Almost £1m spent on private or out of county SEND places in three months
PUBLISHED: 11:47 01 December 2017 | UPDATED: 11:47 01 December 2017
Almost £1m was spent sending children with complex needs to private or out of county schools in a three-month window.
Norfolk County Council spent £935,905 on placements for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) from July to September.
They are classed as out of county, but include both those outside Norfolk and at independent providers within county borders.
The figures - which include more than £350,000 to a school in Lincolnshire - are a reminder of the strain, both locally and nationally, on places at state special schools. Rising demand has seen more children with SEND staying in mainstream schools.
Nicki Price is the founder of Norfolk SENsational Families, a support group for families with children who have additional needs.
She said the lack of places was forcing families to home educate their children.
“People I’m working with have been told that something will come up in the next school year, even though it’s only November,” she said. “It’s breaking families - children are often kicking off as much at home as at school, and it’s so hard on families.
“They don’t have many options and as times goes by if a child isn’t coping then many have no option but to withdraw.”
The figures include £169,000 at Acorn Park School, a day and residential autism school at Banham, £16,455 at Gresham’s School, in Holt, and £17,365 at New Eccles Hall School.
But they also include £363,135 to the Old Vicarage, a school in Lincolnshire for children with autism and learning difficulties, £195,831 at Head Lane, a centre in Essex, and £1,250 to East Sussex County Council.
The council said a child’s needs were sometimes best met in those placements or that the school was the child’s nearest, but that on other occasions places at state-funded special schools were just not available.
When asked what work was ongoing to bring down the figure, the council said: “Three new state-funded special schools have been built or are being built to ensure that we can ensure the best possible mix between quality and cost effectiveness. We have more plans for specialist provision across the county.
“We are also ensuring that mainstream schools are being as inclusive as possible to ensure that only the most complex pupils are within specialist placements.”