Time is running out for Derby City Council on children with Special Educational Needs (SEN)!
The Government gave all Local Authorities 3.5 years to convert existing SEN statements to the new, and more comprehensive, Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP). This was not a cosmetic exercise, but one that ensured that all SEN children were given the best support to meet their needs and to ensure that they had access to an appropriate education. The end date is 31 March 2018…a mere 9 months away.
3 previous articles showed how the Council has continually failed to deliver the EHCP conversions in line with its own plan:
Special Educational Needs : Derby City Council is failing the children November 2015
Derby City Council badly behind plan for Special Educational Needs children April 2016
Special Needs Children; the Council’s “forgotten priority” February 2017
The dates for conversion, by child, were planned to coincide with when they were due to move to their next school. A slipped date means that a child is not getting what they deserve, and is at risk of losing out on their education.
The latest re-committed plan (December 2016) was for 647 to be completed by March 2017 (FOI 9419). They actually delivered 34. The remaining 613 have been slipped to March 2018 – that is the latest possible legal allowed date (FOI 10068)
Cllr Russell ( Cabinet member for Education) has re-assured the Council on a number of occasions that, despite the start being poor, that it is now “improving”. The Council has not been short of funding. Specific grants have been given by Central Govt since the start of this programme amounting to £1.1m ring-fenced to deliver these conversions. To further assist, from October 2015-October 2016 a consultant was employed for £77350 to provide more resource. Yet, none of this seems to have secured the right progress against the plan
There were 1283 SEN statements that needed to be converted in 3.5 years. In 2.5 years, just 252 have been completed ( about 100 per year). In the final year, 1031 have to be finished to be legally compliant….a 10 fold increase in delivery rate.
Despite the stark nature of the actual numbers, Andy Smith, Strategic Director for People stated in the Cabinet Meeting on 21st June:
“Yes, we are making very positive progress in relation to performance around Education Health and Care plans in terms of conversions and also new plans coming into the system….this is a priority for the Council, and there will be robust performance monitoring”
As late as 30th June, Mr Smith had to apologise to a parent:
“It is with regret that I confirm, that the Local Authority (LA) has not been able to finalise the conversion from Statement to Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan for Mrs X’s son, Y, by the end of May 2017, as promised. In addition, the LA is very sorry, that Mrs X was not communicated about the further time needed and a new deadline. The Officer in the Vulnerable Leaners’ Service (VLS) has been working on this and the proposed EHC Plan for Y will be with Mrs X for Thursday 14th July”
A slip of 6 weeks on top of a previous long delay.
This whole programme has been a shambles from start to finish and only seems to have been mitigated in the minds of the Council by the fact that the children have existing SEN statements. That may be the case, but they will, most likely, be out of date, inappropriate for future needs, not clear about the suitability of a new school, not comprehensive to ensure that school life in a new environment will be satisfactory which ultimately means that some of the most vulnerable of children are at risk of losing out on their education.
This is not a slight on the teaching staff who, no doubt, will do what they can to give the child the best opportunity. But if the needs have not been properly identified, and the appropriate funding provided then this could be undermined.
Why has there been a problem?
The Council operate an adversarial approach with Parents – every step of the way is a battle from diagnosis, identification of needs, getting an EHCP, funding, school places, transport etc …. to what end? Parents left drained, stressed and anxious as they are desperate to ensure that they get the best for their children. Council staff going off sick with stress through having to operate this approach. Additionally there is no basic project management of the whole activity. When the Council makes commitments – it is nothing short of a blind guess. ( e.g. in order to complete the conversion programme by March 2018, all conversions should have been started by now – the Council have no tracker of whether this is the case)
This car crash is careering headlong into the March 2018 brick wall, leaving untold debris behind it….
….the way to solve this, change the approach, work with parents, not against them!
The Council just might find that this is an extremely constructive approach.
Categories: Special Educational Needs