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Displaying items by tag: Special Schools

Update: KCC has confirmed the new special school on the Isle of Sheppey is one of the 35, planned for completion in 2022. Further article here

The day after I published my recent article on EHCPs the government has announced that it is setting up 35 new special free schools (the Free School is the current model for delivering any new state school). Three of these will be in the South East of England, specialising in Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH), so one may be in Kent or Medway.

The plan is for each of them to be up and running by September 2022 onwards, the caveat acknowledging that most new schools opened in recent years are one or more years overdue.

Any new Kent school will join the two new Kent Free Special Schools opening in September. These are the Aspire School in Sittingbourne, for primary aged children with ASD, and Snowfields Academy, Bearsted, Maidstone, for secondary ASD children. Update: the 35 schools include the now confirmed new secondary Free Special School planned to open on the Isle of Sheppey in 2022, catering for secondary pupils with SEMH and ASD.

Published in Peter's Blog
Tagged under

Kent County Council has been awarded one of 39 new Special Schools to be opened across the country, following a bid to government. This will be built on the Isle of Sheppey, on land adjacent to the new Halfway Houses Primary School site,  and is planned to focus on children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs aged 11-16. Under current regulations KCC will now need to set up a tendering process to select a Sponsor from an existing academy chain to run the new school. As explained below, this can be a drawn out and uncertain process, with the opening date not yet fixed.

This follows approval in January for the Aspire School, Sittingbourne a new Free School for children with autism or speech and language difficulties to be run by Grove Park Academies Trust, currently comprising Grove Park Primary School. It will be built on council land not far from Grove Park, both schools in Bobbing. The Aspire School came into existence because of the vision of parents as long ago as 2013. The original vision was for high functioning autistic children aged 4 -16, although final details have not yet been settled, and it is now looking likely to be for primary aged children, opening at the earliest in September 2020.

Published in Peter's Blog

Updated with Government Press Statement

Inspire Special Free School, the only Free School in Medway, based in Chatham, has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED following an Inspection in January, less than two years after opening. You will find the full headlines of the Report later on in this article. Inspire Free

 The then struggling Silverbanks Centre, a Pupil Referral Unit, was broken up into two parts in September 2014, following an OFSTED Inspection that failed the Unit, judging it to have Serious Weaknesses. Inspire, which was set up as a Free School strongly supported by Medway Council, and currently catering for 37 children with social, emotional or mental health needs has failed spectacularly, with leadership and management at all levels judged inadequate and a highly qualified governing body not fully understanding the issues faced by these same leaders, nor recognising that the quality of teaching and learning has declined.

Published in Peter's Blog
Thursday, 09 April 2015 19:21

Furness School: The Recommendation

The consultation about the proposed closure of Furness School has now concluded, and the proposal to be considered by the Education and Young People’s Services Cabinet Committee on April 15th is as follows:
"To receive a report from the Corporate Director for Education and Young People’s Services, to consider and endorse or make recommendations to the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform on the proposed decision to issue a public notice to discontinue Furness School and, subject to no objections not already considered, implement the proposal to close the School with effect from 31 August 2015 and initiate the statutory consultation proposal process to establish a satellite provision of Broomhill Bank School on the Furness site from 1 September 2015”.
 
You will find full details of the Cabinet Committee meeting here, with additional papers relating to the consultation including a summary of Consultation comments. I am pleased that mine feature prominently! There will be a live webcast of the meeting from 10.a.m., and you will also be able to see a recording of it. If this  proposal is approved, it will then go to the Cabinet Member for a decision by 23rd April.
 
Furness

Broomhill Bank ......

Published in News and Comments
Tagged under

UPDATE 19 March in main article. 

The Consultation launched by the Interim Executive Board of Furness School and Kent County Council on a proposal to close the school ends on 25th March. I have written several articles on this highly flawed and controversial proposal previously, but this one looks at my perspective on the current situation. 

The first of three main reasons being put forward for the closure of this special school for high functioning children suffering from Autistic Spectrum Disorder is that parents have asked the Council to develop mainstream provision rather than further provision in Special schools. This assertion  appears now to have been discredited for KCC has been unable to provide evidence for the claim and KCC’s Corporate Director of Education has now acknowledged that there is well-evidenced increased demand for Special School places.

The key problem that parents have had responding to the Consultation is the consistent failure of KCC to answer the central questions about the proposal to close. I have the same frustration and formally requested the answers to 11 questions from Mr Leeson, questions that are also being asked by parents at meetings and in writing. Sadly, his reply to me only answered three of these. The ‘Kent On Sunday’ newspaper also asked the same questions with little success. What is the point of a Consultation where the key facts are being hidden from parents, and can it really be regarded as legitimate?

This rather lengthy article explores the powerful case for keeping the Furness School open, albeit under a different name, and yet again exposes the failures of KCC over its mismanagement of the whole issue………

Published in News and Comments

I am very disappointed there has been no response from KCC to my previous article on Furness School, considering the important issues of finance and integrity it raises. Neither has there been even an acknowledgment of my formal request for the evidence supporting the unlikely assertion that parents of high functioning ASD children are spurning Special School places in favour of Units attached to mainstream schools, critical to the closure proposal, but completely ignored in the closure Consultation document.

The failure of the Local Authority to carry out a proper Equality Impact Assessment, according to the Equality Act, places the whole closure proposal in legal jeopardy.  

I have now written the following letter to Mr Patrick Leeson, KCC Corporate Director of Education and Children's Services:

Dear Mr Leeson,

Like me, you must be both concerned and embarrassed by the two mutually contradictory documents produced by KCC Officers about the future of Furness School, accompanied by the failure to produce an adequate and legal equality impact assessment. 

The situation is made much worse by the fact that the first of the two documents, the Complete Proposal for the re designation of Furness as a Special School for high functioning ASD children left out crucial information whose absence will have misled KCC Education and Children's Services Cabinet Committee members and would surely have affected their decision to approve the proposal.  In particular, the financial crisis that is the prime factor behind the proposed closure of the school just seven months later, would have been starkly evident back in July and so should certainly have been presented to members to make a reasoned decision, whereas there is no mention of finances whatsoever.

My immediate concern is that parents have been invited to a meeting to discuss the consultation document on 24th February, and are surely entitled to answers to the following questions to enable them to understand the issues. Many of the issues are amplified in my article, which I am sure has already been referred to you as a matter of grave concern………

Published in News and Comments

CONSIDERABLY UPDATED WITH CORRECTIONS ARISING FROM FEEDBACK: 10TH FEBRUARY

Kent County Council has announced a Consultation on the closure of Furness School in Hextable. This is a scandal at the conclusion of four years of mismanagement by KCC, ending with a consultation that is a classic in misdirection.  I wrote a previous article in 2012 entitled “Is this the most damning Kent OFSTED Report ever? Furness School”, which has set the scene for this denouement three years later. 

Much of KCC’s argument for closure is false, based on two false premises, firstly that pupil numbers are low and getting lower, and secondly that education standards are low and not improving, as evidenced by the poor OFSTED Reports.

The school was redesignated to provide for high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children (ASD) last September, replacing Behavioural, Emotional and Social Disorder (BESD). This year, ASD numbers are already 22 including an unspecified number of high functioning children (rather an important detail I would have thought), with BESD just 8, and new admissions discouraged or prohibited for much of the second half of 2012 for two years. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the trend in ASD is upwards, whilst BESD numbers would soon become insignificant.

All published OFSTED Reports refer to the now vanishing BESD group in the school, and in any case, show a strong upward trend in quality, which KCC has failed to notice!  The most recent report of December 2013 records that: “the principal has led the continuing, and at times dramatic, improvement of the school with unwavering determination. In this, she is supported by a strong senior leadership team and increasingly effective middle leaders”.   
 
Just seven months ago, KCC published its proposal for the new designation, which came about in September, which actually beggars belief in failing to identify ANY of the issues they now claim are central to the closure proposal. If the claims were true (which they are not), this would be gross negligence at a minimum. 
 
As a consequence of the proposal, the families of vulnerable children can see their education and life chances severely damaged as they are destabilised (over half of them for the second time in a year), money poured down the drain and SEN policy casually cast aside or misrepresented, accompanied by KCC attempts to show this is all to their benefit. 

I find it difficult to know where to start to pick my way through the complexities that have led to the KCC decision to close the school, but the article that follows attempts to cast the story in a historical perspective……

Published in Peter's Blog
Monday, 27 January 2014 12:28

Places in Special Schools and SEN Units

Kent County Council is shortly to introduce an SEN and Disability Strategy seeking to improve and re-focus the provision of school places for children with Statements of Special Education Need  (SSEN) and to raise standards of performance. This article looks at the Council's plans to increase the number of places in Special Schools and Specialist Resource Based Units by at least 275 children over the next four years. KCC has already published a Commissioning Plan that sets out its SEN provision needs, recognising an increase in the number of children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders), SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties); and BESN (Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs) across the county, putting great pressure on current provision. This article is based on that plan, and was reproduced in a slightly abbreviated form in Kent on Sunday on 24th January.....

Published in News and Comments

Kent County Council is introducing an SEN and Disability Strategy seeking to improve and re-focus the provision of school places for children with Statements of Special Education Need  (SSEN) and to raise standards of performance. This article looks at its plans to increase the number of places in Special Schools and Specialist Resource Based Units by at least 275 over the next four years. The strategy recognises an increase in the number of children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders), SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties); and BESN (Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs) across the county, putting great pressure on current provision.

Of some 6,500 Kent pupils currently with SSEN, around 3000 are in Special Schools, and 800 in Units. Most of the remainder are supported in mainstream schools. In total, these children comprise some 2.8% of the school population, but take up around 20% of the county direct school education budget.

Over half of the places in Special Schools are for children with Profound, Severe and Complex Needs, most of which have recently expanded to take in around 250 extra children in total.

Kent is now proposing a further expansion of 275 places for ASD, SLCN and BESN in Special Schools and Units.......

Published in Newspaper Articles
Thursday, 16 December 2010 00:00

Special Schools

 

I no longer consider myself qualified to comment on Special Education Needs and Disability as my connection with the sector is now too out of date. You will find considerable information and advice on the Kent County Council SEND pages here

I am currently revising the relevant information pages on this site (April 2020) which I have allowed to fall badly out of date due to other pressures, but which is a large task in itself. 

The main pages are: 

 
Kent Special Schools and Units  (Units Page up to Date, Special Schools in Progress April 2020)
 
 
Kent & Medway SEN Statistics (I now have data up to 2018-19)
 
When this is completed I currently plan to add further commentary here. 

In the meantime, if you have a specific problem, you may find (IPSEA) Independent Provider of Special Education Advice a helpful resource. 

 

 

T

 

Last updated: 26 Jan 2011

Special  Schools in Kent catering for children with Moderate Learning Needs are being phased out and are admitting no further children. In Kent there has been an increase in places for children with behavioural or social difficulties which has seen numbers maintained.

Special Schools in Kent cater for the following types of Learning Needs: Behaviour & Learning (B&L); Behaviour, Emotional & Social Needs (BESD); Communication & Interaction Needs (including Autism) (C&I); Physical Disability/Medical Needs (PD/MED); and Profound, Severe and Complex Needs (PSCN).

Parents of children with Statements of Special Education Need have the right to apply for any type of appropriate educational establishment. KCC will decide if the child fits the criteria for a particular Special School, and if there is room to offer a place. Some children travel considerable distance to attend particular Special Schools. If the Local Authority is not willing to name parents' desired school on the Statement, you have the right to appeal to HESC, but will need good reasons to justify your case.You will find some relevant statistics here.

There is information on Individual Special Schools here.

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