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Struggling to help pupils with additional needs

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Published at 11:44am 11th October 2018.

Dorset is struggling to keep up with new demands for pupils needing additional support and finding the resources to meet their needs.

There has been a 49 per cent increase over three years in pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) with 42 new plans being issued each month.

“We are struggling to keep up with the pace,” admitted Andrew Reid, assistant director for schools and learning, “We are having difficulties in trying to match demand with the resources we’ve got. It’s a serious issue at the moment.”

He told county councillors that meeting the needs of some children could cost thousands of pounds a year and while there was no attempt to ration support the council’s finances were limited.

“We really do want to give every child everything, but we can’t…we have have to give them what we assess them to need,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting he said that the reason for the increase is likely to be due to environmental factors.

“The environment in which we are bringing children up in is getting more demanding – for many reasons – which can have a real effect on children, meaning family life is becoming more challenging.”

The county’s people and communities overview and scrutiny committee heard that a backlog in children’s statements which offers pupils with additional needs a ‘passport’ to additional help has now been tackled.

But the delays have caused a knock-on for new requests for Education,Health and Care Plans, and although six and sixteen-week targets are now being met the twenty-week target is still short – currently at around 66 per cent.

Committee members heard on Wednesday that if progress continued the figure would be up to 90 per cent by the end of November.

Measures to hit the targets have included weekly monitoring of timescales for individual staff, weekly panel meetings, virtual panel meetings with the Educational Psychology Service, ring-fenced writing days for some planning co-ordinators and weekly team leadership meetings to monitor progress and performance.

The improvement should mean that children with additional needs get the help they require faster than in previous months.

Weymouth councillor David Harris welcomed the improvement in writing the statements but said he feared that there was often not the resources to put support packages in place.

“There is no point in having fantastic plans if they can’t be delivered,” he said.

He also questions whether there was what he described as an ‘equitable distribution’ of funding. He said that Weymouth and Portland had 25 per cent of pupils needing additional support, yet the county average was 20 per cent.

“Does 25 per cent of the funding go into Weymouth and Portland?” he asked.

Mr Reid told him that the funding ‘followed the child’ although there were exceptions when schools with a high level of EHCP pupils could gain additional support.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter

 

 

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