Every child deserves an excellent education and families deserve every possible support to reduce the stresses and pressures involved in bringing up children. Norfolk is set to receive nearly £3 million of government funding to improve support for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and the Council is consulting on the best way to invest the money. I want to encourage everyone to grab this chance to have your say about SEN provision in Norfolk.
More than a quarter of a million children in England have a Statement or an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). Numbers have grown steadily over the last decade but that is as much a cause for celebration as it is concern. Medical treatment for physical conditions is improving and our understanding of mental health is growing and that means more families are in a position to call on SEN support.
Local councils face a big challenge – can they meet the growing demand? Specialist support can cost as much as ten times the average cost of a school place each year. Transport to and from special schools is another call on over-stretched council budgets – so if specialist provision is not in the right location it can add to the pressures on families and the costs faced by the council.
The government has taken a small step to help councils tackle the problem. Over the next three years, Norfolk will receive £2.7 million in funding for capital projects – that’s buildings mainly – to create new specialist provision in Norfolk.
The consultation closes on 15th April and you can have your say by visiting the website: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/children-and-families/send-local-offer/news-views-and-reviews/views/send-sufficiency-consultation
We need more specialist support closer to children who need it but I am worried about relying too much on special schools. Wherever possible children should be given appropriate support in mainstream schools. If we build more special schools we will be left with expensive buildings that are stuck in one place and a need to fill them to make the Council’s budget balance. Those are not good reasons for deciding on a child’s future. We must invest in flexible support and new technology.
So, please complete the survey but have your say on the best future for SEN support more broadly. We can only make education in norfolk fit the needs of children and families if the voices of those children and families are clearly heard.