New £10m drive to stop children with special educational needs being educated hundreds of miles away from Norfolk

County Hall

County Hall - Credit: Archant

A new focus to stop youngsters with special educational needs being schooled miles away from home has been agreed by council leaders.

Norfolk County Council spends more than £13m a year on 268 children who attend independent and non-local authority maintained providers.

Ninety-nine of those youngsters are educated out of the county. Of those, 74 are in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Rutland and 25 are further away.

At a meeting of the county council's ruling cabinet yesterday, it was agreed to spend £10m to try to keep the young people in Norfolk.

In the report which came before the cabinet, officers said: 'There has been a doubling of the number placed in private sector provision since 2006 and this provision is generally more expensive than that in state schools.

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'Whilst this is appropriate for some learners, there is a significant proportion that could be educated in Norfolk if existing good and outstanding provision could be expanded or new provision could be developed.

'By expanding capacity and building on our good and outstanding provision, we could reduce the need for out of county placements.

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'Parental confidence in the system would be enhanced through greater availability of high quality specialist provision in Norfolk.'

Of the £10m sum, £4m will be spent to develop provision for pupils with complex behaviour emotional and social difficulties

and autism spectrum disorders.

Money will be spent to create new places, with specialist help, within mainstream schools and in specific centres where those youngsters can be cared for.

About £380,000 will be spent to expand Sidestrand Hall, which specialises in teaching children with autism.

Some £5m will be used to support 'transitional arrangements', to develop best practice and supporting school clusters so there can be early intervention.

The remaining £1m will be used support those providing care for children aged up to five who are identified as having special educational needs.

Mick Castle, cabinet member for schools, said: 'I think this is a really positive move. We really need to get on top of this.

'This will help people with special educational needs be closer to their home and will save the council money in the long term.

'It's a positive message to parents and staff that this is how we intend to take things forward. We do spend a lot of money on out of county and this will mean that things can be much closer to people's homes.'

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