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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.

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


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

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. 





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.

Tuesday, 05 October 2010 00:00

General Information

I am afraid I no longer supply information and advice for children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND), even though I regard this as by far the most important area where parents need support. This is purely for personal reasons I am afraid, even though this was the area where I first started offering support over twelve years ago.

Quite simply, I am afraid I no longer have the capacity. SEND issues require ever increasing expertise to be able to offer advice in this incredibly complex area, and I have lost the background to be able to contribute with confidence. Issues which often appear quite straight forward initially, have almost inevitably required a major input by me to establish the basis for moving forward. I have always become involved in situations I have picked up, and which require emotional energy I no longer have. 

I know, that if I gave SEND matters the independent attention they deserve, and where there is certainly the greatest need to support families, this would require a full time commitment at the expense of my other activities which I am no longer able to offer.  

I believe it remains the case that families with the best resources and ability to fight hardest in the interests of their children are able to secure the best provision in an unfair world. 


You will find a recent article on Education Health and Care Plans, with extensive information and advice here

You will find considerable information and advice at: Information Advice and Support Kent including their Guide to Exclusions and   Partnership with Parents.   The well respected national Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA) is a tremendous source of support, although overwhelmed by demand. IPSEA also offer specialist help at tribunal for parents seeking an EHCP. 

What follows was written some years ago, but may still be helpful to some.  

Children have special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty which calls for special educational provision to be made for them.

Children have a learning difficulty if they:
a) have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age; or
(b) have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools within the area of the local education authority
(c) are under compulsory school age and fall within the definition at (a) or (b) above or would so do if special educational provision was not made for them.

Children must not be regarded as having a learning difficulty solely because the language or form of language of their home is different from the language in which they will be taught.

Special educational provision means:

(a) for children of two or over, educational provision which is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children of their age in schools maintained by the LEA, other than special schools, in the area
(b) for children under two, educational provision of any kind.

A child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from a mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently impaired by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed. A person has a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act  1995 if he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to day activities.

From this one can see that a child is not entitled to Special Educational Need support unless he (or she) has a learning difficulty which is not the case for all disabled children.


Most children with Special Educational Needs are educated in mainstream schools, some of those with Statements are in Special Schools and some in SEN Units attached to mainstream schools.There is considerable debate over which type of institution is best for which children, with political and educational views changing over the past few decades. Kent is no stranger to these debates and is currently in the middle of Reviews of Special Education Services, Special Schools and SEN Units.There are separate pages for Special Schools and SEN Units.

  • MENCAP also published an excellent advice website, and you will find many other sources on the Internet, including Network 81
  • I regret I am currently unable to offer professional advice on SEN issues for two main reasons: firstly, the legislation and rules are changing so rapidly, that I am finding it impossible to spend the time to keep up. Secondly, for many parents, the gaining of statements and support when these are resisted is becoming so time consuming, and in some cases confrontational, that I consider I am unable to devote the time necessary to offer a professional service. Sadly, this may say more about the complexity of issues than about myself.
  • New policies on inclusion mean that many children who would once have been given Statements of Special Need or offered places at Special Schools no longer qualify. The relevant Special Needs funds have now been delegated to schools which have freedom to use them for other purposes.
  • Many schools operate excellent polices to support pupils; others do not give the same priority. Parents often report great difficulty in securing proper support for their children. For Special Education Needs below the level of the Statement (now EHCP or Education Health Care Plan), provision is by agreement between school and parent. you should be prepared to press the school to secure the support you need, although parents are in a weak position as the school controls provision.

The issue of "inclusion" is a key political debate in educational circles. In 1978, Baroness Warnock wrote a massively influential Paper, arguing that children with SEN should increasingly benefit from inclusion in Mainstream Schooling, a policy which has gained ground ever since, until earlier in 2010, when she retracted her original views, looking at the harm the policy has done to many (but not all) children with severe SEN. A Paper by the Left Wing Bow Group, SEN: the Truth  About Inclusion, probably written in 2009, contains a factual indictment of the policy. Some of the data it quotes are as follows:

On Statements and Special School Places:
 Around 9000 places at special schools have been lost
 The number of statements and assessments issued for children with SEN have fallen by over a third
On Truancy:
 Children on ‘School Action Plus’ schemes, which are replacing statements are twice as likely as other children with SEN to truant.
 A fifth of all children of School Action Plus are persistent Truants.
On Exclusions:
 Special Educational Needs pupils make up the majority of pupils expelled from school at 67%, though they comprise only 17% of the school population
 SEN pupils are more likely to be suspended more than once in a year. Out of the 78,600 pupils who were excluded more than once in a single year, half (49.7%) were SEN pupils.
 For the first time, this year over half of all suspensions from secondary school are pupils with Special Educational Needs (55%)
On SEN and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs):
 Over half of pupils are suspended from PRUs — nearly three quarters have Special Educational Needs
 Two thirds (66%) of all SEN pupils at PRUs end up being suspended
 Special Educational Needs pupils in Pupil Referral Units has risen by 70% since 1997 On Parental choice:
 Around 83% of the increase in Independent School numbers over the last ten years are children with SEN.
 Over half all appeals are against a local authority’s decision not to assess or statement a child.
We conclude that whilst inclusion in mainstream school is very beneficial for some children with SEN, these figures are a compelling argument for an urgent systemic review of the Government’s ‘inclusion’
policy, particularly focusing on the failures of the School Action Plus scheme and support David Cameron’s call for a moratorium on the closure of special schools until a review of the statementing
process has taken place.

The Policy of Inclusion has been followed in some Local Authorities to the extent of near 100% Inclusion.  Parts of KCC, but not the political leadership have tended to support this policy, which saw the abortive SEN Unit Review attempt to phase out all Units, so that the children they previously catered for would be forced into mainstream whether or not this was suitable for them.

The Audit Commission has carried out several Review of SEN provision in schools, coming from the perspective of whether provision is good value for money. An early paper (2001) states: "Most of the parents we met said they ‘had to fight’ to have their child’s needs assessed. This was often linked to a perception that the LEA did not want to pay more for their child". I believe in this aspect little has changed except that the perception may be incorrect, in that KCC does attempt to give a priority to the needs of children with SEN.