'Deep dive' into special educational needs and disabilities provision in Central Bedfordshire aims to identify 'glitches in the system'

File image of children in a classroom. Credit: Monkey Business - stock.adobe.coFile image of children in a classroom. Credit: Monkey Business - stock.adobe.co
File image of children in a classroom. Credit: Monkey Business - stock.adobe.co
A “deep delve” into school provision for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) children and young people in Central Bedfordshire is to be delivered at a sensible pace “to get it right”, a meeting heard.

Education other than at school (EOTAS) packages are the responsibility of the local authority and it pays for their requirements.

Parents, including Amy Ivins from Dunstable, have taken Central Bedfordshire Council to tribunal because of their experiences in securing the proper arrangements for their children’s education.

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In some instances, CBC has been fined by the local government and social care ombudsman for failing to provide the necessary schooling.

EOTAS is for children or young people with an education, health and care plan where schooling in a formal educational setting is challenging, according to a report to CBC’s SEND sub-committee.

“This can be for a variety of reasons, including health issues such as emotionally based school avoidance,” said the report.

Addressing the sub-committee, Ms Ivins explained: “SEND law is adhered to the letter, but only when it benefits CBC’s budget.

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“Laws which give your child an education seem to be considered optional. After a year out of school, your child is finally awarded EOTAS. You’ve submitted several formal complaints, none of which have the slightest impact on the ongoing delays.

“The EOTAS package is quite meagre, so you have to spend countless hours scouring the county to find all the provision yourself.

“You’re owed hundreds of pounds by CBC, so you’ve no option but to register an appeal to sort out the whole situation. The tribunal dates comes through and it’s more than a year away.

“This seems to give CBC the green light to slam the brakes on from a glacial pace of progress to virtually none at all. You incur more costs getting private reports and witnesses for your tribunal. The bill comes to £2,000 to £3,000.

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“By the time the tribunal comes around your child has been out of education probably for more than two years.”

CBC’s assistant director for SEND Helen Phelan explained: “We know improvements are required to understand where the issues come from and consider the reasons why we’re not meeting a child’s needs in the first place.

“That’s in the context of the specialist provision we’re developing. We know there are changes to make by working more closely with parent carers and keeping the child at the centre of decision-making.

“I appreciate it’s taken a long time to get this up and running. There’s a piece of work delving deeply into this area to listen to and understand the lived experiences, and pick up on the glitches in the system.

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“Where are things falling down? What do we need to do differently? There’s a gap here and I’m not suggesting otherwise. We’re not rushing this piece of work because it’s so important to get it right.”

Conservative Dunstable Central councillor Carole Hegley said: “It’s all about being responsive and enacting it. Hearing from Amy, two years in the lifespan of a child at this age is quite a chunk of time.”