Head says more SEND units needed in Suffolk

1st June, 2022 2:30 pm

A head teacher in a county criticised for its special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision said more special units were needed.

Parents, a local MP, and an independent review have all called for improvements to Suffolk County Council’s SEND support.

James Clark, head teacher at Exning Primary School in Newmarket, said the service needed “more funding”.

The authority said other counties were facing similar challenges.

Earlier this year, the council had to compensate families with SEND for failings and campaigners have called for a commissioner to take over the running of the service.

Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, also wrote to the authority and health bosses saying delays to education health and care plans (EHCPs), which set out provision for children with SEND, were getting worse not better.

Suffolk County Council said in the past year, 300 more children were being educated in special units or schools, but in the same period the number of children on support plans had risen by 500.

Exning Primary School’s new Hive Unit cost £700,000, and means pupils with SEND can learn and play alongside others.

Mr Clark said: “If they are within that environment that suits special needs children, then there’s not overstimulation and we have a good child-to-adult ratio.

“We have six members of staff, sometimes seven, working in the unit for a maximum of 12 children, so you have that ratio that really helps to encourage children in an individualised curriculum.”

He said to improve SEND provision in the county there needed to be “more funding [and] more units, that’s probably a good place to start”.

Ellie’s five-year-old son Reuben, who has autism, has been offered a place at the Hive Unit.

She said it was “an anxious time” when she realised he needed a SEND unit or school place.

“You hear horror stories from other parents online.

“I was seeing on a daily basis parents talking about hiring solicitors, having court cases, and they were spending thousands, and it was a frightening thought because you think ‘well how am I going to do this fight, how am I going make this happen and get him what he needs?’.”

She said finding a place at the unit at Exning Primary School had been “huge” for her family.

“It has given him such an outlet, he’s getting a lot of interest and stimulus here, he’s getting a lot of input and exposure to different things in a way we just couldn’t do at home.

“His behaviour has improved, it’s been amazing to see him make these small steps, we’re all just happier as a family.

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