.

Senior Educational Psychologist Vikki Jervis swooped in to tell councillors the number of ‘live cases was around 500’. She was quick to remove the entire backlog by pointing out that the council officially considers late cases as ‘live cases’. “By live cases those ones that are in the system so we don’t really class them as backlog.” Jervis said to an unimpressed Council chamber.

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Bristol City Council says it has ‘big plans and high hopes for Bristol’ as part of a drive to recruit Directors and Executive Directors to the city as part of a restructure and recruitment drive.

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Responding to parent carer concern on social media about the further impacts the shake-ups would have on Send in the wake of Alison Hurley’s departure, Deputy Mayor, Labour Councillor for St George West and Cabinet Member for Children,Education & Equalities said she would be looking at creating a SEN Director role, although this position has not been advertised and it’s not clear if it would be a Director working in isolation of mainstream education.

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Bristol EHCP Statistics 2022