For the Parents of the 1200+ children who require a statement of Special Educational Needs it is a daily grind to ensure that they get what they are entitled to from the Council. Since September 2014, the “statement” has been replaced by a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). For those with “statements” they are going through a conversion programme which, legally, has to be completed by 31st March 2018.
I have written on many occasions highlighting that the Council’s own data indicates that they are significantly behind programme. I have spoken to Cllr Sarah Russell (Cabinet member for Education and Skills) and written an open letter in August 2017 – she had no answers to the facts. A letter to Andy Smith (Strategic Director – People Services) was ignored, yet he, and his Acting Director for this department – Suanne Lim seem comfortable in telling parents that the plan is “on target”. In the meantime, the child’s education is being jeopardised.
The original documented plan in 2015 was for 1133 children, a revised plan in February 2016 showed 1589. The number reported to the Department of Education is 1119. Andy Smith has stated in writing that the original plan was for ~1500. The difference is explained on the grounds that children are no longer in the system – this is difficult to substantiate.
How many have been completed
In a Freedom of Information request dated 15 August 2017, it was stated that 266 have been completed.
A letter issued by Andy Smith (Strategic Director – People Services) dated 29 August 2017 to Ann Gross of the Department of Education confirmed that there were 875 statements yet to convert.
Thus, 266 ( completed) + 875 ( to complete) = 1141 ( in total) – ( small differences due to the timing of reports with the 1119 above)
In response to a question asked by Cllr Ruth Skelton at the Council Meeting dated 22 November 2017, the response was:
“On 13 November 2017 the Local Authority reported to Department of Education that there are 847 to convert by 31 March 2018″
Rate of completion
In my email to Andy Smith I based my assertion that they were not on plan, due to the fact that from December 2016 to August 2017, the rate of conversion was 8.5 statements per month.
In the period from August 2017 to November 2017 ( above) 28 were converted in 11 weeks – approx 10 statements per month
Time to completion
On the basis of 10 per month, then it will be a further 84 months ( 7 years) before the 847 have been converted.
Or alternatively, the Council will have to increase the rate to just over 200 per month to achieve the plan….a 20 times increase in rate!
In FOI 10692 24 November 2017, the response claimed that 566 statements had been converted – nearly 300 more than had been reported to the Department of Education. This is being queried.
In an email to a Councillor, Andy Smith stated that in October 2017, 972 statements were outstanding, 97 more than reported to the Department of Education in August – presumably in an attempt to demonstrate the rate of conversion in just one month was much closer to the required level.
Completion of this plan is a legal obligation to the Department of Education – it is a moral and ethical obligation to the children, and parents. The various points of data from different sources is clear – the Council is NOT “on -target”
In response to my detailed email to Andy Smith, he responded by saying:
“If you wish to have detailed information about any of the services run by the Council then as a member of the public you have two options – to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act or submit a question to the relevant Cabinet Member at the next Full Council Meeting”
All of this has been done, including letters and emails penned by himself, and the reports held on the Department of Education website
Why is Andy Smith and his team continuing to mislead parents? Why is Cllr Russell failing in her duty to challenge officers on behalf of the people she represents?
The parents deserve transparency, and not to be treated as fools!
In 11 weeks the Council converted 28 statements – in 20 weeks they will convert 847! Sound like a plan?