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Plan to turn around Suffolk special education needs provision revealed

PUBLISHED: 08:56 16 November 2018

Judith Mobbs, assistant director for SEND and skills at Suffolk County Council Picture: ARCHANT

Judith Mobbs, assistant director for SEND and skills at Suffolk County Council Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

A programme to turn around Suffolk’s special education needs (SEN) provision has been outlined – with an “innovative” pilot set to spearhead the measures.

Jack Abbott said he was cautiously optimistic. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILJack Abbott said he was cautiously optimistic. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

The SEND Transformation Programme will be underway over the next 12 months to help improve special education provision, and tackle soaring demand which has left some critics branding it a “crisis”.

In a report published for next week’s Suffolk County Council scrutiny committee, the programme revealed intentions to form a new assessment centre programme, improve offerings at Pupil Referral Units, and extend specialist units at existing mainstream schools.

The assessment centre pilot will see health, care and education professionals come together with parents to assess the needs of a child earlier and put in place an action plan.

This will happen before a statutory assessment takes place, in a bid to help prevent more severe needs further down the line.

Judith Mobbs, assistant director for SEND and skills, said: “People often think that the diagnosis is the answer but actually that’s less important than an assessment of the child’s need.

“The assessment centre programme has been in planning for some time and we are piloting it now to start in January.

“It’s in response to the fact that parents told us when the [Ofsted and Clinical Commissioning Group] inspection happened [in December 2016] some time ago that it was very frustrating for them that there is no kind of way for the child’s need to be recognised relatively early.”

Ms Mobbs said it was an “innovative model” which will “lead to a much better system for the child”.

It is then planned for rollout in west and east Suffolk.

A decision on which schools’ specialist units will be extended is expected next spring.

Ms Mobbs said Suffolk still needed more special schools in the long term, but the short term measures would help make the current system more effective.

Jack Abbott, Suffolk County Council Labour education spokesman said: “Any move to try and tackle the SEN crisis in Suffolk should be taken seriously and I cautiously welcome these initial headline proposals.

“It should not be forgotten that schools and organisations like Suffolk Parent Carer Network have already done a significant amount of work in this area and we must listen and draw on their knowledge and experience.

“However, I say cautiously because Suffolk County Council still has a long, long way to go to deliver the solutions that will meet current and future need. The real challenge now will be to move these plans off paper and into reality.

“To do that we will undoubtedly need a significant investment, a long-term commitment and real political will to finally get this right.”

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