Some children with SEND ‘get an hour of education a day’, warns headteacher

Urswick School headteacher Richard Brown and headgirl Melissa Hussain.

Headteacher Richard Brown and Urswick School headgirl Melissa Hussain. - Credit: Archant

A Hackney headteacher has called for “urgent” action after hearing some local children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are only getting one hour of education a day.

At a recent children and young people’s scrutiny commission meeting, Richard Brown, executive head at both the Urswick School and pupil referral unit New Regent’s College, relayed reports of poor quality practice from students who had been at New Regent’s before being placed in special schools outside the borough.

Addressing Hackney’s director of education Annie Gammon and high needs head Fran Cox, Mr Brown said: “Can we ensure a piece of work is done to ensure that independent out-of-borough settings are delivering what we are already paying them for? 

“When I speak to parents, they tell me about instances where young people are getting an hour’s education a day, or are only there in the mornings. They don’t seem to be getting anything close to 25 hours a week."

Schools could reopen at the beginning of June. Picture: CORBIS

Some Send students may only be receiving one hour of education a day, a Hackney headteacher has claimed. - Credit: � Royalty-Free/CORBIS

Fran Cox assured all listening that the council will carry out a wide-scale review, looking at contractual arrangements as well as systems in place to monitor exclusion, attendance and progress, encouraging all parents with similar concerns to contact the council.

The meeting heard about the continuing financial impasse faced by the council as the national funding model for SEND by central government remains broken year on year, despite past warnings from Town Hall finance bosses. 

According to the Town Hall’s SEND boss Cllr Caroline Woodley,  the council’s cumulative funding deficit in this area will come to £13m at the end of the year.

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She added: “This is a national issue of great concern. We need to look at how best to increase places in the borough.”

Demand for SEND services continues to increase, with requests for Education, Health & Care Plans (EHCPs) seeing an almost 17 per cent annual increase for each of the past two years.  

The rise likely stems from 2014 extension of provision up to the age of 25 and an increase in the number of children being diagnosed with autism. 

Cox also revealed that over the next decade the council aspires to develop enough in-borough provision that “only the very most complex children would need to seek an out-of-borough independent place”.