Pupils With No Special School Place Receiving No Specialist Oversight

Bristol City Council are not providing specialist oversight to the 250 children and young people in Bristol with an Education Health Care Plan, currently without a specialist school place.

The revelation came directly from the council in response to a Freedom of Information Request disclosed to a Bristol resident and released on the WhatDoTheyKnow website.

The resident asked a series of questions specifically about the way the council was working with the 250 children and young people in the city. They form a cohort of pupils requiring specialist provision by law to meet their Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, but are being placed in mainstream schools due to a lack of suitable spaces.

In response to a question about whether there was a team at the council with a ‘specific brief to provide oversite of this cohort?’ the response given was: ‘The SEND Assessment and Review Team have the oversight of all pupils with EHCPs in Bristol.’

But this response contradicts Director of Education and Skills Alison Hurley, who assured Bristol Schools Forum in January 2021 that the group would be looked at as a ‘discreet cohort’.

She told Forum on 13 January 2021: “We are really thinking about how we hold that group of children and young people who are caught up in this delay and thinking about how we work more with schools and settings to make sure that provision is in place in the schools and settings they’re currently attending and how to support schools in that process as well and with the provision.

“So, I think we’re going to hold that group more tightly than we have previously and look at them as a discreet cohort. Which will obviously mean that we’re monitoring their progress in the setting they’re in whilst they wait for their specialist provision.”

In response to the FOI question ‘does each CYP’s family have a named caseworker?’ The response was non-specific, stating ‘yes, the majority of families will have an assigned Senior Inclusion Officer’ though the council will occasionally experience ‘staffing challenges’.

Responding to a question asking for precise details regarding the plans the council has to support the pupils whilst a suitable placement is found, Bristol City Council stated ‘Robust protocols and processes are being developed in consultation to support CYPs until suitable placement is available.’

The Local Authority was even unable to provide assurance to families affected that they would not have to “chase” their caseworker and that families would receive ‘regular communication’ whilst the council made ‘efforts’ to provide a ‘suitable’ long-term placement.

The council’s statement on this was: ‘The Statutory SEND team endeavour to keep all families up to date with the situation. Development work is underway to address this situation and further information will be published to our families when we can, which will be a little later in this academic year.’

Bristol Send Justice spokesperson, Sally Kent blasted the council on Twitter stating that the response was ‘not good enough’.

She asked Bristol Labour and Head of the Mayor’s Office Kevin Slocombe: ‘Would this be good enough for your children? Where’s the specialist team for these children?!’