In Norfolk we are ambitious for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We uphold the national vision set out in the SEND Code of Practice 2015, that they achieve well in their early years, at school and beyond and lead happy and fulfilled lives.
We have 23 specialist resource bases (SRBs) attached to mainstream schools across Norfolk. They provide a total of 218 specialist places, across five different SRB specialisms:
Cognition and learning
Speech, language and communication
Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)
Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Deaf (hearing impaired)
Children attend SRBs permanently or on a short-term basis depending on the specialism. They are successful in improving outcomes for the children and young people who attend them. There are not enough places for children and young people who have ASD, SEMH and cognition and learning needs.
State-funded special schools
Norfolk has thirteen state-funded special schools. Together they provide 1,600 places. They cater for children and young people with complex learning needs (moderate to severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties) with additional complex special educational needs. All are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted, including residential provision.
We also place children in state-funded special schools in other local authorities where everyone agrees.
Since 2013, we have increased the number of special school places in Norfolk by 230. Despite this, at the start of academic year 2018/19, there are several children in Norfolk whose parent has expressed a right to a special school place, that do not have one.
Because the demand for specialist school places outstrips our state-funded supply, we place children and young people within the private sector on both a day and residential basis. The average cost of these placements far exceeds that of a SRB or state-funded special school.
Why we need more specialist school places in Norfolk
There is a rising demand for specialist educational places for children and young people with SEND from the age of three and up. We know we do not have enough:
Specialist school places for all the children and young people with SEND who need one
Money to invest in more specialist school places
Evidence tells us that if a child’s special educational need is met quickly, they more likely to achieve and thrive.
The increasing need and demand for specialist school places, means that lots of children and young people are either waiting for a specialist school place or are having to be placed in more expensive private specialist provision. Many children and young people who are placed in the private sector need to travel further to school.
There is a significant overspend on both the High Needs Block and home to school transport budget. If we invest in more state-funded specialist provision in Norfolk, more children and young people will have their needs met closer to home.
What are families telling us?
Some recent quotes from our consultation work to inform our plans:
“My son is due to start a SRB after a lengthy wait. He is one of the lucky ones. I feel this is an area which is in great need of extending and closer to children’s home. He is having to travel 45-50 miles a day. It is crazy”.
‘’Exclusion of children with SEN due to no adequate provision”.
“Not enough places in complex needs schools for young children therefore they are often placed in unsuitable mainstream placements until they are older”.
Our ‘invest to save’ strategy
We are aware that the population of Norfolk will continue to rise and with it, the demand for more mainstream schools and specialist places. We uphold the national vision set out in the Children and Families Act 2014, for children and young people with SEND to have their needs met in their local mainstream school.
We aim to have enough specialist school places for all the children and young people with SEND who need one now, and in the future. We want to have mainstream and specialist school places in the right places across Norfolk for all age groups. We will achieve this by spending money on:
Developing more SRBs in mainstream schools across Norfolk, to improve their ability to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND locally
Creating more state-funded special school places in locations across Norfolk, where there is the greatest need to meet need and demand for special school places
How will we do this
In March 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that local authorities would be given additional money to build places and improve facilities for pupils with Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs). Norfolk was allocated approximately £3m over three years.
In October 2019, we updated our special provision plan* which details how the money will be spent, based on the feedback we have received. Alongside corporate borrowing, agreed by the Policy and Resources Committee in October 2018, this money will help us to meet demand for specialist school places in the future. A new special school of 100-150 places costs about £13m to build.
We will know if our strategy has been successful when:
Children and young people with SEND receive a good education
Children and young people’s needs are met earlier, and their outcomes improve
Children, young people and their families express improved satisfaction with the system evidenced by a reduction in complaints and SEND tribunals
There is reduced travel time for children and young people with SEND and an overall reduction in transport costs
High Needs Block costs reduce
Exclusions of children and young people with SEND reduce
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