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Displaying items by tag: SEN Unit Review

There are major changes ahead in Special Education Needs (SEN) provision in Kent as KCC begins to phase out its SEN Units. These are attached to mainstream schools across the County and offer education to children with particular learning and medical conditions, whilst giving them the opportunity to benefit from education with mainstream children through integration into some lessons.

Instead ‘lead schools’ are being designated in each specialism, across the county that will offer support to such children as they are now admitted to all mainstream schools and classes in their area.  This full inclusion of such children has been government policy for many years, but has now been challenged, as it is apparent that it leads to a dilution of specialist teachers, additional strain on teachers in mainstream classes as they come to terms with  an even wider range of challenges in their classrooms and an uncertain future for the quality of education to be provided for the children themselves.

Currently there are primary and secondary school units catering for conditions such as autism, speech, language and communication, specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, hearing and visual impairment, and physical difficulties. All children currently in Units will retain their places.

Pilot areas for the new schemes have been set up in Gravesham, Dartford, Shepway, Ashford and Swanley and a decision will be made to extend the scheme across the remainder of Kent this Autumn on the basis of the evaluation of this pilot, although the first children in the Pilot will only be affected in September.  It is therefore difficult to see on what real experience of how such children fare in mainstream will be available.

The main advantages of the scheme are identified by KCC as: providing more potential to access local provision for children and young people with SEN; enabling them to benefit from learning with their local peer group and providing more flexibility to use resources to meet changing needs of children and young people in the locality.

Concerns include: the breaking up of  centres of expertise and excellence in these specialisations; the dilution of such skills across schools in the locality; the pressures on teachers in mainstream schools now having to come to terms with a wider range of learning conditions in one classroom and  consequent effect on the learning of other children in that class.

Meanwhile KOS reported last week that many children coming up to secondary school transfer have found their proposed Statements of SEN have been delayed. The Statement spells out educational provision and the school in which it is to be offered, and any delay would cause enormous problems for parents if they wish to challenge the decision.  Such parents will be doubly dismayed if they now find that any hopes of a place in the Unit to cater for their child’s needs have been dashed, 

Published in Newspaper Articles
Tagged under

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, 29 September 2011 15:42

Good news for Kent Special Education Needs

I was delighted to accept an invitation to the opening of the Laural Centre, an SEN Unit  for children on the Autistic Spectrum, attached to The North School in Ashford. This is the first Unit to be opened since the reversal of county policy two years ago that sought to phase out all SEN units in the county. The Centre was opened by Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has been a strong champion of SEN Units and Special Schools in Kent........

Published in News Archive
Monday, 17 January 2011 21:20

Medway Special Schools & Units

Where there has been a recent OFSTED Report, there are more details for each School below.

ALL FAITH’S CHILDREN’S COMMUNITY SCHOOL – TOTAL COMMUNICATION Unit (Primary), Strood

ABBEY COURT COMMUNITY SCHOOL Severe and profound learning difficulties RAINHAM CAMPUS, Gillingham (4-11years)  STROOD CAMPUS, Strood  (11 –19 years) 

  (OFSTED July 2010 - Outstanding) Abbey Court is based on two sites 12 miles apart. It has a capacity for 150 pupils aged from three to 19, all funded by Medway local authority. All pupils have a statement of special educational needs including severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties. An increasing number of pupils joining the school have very complex medical conditions or extremely challenging behaviour. There are fewer girls than boys. The vast majority of the pupils have a White British heritage. A few pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds and have English as a second language. A small minority of pupils are looked after in public care. Secondary pupils, including sixth-formers, are based at the Strood site. The site for primary-aged pupils is in Rainham and this has recently added a nursery to its provision. The school has specialist school status for cognition and learning. OFSTED 2012 - Outstanding; Excerpts: Information about this schoolAbbey Court is based on two sites, some 12 miles apart. The Rainham site provides for Early Years Foundation Stage, infants and juniors. The Strood site provides for secondary and students aged 16 to 19. Currently, the school has more than its official capacity of 150 places; Pupils have severe learning difficulties or profound and multiple learning difficulties as their main need; Some have additional needs such as visual impairment, hearing or sensory impairment, severe autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and physical disability; A few have life threatening medical conditions; All have statements of special educational needs; The school continues to experience a shift in the complexity of levels of need, including severe challenging behaviours; A minority of pupils require a minimum of full time one-to-one staff support to meet their needs; Currently, the large majority of pupils are boys and most are of White British heritage; The proportion known to be eligible for the pupil premium is well above the national average. Key findings - This is an outstanding school; Pupils make outstanding progress, particularly in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology (ICT); Those with speech, language and communication needs make significant strides in developing and improving their communication skills through signing, the use of picture symbol cards and the use of a range of new technologies; Children attending the part-time sessions in the Early Years Foundation Stage make excellent progress, which prepares them for learning and enables them to proceed successfully to the next stage of their education; The outstanding sixth form provision enables older students to continue their seamless progress through the school and achieve nationally recognised qualifications - They improve their independence and social skills and this prepares them successfully for life beyond the school; As a result of a robust and sustained focus on improvement by the senior leadership team since the previous inspection, the quality of teaching across the school is now outstanding; Other strengths of the school’s work identified at the last inspection have been sustained and further improved; Pupils’ attitudes to learning and behaviour are excellent, which is a result of highly effective class management by teachers and other adults supporting in the classrooms; Pupils told the inspectors that they are safe and well looked after, which is further confirmed by the school’s own surveys, which are carried out regularly; The headteacher’s inspirational leadership of the school, together with the support of her highly effective senior leadership team, ensures the school meets fully its vision and aims and lives up to its motto, ‘We grow people’; The highly experienced governing body is outstanding in its role as a critical and supportive friend and successfully ensures the school is financially stable.

 BRADFIELDS SCHOOL, Chatham. OFSTED October 2013. Good. Excerpts from Report - Information about the school: Bradfields provides for students who primarily experience complex learning difficulties and disabilities, including speech, language, emotional, sensory, physical and autistic spectrum disabilities. Since September 2012, the school has been re-designated to include Early Years Foundation Stage children and Key Stages 1 and 2 pupils with autism and severe learning difficulties. The Lower School site has been redeveloped so that the Key Stage 3 MLD provision now includes additional and new build facilities for students with autism and in some cases additional challenging behaviours; Currently, the large majority of students are boys; The school is organised into five Learning Zones where most classes are taught by the stage of their learning. The Blue Primary (including the Early Years Foundation Stage) and Blue Secondary Zones are for students whose primary need is autistic spectrum disabilities. The Yellow Zone is for lower school Key Stage 3 classes, the Red Zone is for Key Stage 4 classes and the Green Zone is for is for Years 12 to 14 classes. In addition, there are three separate mixed-aged ‘special programme’ classes in the lower and upper schools and the sixth form for students with more complex needs, including severe learning difficulties. Key findings: This is a good school; Students make outstanding progress over time, particularly in English and mathematics. There has also been a year-on-year improvement of the proportion of students achieving GCSE passes, as well as successes in other accredited courses such as BTEC; Children attending the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2012 to 2013 made outstanding progress. This prepared them for learning and enabled them to move on successfully to the next stage of their education; The sixth form is outstanding. Many students continue their seamless progression throughout the school, others move directly to other further education provision, and some now join the school from other mainstream settings. All are prepared very well for the next stage of their lives beyond school; Students benefit from teaching which is mostly good and sometimes outstanding. However, a small amount of teaching requires improvement; Students’ behaviour is good. This is as a result of the highly effective care and support that staff provide. In lessons, students were highly motivated and wanted to do their best; Students say they feel safe and happy at the school, as well as at the off-site provision they attend weekly; Leadership and management are good. The headteacher and his senior leadership team have a strong focus on continuing improvement of all aspects of the school’s work; The governing body is highly supportive of the school, knows it very well and supports on-going improvements in all aspects of the school’s work.

 BROMPTON ACADEMY, Gillingham

(11-16 years) SPLD & Speech & Language @ COMMUNICATION CENTRE

CHALKLANDS CENTRE, Elaine Primary School, Strood

(5-11 years) Emotional & Behaviour difficulties.

DANECOURT COMMUNITY SCHOOL, Gillingham (4-11 years)  OFSTED 2012 - Outstanding. Excerpts from Report: Information about this school - Originally designated as a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties, Danecourt is now increasingly catering for pupils with severe learning difficulties and more complex needs, including speech, language and communication needs. It also has a designated unit for pupils with severe autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) with two classes in Key Stage 2 and one class in Key Stage 1. In addition, it has a commissioned ‘hub’ class, based in a mainstream primary school for pupils who do not need full time specialist provision. The school also operates an outreach service, through which its staff provides advice and support for pupils identified as having special educational needs in mainstream schools within the local authority. Currently, the large majority of pupils are boys and most pupils are of White British background. All have a statement of special educational needs. A few pupils are looked after by a range of local authorities and the proportion known to be eligible for the pupil premium is well above the national average. Key findingsThis is an outstanding school; Pupils make outstanding progress, particularly in the key skills of literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology (ICT); Those with speech, language and communication needs make significant progress in developing their communication skills, both through the use of picture symbol cards and use of new technologies; Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage make excellent progress, which enables them to proceed successfully to the next stage of their education and, in some instances, reintegrate into mainstream education; As a result of a rigorous and sustained focus on improvement by the headteacher and his deputy, the quality of teaching is now outstanding; this is a significant improvement since the previous inspection; Because of highly effective class management by staff, pupils’ attitudes to learning and behaviour are excellent. Learning is rarely affected by disruptive behaviour;The headteacher provides highly effective leadership of the school, ensuring it meets fully its core aim of providing a safe and caring environment in which to develop pupils as individuals and maximise their learning; The governing body is outstanding in its role as a supportive and critical friend of the school.

MARLBOROUGH CENTRE, Hoo St Werburgh Primary School

(5-11 years) Autism

RIVERMEAD COMMUNITY SPECIAL SCHOOL, Gillingham (11-19 years) complex emotional and behavioural needs including Autism: OFSTED 2012 - Good School. Excerpt from Report: Information about the school -  Provides for students aged 11–19 with complex emotional and behavioural needs. It is smaller than average in size and the overwhelming majority of students have a statement of special educational needs mainly related to autistic spectrum disorders. Most students have additional communication and language needs and/or medical/mental health needs. The length of placement at the school depends on individual needs, and many students have spent a considerable amount of time away from mainstream education before admission. The provision in the sixth form is still under development. It will be implemented fully in September 2012 and until that time there are no students of this age in the school. Key findings - Rivermead is a good school. The development of the sixth form is progressing well in preparation for September 2012 when new students will start. Students of different ages, backgrounds and abilities make good progress and achieve well. They achieve particularly well in the development of their skills in communication and in mathematics. In the vast majority of lessons, teachers provide students with activities that engage their interest and they use information and ICT well to enhance learning. They assess students’ work regularly and accurately and ensure that students know what they need to do to improve. The overwhelming majority of students make significant improvements in learning to manage their own behaviours, and bullying of any kind is almost non-existent. Students feel extremely safe and secure in school at all times. They enjoy school, support each other well and attendance levels are above average. The school is very well led and teachers’ performance is generally managed effectively. The strong leadership team ensure there is a sustained focus on improving classroom practice and outcomes for students.  The very effective way in which the school promotes students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is a key factor in its success.

RIVERSIDE VI UNIT, Riverside Primary School, Rainham

(5-11 years) Visual Impairment

RIVERSIDE HUB, Riverside Primary School,Rainham

 (5-11 Years) Autism


SILVERBANK PARK, Chatham

(11-16 years) Emotional & behaviour difficulties.

ST WERBURGH CENTRE FOR AUTISM, Hundred of Hoo Comprehensive, Hoo

(11-16yrs)  Autism

THE ROBERT NAPIER SCHOOL – VI UNIT, Gillingham

(11-16 years) Visual Impairment

 

 TWYDALL INFANT PD Unit, Twydall Infant School, Gillingham

 

(4-7 years)  Physical Disability

TWYDALL JUNIOR PD Unit, Twydall Junior School, Gillingham

(7-11 years) Physical Disability & Complex Medical Conditions

WARREN WOOD COMMUNITY PRIMARY SCHOOL Speech & Lang UNIT,Rochester

 (4-11 years) Speech and Language difficulties

WILL ADAMS CENTRE, Gillingham

(11-16 yrs) Emotional & behaviour difficulties

WOODLANDS HUB, Gillingham

(5-11 years) Moderate learning difficulties

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 27 May 2010 10:27

SEN Unit Review May 2010

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

 How has this chaos come about?  In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

 What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 09:17

Background to SEN Unit Review

This is now a purely historical item, with KCC having subsequently decided that Units fulfil an important role and the number of places and Units is being expanded (July 2017)

The Kent SEN Unit Review was initiated in 2003, and scrapped in September 2010. It introduced a wholly misguided policy of closing Units to new admissions and setting up a system of Lead Mainstream Schools,  which would fully integrate the children. KCC denies there was ever such a policy, but it was on their website until Autumn 2010, and i still have a copy. Sadly, the damage the policy has done to the SEN Unit system will take years to repair.

The comments below were prepared in 2010, and are reproduced here, for those who wish to understand the background.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Until recently, KCC  contained a policy document on its SEN website pages that states: "Units and designations which exist currently and which have agreed to become lead schools will gradually be replaced by the lead school model.  There will be no new admissions to the units but all children and young people currently in them will remain there until they are due to leave or until a review of the Statement of SEN determines their placement should change"

Since I first challenged the policy last December, KCC has consistently argued that no such policy exists.  KCC has now issued an important letter to all headteachers in the Pilot areas, signed by Rosalind Turner, Managing Director Children, Families and Education. You can find this here. It is clearly written and unambiguous (unlike some previous communications). It states that KCC is minded to end the Pilot project next March. It will remove the swirl of misunderstandings that are still circulating.

It makes clear that no Units are closing to children, but acknowledges that some parents may have been misled into thinking otherwise and the authority apologises if there have been any such misunderstandings. It makes clear that there is no block on naming schools with Units on statements and asserts that there never has been.

It also gives an undertaking that KCC will look again at any case brought to its attention by parents who feel that as a result of misunderstanding they have been influenced to accept provision with which they are unhappy.

Whilst I disagree with several of the assertions of what has happened in the past, that is in the past, and given the LA’s assurance on support for families who may have been misled, we should now be able to look forward positively to the future.

The remainder of this page now relates to issues that may have gone, and will be revisited as time permits.

Update on information that follows this section:

There were a series of interviews on Radio Kent recently on the phasing out of SEN Units.  Rosalind Turner, Managing Director Children, Families and Education maintained the KCC line that (1) Units were never going to be closed, (2)there had been no change of policy, (3) they knew of no children with statements naming Units had been turned away, and so (4) there was no need to take action to inform parents of any change of policy.  As you may imagine, my own contribution focused on challenging these claims.

Three parents were interviewed, including two who had children who had been turned away from Units. One, whose child was appropriately placed at Linden Grove Primary School Speech and Language Unit in Ashford, had been told both by the Unit and KCC Officers that there was no point in applying for a statement naming the Unit as it was closing. This enables KCC to make the claim about no children with statements naming a Unit being turned away - parents have been told there is no point in applying for one!! Another was told by the school and KCC officers that as York Road Speech and Language Unit in Dartford was closing, there was no point in applying for a place.

It is now clear that the KCC statement that no Units were ever going to be closed is 'technically correct'. Its just that they are going to be closed to children! One parent who was told that the Unit was going to be closed fought to secure a place and was then told that the policy had been changed and she could now have a place. However, when the statement came through, the child had been allocated to the mainstream school - with support from the Unit. I have now been told of another case of the same at the Morehall School Unit in Folkestone. This of course is the Lead School Model designed to replace Units that so many parents are unhappy with.

I am therefore still unclear whether Units are closed to children or not. Five months after I first asked the question!

There are therefore still three key questions to be answered. Please ask these if you have the opportunity, or alternatively I would welcome the answers:

1) Are Units in the Pilot area being closed to new children for admission on the previous full time basis (sorry if the wording is still not quite correct - but it is evident that KCC is expert with semantics)? This discounts children being placed in the mainstream school with access to support from the Unit.

2) What is KCC doing to alert parents whose children have been told by KCC Officers  or schools that the Units are closing and so there is no point in applying for them?

3) Will such children now be fast tracked for admission to these Units.

I have now seen the Minutes of a fascinating meeting in July 2009 where it was agreed by KCC Officers and the Deputy Cabinet Member with responsibility for SEN, that a new Secondary  SEN Unit would be set up in Swale,  catering for autism and Speech and Language for September 2010!  This was to cater for the large gap in provision in this area for children with these conditions. The  proposal is clearly inconsistent with the County policy at the time,  but consistent with the new policy. However, there appears no sign of the Unit scheduled for Sittingbourne Community College, although I suspect it has become a Lead School.

The document also explains how the Pilot areas were chosen. Apparently in Ashford, Shepway and North West Kent concerns about the Lead Schools concept were lowest so they were selected for Phase One. If the problems that have emerged reflect low concerns, it makes one wonder what would have happened if they had chosen the others! Warning - if there are proposals that you don't like, your school or area may be chosen ahead of others if you don't shout loudly enough.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And now back to the beginning with my Kent On Sunday Article of May 23rd:

SEN Units have been in a state of utter confusion in recent years as KCC has planned to phase them out, the proposal being for children who would otherwise be placed in Units to attend mainstream classes and be supported by visiting teachers from Lead Schools in each of the specialisations.

KCC claim they don't know of any child who has been deprived of a place at a Unit in one of the Pilot areas, but I have now identified several and would be very happy to hear of others to  understand the scale of the problem. It is now late in the day to get a statement changed to name a Unit, but KCC ought to be prepared to do so. 

The following article (abbreviated) appears in Kent on Sunday and Kent on Saturday this weekend (22nd & 23rd May):

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

How has this chaos come about? In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

 Kent County Council has responded as follows, my comments in red:

A spokesman said: “It is Kent County Council’s aim that every child with special educational needs gets the care and education to fulfil their potential. Everything we do in this important area of work is done in the best interests of children and their families. KCC has not reversed its policy on specialist units in mainstream schools". So why has a senior KCC officers attended a meeting of parents at a Unit to tell them that Units would be admitting no new pupils.

"A pilot is currently running in Ashford, Shepway and north-west Kent and it is the subject of evaluation. In running the pilot, it was never the council’s intention to lose the expertise that exists in our units but to strengthen them and to build on the opportunities for using that expertise to support and build capacity in the other mainstream schools". The Council did plan to close those Units and lose that expertise - only when they belatedly realised earlier this year that this was going to happen did they reverse their policy.Another interpretaion told to some parents was that where they coincided with Lead Schools, the Units would not close as such. Instead, the teachers would become specialists in outreach going out to schools, but there would be no pupils coming into the Units! Use of language is everything in this debate.

At no point before or during the pilot were any decisions taken by elected members to close units". The KCC Cabinet Paper of 12 October 2009 headed REVIEW OF SPECIALIST UNIT AND DESIGNATED PROVISION IN MAINSTREAM SCHOOLS – LEAD SCHOOL IMPLEMENTATION, by Sarah Hohler, Cabinet Member for Education,  hardly mentions Units. However, it does state: "All lead schools in the pilot area are progressing although there are different development needs between new lead schools and those that previously had units". previously had Units - so where were they going? Some parents have had it explained to them that the budget from Lead  Schools comes from the phasing out of Units. KCC papers are littered with references to the phasing out of Units. Who authorised KCC Officers to tell parents that Units were being phased out and no new children would be admitted in the pilot areas for September 2010? Did elected members really not know what was being done in their name?

"The council will be reporting on the evaluation during the summer and this will inform, not just how we proceed with specialist provision in mainstream schools, but how we develop our special educational needs strategy to make sure all children and young people in Kent can have equal access to quality provision that delivers improved outcomes for them. The letter that was sent to schools recently and also placed on the council’s website was not announcing a change of policy but was for the purpose of keeping schools informed about the review and its evaluation". Schools believed and knew that Units were being phased out. Somewhere in the confusion of Letter One, it implies they are not. That is a reversal of policy.  

When Kent embarked on the pilot, it gave a commitment that the project would not compromise the education of those children who were already in units" Where is this commitment, and what about those who were told there were no places in Units? and it has stuck to that commitment? “Nothing in Kent’s policy or practice can supersede or set aside special educational needs legislation, and the council takes seriously its legal duty to make sure it arranges provision for children who have a statement of special educational needs, in order to meet their needs". A statement of Kent's legal duty is always helpful, but this issue is about the nature of that provision, described as dated by KCC in an earlier paper that proposes they are replaced by Lead Schools. It is not primarily about the law.  

In 2010 some parents expressed a preference for a school with a specialist unit within one of the pilot areas. These preferences were agreed where the child was considered to need that placement". Might these be the recent ones after the decision to change the policy was made? I was talking to a parent yesterday who was told the Unit would close but after persistent lobbying has now been told they can have a place. Certainly the parent I was talking to today, whose case has been put forward by his  MP, had been told the Unit he wanted was not accepting new children.  Only yesterday did he learn of the change of policy from his MP.  

“The council is not aware of any children with statements who have been offered an unsuitable school". I found this an astonishing claim. Then I examined it closely. Clearly the Council consider that a main stream placement with outreach support is suitable provisionl, and hence can make this claim. The fact that they are aware of children who wanted places in Units but were told there were none is not covered by this statement. Sadly, I believe it is purely an attempt to mislead the reader as I was initially misled.   

All parents are advised of their right of appeal to the special educational needs tribunal if they are unhappy with the school named in their child’s statement. In the pilot areas, no appeals have been lodged by parents seeking places in schools with units.Well they wouldn't would they! If parents are told the Units are being phased out, with no new admissions there is no point in going through the lengthy and stressful appeal process to SENDIST (Special Educational Need and Disability Tribunal). Some have already been down this route to secure their statement and come face to face with a barrister employed by KCC to shoot down cases. However, whilst parents now know that there are places it may be too late to change direction for September.

Why can't KCC simply acknowledge that they have changed policy for the benefit of Kent children, and attempt to contact those they have misled earlier, offering to fast track any late applications through to Units. Instead this policy of obfuscation and refusal to acknowledge the truth continues to drag out the misery. To quote the first sentence of this response again: "It is Kent County Council’s aim that every child with special educational needs gets the care and education to fulfil their potential. Everything we do in this important area of work is done in the best interests of children and their families". I just wish it were so!

 The good news is that SEN Units, attached to mainstream schools are all now to remain open, although KCC has been telling parents for the past four months that they are to close. Sadly, some have already closed for lack of children.  For further information, or if you are affected by these issues please go to Units. You will also find a list of the Units with the disability that each covers.

 

Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00

Kent Special Schools and Units

 

(Last updated August 2016) Currently updating April 2020. My apologies for the current chaos as I am in the middle of a complete reorganisation of these pages.   

If your child doesn't have a statement of special educational needs or education health and care (EHC) plan you apply for a primary school place in the same way as other parents. If your child has a statement of special educational needs or EHC plan, the school named in it must offer them a place. If your child is being assessed for special educational needs you should follow the standard process. If you don't apply for a place and your child doesn't get an EHC plan you may miss out on a place at one of your preferred schools.

 Special Schools in Kent are listed on Page One of this section, with SEN Units (Updated April 2020) on Page 2. Entries are initially the designation, the OFSTED Grade for each Special School as they are published, together with the OFSTED description of the school.  You can read the full Report on each Special School at OFSTED.

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OFSTED gives each school a main Grade: Outstanding, Good, Satisfactory, Notice to Improve, or Special Measures, before justifying this in more detail. I regret I am unable to comment on Independent Special Schools. 

Schools are all age and non-residential, except where otherwise specified).  

You will find a full list of Kent Special Schools here and SEN Units here, and in the Kent Schools Commissioning Plan, following on from Page 28. 

Details of SEN Units are on Page 2

The list of categories for Special Schools below are broad, but individual entries show a more precise definition for each school. The types of school are those catering for: Autistic Spectrum Disorder; Profound, severe and complex needs (also usually including pupils with severe ASD); Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH); 

And all others at present

 

Monday, 08 February 2010 18:21

SEN Unit Review: KOS February 2010

There are major changes ahead in Special Education Needs (SEN) provision in Kent as KCC begins to phase out its SEN Units. These are attached to mainstream schools across the County and offer education to children with particular learning and medical conditions, whilst giving them the opportunity to benefit from education with mainstream children through integration into some lessons.

Instead ‘lead schools’ are being designated in each specialism, across the county that will offer support to such children as they are now admitted to all mainstream schools and classes in their area.  This full inclusion of such children has been government policy for many years, but has now been challenged, as it is apparent that it leads to a dilution of specialist teachers, additional strain on teachers in mainstream classes as they come to terms with  an even wider range of challenges in their classrooms and an uncertain future for the quality of education to be provided for the children themselves.

Currently there are primary and secondary school units catering for conditions such as autism, speech, language and communication, specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, hearing and visual impairment, and physical difficulties. All children currently in Units will retain their places.

Pilot areas for the new schemes have been set up in Gravesham, Dartford, Shepway, Ashford and Swanley and a decision will be made to extend the scheme across the remainder of Kent this Autumn on the basis of the evaluation of this pilot, although the first children in the Pilot will only be affected in September.  It is therefore difficult to see on what real experience of how such children fare in mainstream will be available.

The main advantages of the scheme are identified by KCC as: providing more potential to access local provision for children and young people with SEN; enabling them to benefit from learning with their local peer group and providing more flexibility to use resources to meet changing needs of children and young people in the locality.

 

Concerns include: the breaking up of  centres of expertise and excellence in these specialisations; the dilution of such skills across schools in the locality; the pressures on teachers in mainstream schools now having to come to terms with a wider range of learning conditions in one classroom and  consequent effect on the learning of other children in that class.

 

Meanwhile KOS reported last week that many children coming up to secondary school transfer have found their proposed Statements of SEN have been delayed. The Statement spells out educational provision and the school in which it is to be offered, and any delay would cause enormous problems for parents if they wish to challenge the decision.  Such parents will be doubly dismayed if they now find that any hopes of a place in the Unit to cater for their child’s needs have been dashed,

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 19:01

SEN Units: KOS May 2010

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

 How has this chaos come about?  In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

 What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

Note: The counter for this article went back to zero because of an error by me and was only reset on 18/1/2014 

 

 

Published in Newspaper Articles
Tuesday, 05 October 2010 00:00

SEN Units

Update: July 2017 -This is a brief update of events affecting SEN Units and will be expanded as I have time. 

SEN Units are designed for Students with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), who would benefit from specialist provision, yet have the opportunity to access main stream schools for part of their learning. They are attached to main stream schools, but provision across Kent and Medway is partly for historical reasons. The Kent Special Education Need Units each support children with one or more of the following disabilities: Autism; Hearing or Visual Impairment; Physical Disability; Speech & Language problems or Specific Learning Difficulties. Each is attached to a mainstream school so that children can integrate into normal lessons as appropriate, for some in preparation for a full transfer to mainstream school. A child will need an SEN statement naming the Unit if they are to be offered a place. If a child has a SEN Unit named in their statement or EHCP, the Local Authority is required to arrange transport. An SEN Unit has a total capacity and can admit children in there are vacancies in the Unit as a whole, so there is not an intake figure for any particular age group. Most common age of admission is in Year 1 for Primary Units, after the child has been assessed in the Reception Year of a mainstream school.

In the summer of 2009, after a six year Review of SEN Units in Kent, KCC quietly published a policy stating explicitly that there would be no admissions to SEN Units in Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford or Shepway for September 2010, and for the remainder of Kent from September 2011. This policy was actioned, although when I exposed it, KCC denied it had ever existed, although it remained on their website and field officers continued to advise parents that the policy was in place until Autumn 2010. I then initiated a media campaign to demonstrate the effects of this policy, and KCC finally decided in September 2010 to scrap the policy and carry out a fresh review of all specialist SEN provision. You will find a link to several articles I wrote on the subject through the SEN Unit Review link at the bottom of this article. However the consequences of the aborted policy were significant especially for Primary Units, with many SEN Units run down and some effectively closed through lack of children, as the data published here shows. During the debate KCC maintained that no children were misplaced by not being offered places in Units, in spite of the dramatic fall in placements. 

SEN Units are now an integral part of KCC Special Education Needs Policy and provision is being expanded

You will find a summary of Individual Units here.

I provide some of the historical background to this issue here.

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