Shropshire Star

'Transformation programme' underway to provide for children with special needs

A council has set out on increasing its provision in mainstream schools for the growing number of school pupils with special educational needs.

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Shropshire Council has started a consultation exercise on increasing resourced provision places at one school near Oswestry and has invited others to come forward.

The council has seen a massive increase in the number of pupils on care plans in the last 18 months and needs to get to grips with school school provision for them.

Changes are expected to free up special school places for pupils with the highest level of needs and to help keep more children within the county.

The council says that within Shropshire schools, the January 2024 census showed that 7 per cent of the school population have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) (2,459 pupils).

This number has increased by 26 per cent in the past 18 months, they add. The national average is just 4.3 per cent.

Shropshire has experienced a significant increase in demand for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision over the last few years. It's projected that demand will continue to grow across all sectors.

We've thus embarked on a SEND transformation programme, and one of the key objectives is to reduce the number of independent and out-of-county placements by expanding in county specialist provision, targeted at the right areas of need in the right location.

The council has launched a consultation on plans to establish a new eight-place specialist resourced provision for pupils with autistic spectrum conditions and speech, language and communication needs at Morda Primary School. It is due to come into effect from September 2024.

The provision at Morda will be located in refurbished purpose-designed accommodation within the school site.

Council officials say it is not anticipated that the proposal will have any impact on other educational facilities in the local area.

The consultation documents say: "Shropshire Council is developing a wide range of specialist provision across the county for children and young people with a range of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

"To enable us to continue to meet current and future demand, existing specialist provisions are being expanded/redesignated and new specialist provision, including resourced provisions, are being established.

"We've invited schools within the county to express an interest in developing proposals to establish provision to meet identified needs across the county."

They add that all pupils accessing a resourced provision place will be on roll of the school and have access to both mainstream provision and the resourced provision, dependent on their individual needs.

This new resourced provision will be part of the school, and operationally led and managed by it.

Department for Education (DfE) guidance on resourced provisions states the following:

Resourced provisions are where places are reserved at a mainstream school for pupils with a specific type of SEN, taught mainly within mainstream classes, but requiring a base and some specialist facilities around the school.

Pupils are on the roll of the mainstream school

Resourced provision schools will receive additional funding from the local authority specifically for the purpose of the provision

They're usually for pupils with EHC plans but could include pupils with SEN but without an EHC plan

Children attend the RP facilities for individual support, to learn a specific skill, to receive medical or therapeutic support or to access specialist equipment. The facilities can be in a suite or dispersed throughout the school

The published admission number for the school will remain the same, but an agreed number of ‘additional places’ will be created, but subject to admission through the education, health and care plan (EHCP) referral process, rather than the school's admission arrangements

The consultation adds: "Pupils placed at the resourced provision will have a range of significant learning difficulties, including autism and/or speech, language and communication needs, usually but not limited to those who have an education, health and care plan.

"The RP will offer an inclusive provision for pupils who require arrangements over and above that which a mainstream school can provide through an EHC plan.

"Pupils will be admitted if their EHCP identifies developmental difficulties of a significant to severe nature but are able to integrate and be part of a mainstream school community.

"These difficulties may be particularly characterised by communication difficulties, which may show themselves in speech and language difficulties as well as in more complex interactions with both adults and peers.

"There may also be a more fundamental social or cognitive basis to the difficulties."

They add: "The proposal will build on the good standards for teaching and learning already in place at the school. The development will provide places for children and young people with SEND within the resourced provision. This development won't have any negative impact on other schools, academies and educational institutions in the area."

The proposal will provide:

Local mainstream educational provision for pupils requiring specialist support and intervention to meet their special educational needs.

Pupils’ appropriately planned learning opportunities and activities to address the defined needs of pupils.

Access to learning for those pupils in the target group. This shall include access:

To the appropriate and relevant national curriculum programmes of study though inclusive 'quality first teaching' for part of the school day, differentiated according to individual needs; and

To wider opportunities that promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school, eg assemblies and out of school activities.

To learning and teaching to address identified need as appropriate, eg emotional resilience.

To provide a wide range of professional support across education, health and social care dependent on individual needs, in order to support pupils and remove barriers to learning.

To personalise specialist support and appropriate intervention, structured in cycles of 'assess, plan, do, review' and which are overseen by the school special educational needs coordinator (SENCo).

All admissions will be determined by Shropshire Council in accordance with the SEN and Disability Code of Practice.

The establishment of the resourced provision base won't create an overall increase in the number of places in the primary sector, but will provide an additional specialist provision for children.

The proposed resource base won't replace existing provision but will supplement and improve provision across the county.

The addition of the special resource base to the school won't have a direct impact on admissions or provision at other schools within the area, but will have a positive impact in the capacity and quality of outreach support to be offered to other schools.

The proposal to establish a new resourced provision will be subject to a full statutory consultation process.

The funding has been identified using the additional capital grant allocated by the Department for Education (DfE).

The council adds that long-term value for money will be achieved by pupils having their needs met within appropriate mainstream provision with specialist support rather than in special school provision.

"This will free special school places for pupils with the highest level of needs and provide the opportunity to place high need pupils within the county, rather than in out of county provision or in the independent sector.

"Increased capacity for outreach will deliver support for pupils in mainstream settings, leading to fewer pupils being transferred to specialist provisions and improving inclusion opportunities in mainstream schools."

The consultation for the change at Morda School is open for public comments until July 16.

Any person may make comments on the proposal by sending them to:

Email: TellUs@shropshire.gov.uk

Post: Feedback and Insight Team, Shropshire Council, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate Shropshire SY2 6ND

More details are on the consultation page of the Shropshire Council website.

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