Special Educational Needs

Open Letter to Cllr Russell: Plan continuing to fail Special Educational Needs children

Open Letter to Cllr Russell – Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, copied to all other 50 Councillors

Dear Cllr Russell

You will recall that just after the Council Cabinet on 12th July, I spoke to you outside the Chamber urging you to take seriously my concerns about the “SEN statement to ECHP transfer plan”.  A plan which the facts suggest will fail the Council’s  legal obligation of completion by 1 April 2018. I followed this up with an email, on the 13th July, detailing the substance of my concerns providing references. I received no acknowledgement or response.

Your comment to me when we spoke was, to paraphrase, “the Council Officers are telling me that we are on plan, what can I do – I have to accept what they say” – or words to that effect.

As we all know,  this is not just numbers on a page, or a theoretical plan, but children’s education. A significant number of whom are being failed by the Council;  transfers have not been achieved, and education is being detrimentally affected – this will be touching families across all wards in the City.

I have since received a response to my FOI no. 10313 which re-confirms the dire situation that this programme is in. To summarise:

  1. Version 3 of the plan dated February 2016 detailed 1263 children to be transferred with committed dates by March 2018.
  2. FOI 10313 (15 Aug 2017) confirmed that just 266 had been transferred by August 2017
  3. FOI 10313 requested confirmation of transfers outstanding, by birth year:
    • Post-16 – stated as 352
    • Pre-16 – “Information not held”.  This questions the ability to deliver a plan if there is no information. Despite this the outstanding transfers have been committed by 31 March 2018.

The number outstanding is 997 (1263 plan – 266 completed) – this is backed up by the detail.

  1. FOI 10313 ( 15 August 2017) requested an answer as to why the most recent committed completions had failed.
    • Response : “ Due to capacity issues following restructure the momentum was not as expected however, capacity has now been increased to respond to the statutory deadline stated above”
    • Since the beginning of this programme the Council has been given specific Government grants amounting to £1.1m to fund additional resource to deliver this programme. In 2016 the Council authorised £77k from its own budget to employ a consultant to support the programme.

In order to deliver the March 2018 plan, the Council now needs to deliver transfers at the rate of 142 per month, against the previous average of 10 per montha 14 fold increase.

Or to look it another way, at the current rates, it will take a further 8 years to complete the plan – finished by 2026.

It is unacceptable for you to stand behind the assurances of Officers when the facts shout loudly that something is not right. An executive overview of the programme would reveal the problem immediately. If I was in your position, I would be very sceptical, and ask the Officer to “show me” why they believe that their plans are credible.

After all, this is critical to the education and future of around 1000 vulnerable children in this City.

Have you asked the Strategic Director to show you the resource plans that will deliver this massive increase in capacity which will assure completion by March 2018? At what point will you conclude that the plan is not achievable – 1 April 2018, or when OFSTED visit? Why are Council Officers telling you one story, and then a different one in response to a FOI?

They are clearly not on plan.

If I can be of assistance in explaining this in more detail please let me know.

Yours sincerely


Russell Pollard

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