Move to improve access to education for special needs pupils

Classroom file pic.

Council bosses have pledged to improve educational opportunities for disabled children and young people, and those with special educational needs.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive has recommended the authority adopts a fresh strategy to open up access to support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at a meeting of the full council on May 17.

The proposals, which have been development after talks with parents and SEND pupils, follow the government launching a national plan to level up opportunities, with a key focus on ending the postcode lottery that it said “leaves too many with worse outcomes than their peers”.

The Government has said it is intent on improving an inconsistent, process-heavy and increasingly adversarial system that has often left parents facing frustration, difficulties and delays accessing the right support for their child.

The move also follows a Council for Disabled Children report which said both professionals and parents believed sweeping systemic changes were needed, including increasing access to support across England’s largest county.

The study, commissioned by North Yorkshire Council and North Yorkshire clinical commissioning group, saw professionals and parents claim that “many schools still see children and young people with SEND as a burden and as a result seek to ‘get these children out of our schools’.”

North Yorkshire’s plan would see a greater range and availability of local provision and an increased range of social opportunities for pupils with SEND.

It proposes putting “knowledge, training and understanding of staff to continue to support children within mainstream settings” at the heart of the strategy and providing early and proactive support.

The meeting was told key principles of the strategy would include early identification as it had been recognised that would improve outcomes and life chances.

Councillor Janet Sanderson, the authority’s children’s services boss, told the meeting special schools had in the past been viewed by some as “more about containment than education”, which was a piece of history worth remembering as the authority launched its new SEND strategy.

She said: “It is very clear from the responses captured from our children and young people with special needs that they want to educated in our communities alongside our other children and we should be mindful of these aspirations in the production of a new strategy.”

While the Council for Disabled Children report stated professionals felt that “reaching parent carers is often a challenge”, the meeting heard the new plan would centre around partnership work between the council, NHS, parent-carers forums and children and young people.

Coun Sanderson added: “This is a specifically local plan planned around local delivery. However it will also take account of and aligns with the recent government SEND improvement strategy which represents a significant shift.”

Corporate services executive member Councillor David Chance backed the proposals as “the way forward” while education executive member Council Annabel Wilkinson said the changes were “all about inclusion”.