Changes to SEND services in North Yorkshire will create ‘perfect storm’, says headteacher

Classroom file pic.

A headteacher has criticised council officers over a shake-up of school provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The school head, whose name is withheld due to concerns his speaking out could lead to disciplinary action by the council, has spoken out about North Yorkshire County Council’s transformational scheme as he believes the changes will “create a perfect storm for the annihilation of the SEND services”.

The headteacher said while the authority says it intends to establish 31 Enhanced Mainstream Schools (EMSs) across the county by September 2020, it had recently released a document showing the existing level of SEND support that schools, children and their families rely upon will plummet.

EMSs are attached to mainstream schools and provide support and outreach to other “home” schools and settings in their area and, in most cases, have a number of places reserved for pupils with specific types of special educational needs.

The headteacher said the council document showed ring-fenced names and positions, in some cases individuals being offered new positions, alongside “a staggering lack of of frontline staff within this safety net”.

He added: “It also highlights very clearly that the staff that are making these decisions on our behalf, those staff that barely know what a child looks like… clearly see SEND cuts as a way of lining their own pockets.”

However, the headteacher said his staff were already doing everything they could to support every child that attends the school and “to find out that the EMS support that we are currently receiving will be lost is absolutely devastating”.

He said: “There will be nobody to support which will directly affect the rise in exclusions because alongside the restructuring of support services the local authority is also restructuring the way in which money is allocated to special educational needs and this would suggest that all SEND children will have to meet a higher threshold in order to access any support.

“This combination of factors could be seen to be creating a perfect storm for the annihilation of the SEND services across the whole of North Yorkshire.”

In response to the claims, Jane le Sage, assistant director for SEND and inclusion services at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “It’s really disappointing that parents and staff are not discussing their questions and concerns with us despite our offer to talk to them. That offer remains open and is particularly important given what appears to be a misunderstanding of the facts.

“The internal restructure of our staff in the Inclusion and SEND team does not relate to the new model of delivering Extended Mainstream Services (EMS) in schools which will be in place from September 2020.

“Our teams of professionals  will be  supporting pupils in mainstream schools who have SEND and need additional support. The teams will be made up of educational psychologists, specialist teachers and therapists.

“The new EMS schools will provide education for up to eight children, the majority with EHC Plans. They are intended to meet the needs of children with SEND who are able to access mainstream learning but need further support in terms of their special educational needs.

“We will fund schools to deliver this provision but the actual model of delivery will be shaped by the head teacher in conjunction with the local authority.

“Some schools have chosen not to continue under the new arrangements and therefore will be undertaking their own restructure to decide on the future employment of staff associated with the EMS provision.

“If we have any vacancies in our internal team once our restructure is complete we have said that if any external staff in maintained schools are at risk after schools opting out have gone through their own process, then we will give them the chance to apply for those vacancies before we advertise them.

“It is not therefore accurate to link our internal restructure with any staffing matters in schools opting not to deliver EMS under the new model.

“That’s not to say we are not sympathetic – we are – but it’s important to be clear on the facts here.”