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North Yorkshire County Council has decided to consult on a strategic education plan for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities which aims to create a more inclusive culture, more local provision, and a reduction in costly out-of-county placements.

Evidence shows that children with special needs and disabilities do better if they can stay within mainstream schooling and within their own communities.

The council’s plan, agreed for consultation last week, therefore outlines initiatives to promote effective early intervention; more specialist targeted and long-term provision in mainstream schools; more places in special schools; a flexible system of teaching and learning and continuation of support through to adulthood.

This aim is for children and young people with special needs and disabilities to access the right type of education and support at the right time, in the right place and as locally as possible.

“We know that the demand for special educational needs is increasing, while our funding remains static,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service.  “But we also believe that by using our funding to better effect by creating more localised, flexible and targeted provision, the County Council can make savings on expensive out-of-county placements and on home-to-school transport.

“In putting together our plan we have, over many months, listened to parents, carers, children and young people and a range of education and other professionals.

“They have told us about the importance of early intervention, having needs met locally and the need to strengthen the voice of families, children and young people.  They have stressed the importance of local decision making and local provision to meet changing needs.

“The aim of this plan therefore is to create the best educational opportunities as locally as possible for those with special educational needs and disabilities in order to achieve the best outcomes in learning, social and emotional health and preparation for adulthood.”

The key points of the plan for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are:

  • reshape current provision to create more effective early intervention;
  • more specialist targeted and long-term provision in mainstream schools;
  • building up a skilled workforce through clear continuous professional development and the creation of locally-based multi-disciplinary teams;
  • increase the number of places in the county’s special schools and address gaps in specialist provision in some areas of the county – this includes submitting an application for a new special free school in Selby and exploring establishing satellite specialist provision in the Ripon area;
  • closer working between special and mainstream schools to enable children and young people to move more flexibly between the two;
  • reduce the number of exclusions by closer working between mainstream schools and the pupil referral service;
  • revise the model for the education of children with medical and mental health needs and their preparation for transition into adulthood;
  • strengthen processes and provision in preparing for adulthood;
  • reshape local authority SEND support services into locality-based teams with enhanced therapeutic intervention;
  • Set up local Inclusion steering groups which will include parents and carers, local government officers and headteachers as well as panels with a range of professionals to ensure that performance and need is monitored locally and a local partnership continues to shape developments in the future.

North Yorkshire County Council has a high needs budget of £44.8 million and currently expects to spend £48.6 million on special educational needs with an underlying overspend of £4 million in 2018/19. The council is hoping to reduce spending by ensuring that it has the right provision to meet need in the county

There are almost 163,000 children and young people aged 0-25 in North Yorkshire and the numbers with Education and Health Care Plans are rising.  There are currently 2507 with plans but this is predicted to rise by nearly another 1000 (to 3450) by 2022, in line with national trends.

Over 10 per cent of the school population is provided with special educational needs support and this is also expected to increase, particularly at secondary level.

The figure for those with Social, Emotional and Health needs has increased by almost 38 per cent in the last two years and growing numbers of those with communication and interaction needs (particularly autism) is also contributing to the overall rise.

“Our high needs budget is under increasing pressure” added Cllr Sanderson, “In 2018-19 the budget will increase by only 0.3 per cent while overall demand rises by 15 per cent.  We are lobbying Government for increased high needs funding and calling on the support of our MPs in this respect.  At the same time we are consulting on this strategic plan which we believe will lead to a more sustainable and effective service in the long term.”

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