The county council is consulting on new proposals to address challenges faced by pupils in Lincolnshire with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families when trying to access the right education, in the right place at the right time.
The education authority has been working with all special school head teachers, chairmen of governors and the Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum to develop a new model for special education called the Building Communities of Specialist Provision strategy.
Professionals, governors, parents, carers, families and children are now being consulted about the new strategy and vision which will involve consultation events with individual schools, through the Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum, as well as public meetings.
Travel distance is seen as a key factor. The county council explains that its special schools offer high quality education to all pupils, but if children arrive at school tired and stressed after a long journey, it can seriously affect their ability to learn.
If they arrive home after a long journey, tired and stressed, it will have an impact on family time and similarly, if a child has to attend a specialist residential school, family relationships may be impacted.
The council says it wants to tackle these issues and see things improve for children and their families.
The strategy is aimed at reducing the length of journeys to school for pupils with SEND by ensuring all special schools can meet all types of need and disability, so pupils can go to their nearest school.
○ It would seek to enhance provision through investment in schools, so that all pupils have equal access to the facilities needed to meet their needs. The council is proposing to build facilities for pupils with complex physical disabilities in all special schools so they can be educated in their nearest school and develop more sensory and therapeutic spaces in all schools so all pupils can access these facilities.
○ Through investment, they would ensure there are enough school places to meet the growing demand and for pupils to be able to attend their nearest school, or one in their locality. It is likely some schools will be expanded and a new school will be built.
○ The strategy would see all professionals work closely together to ensure special schools have the right type of health and social care support to meet the needs of all pupils.
○ The authority would develop ‘satellites’ of special schools on some mainstream school sites so pupils with SEND will have the opportunity to access mainstream experiences and curriculum, supported by their special school and also provide opportunities for children to return to mainstream, through these satellites.
○ They would support pupils with SEND to be able to access a special school closer to home, rather than them being educated outside of Lincolnshire, developing stronger relationships between special and mainstream schools so that pupils with SEND can be educated in mainstream school - teaching staff will be given access to the expert knowledge of special school staff.
All interested parties are being urged to comment through a survey on the council’s website at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/SENDcommunities or people can email their comments or enquiries at SENDCommunities@lincolnshire.gov.uk
The county council states that no child will be forced to change school if parents don’t want them to. However, with only 30 per cent of pupils with SEND currently attending their nearest school, under the new proposals children will have the chance to attend a school in their local community if that is possible.
Coun Patricia Bradwell, Executive Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “These are significant changes which aim to bring accessible inclusive education in all communities, minimal travel, enhanced provision and increased number of school places. We want all children to be able to access high quality education and achieve their potential, as near to their family and local community as possible.”
The council says these significant changes will create a ‘joined up’ system where educational and health needs can be fully met closer to home. Children educated in their local communities could develop close friendship bonds with their classmates both in and out of school.
Coralie Cross, chairman of the Lincolnshire Parent Carer Forum, added: “We want to ensure community special schools can meet the need of all pupils no matter what their specific disabilities may be and increase support to children and young people in mainstream school.
“But it’s important we hear from parents, carers and children about our proposals as they are at the heart of SEND provision.”
Lincolnshire County Council is hosting three open public meetings where the proposed strategy and model will be outlined by representatives from Children’s Services and local special school head teachers. Those attending will have the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the proposals. There will be one at Sleaford New Life Conference Centre on Mareham Lane on Tuesday February 27 from 6-7.30pm.
Among school consultation events there will be one at Gosberton House Academy, Gosberton on Friday January 26 1.30-3.30pm and John Fielding School, Boston on Monday January 29 5-7pm; Willoughby School, Bourne in Mason’s Hall, 1-2 Roman Bank, Bourne, PE10 9LQ on Wednesday February 1 1-3pm; and Sandon and Ambergate Schools, Grantham, at Ambergate Sports College on Thursday March 1 5-7pm.
The consultation runs until March 14, 2018.