Council approves Lib Dem call to speed up SEND improvement

15 Dec 2023
County Hall

Pressure is mounting on Hertfordshire council leaders to speed up improvements for crisis-hit SEND services, for children with special education needs and disabilities.

The Conservative-run administration's SEND provision has "widespread and systemic failings", according to a damning Ofsted report last month.

The Liberal Democrat opposition have also criticised the slow pace of measures to ease the problems.

And this week they secured the approval of a council motion which demands faster progress.

Back in July, the county council agreed to increase SEND funding by £8 million over the next two years.

The aims are to hire eighty extra staff to speed up SEND casework, revamp the data-handling system - heavily criticised by Ofsted - and expand the number of special school places.

But no significant service improvements are expected until next summer, which critics say will leave yet more SEND children failing to receive the education they desperately need.

The motion also calls on council leaders to work with MPs and Hertfordshire Schools Forum to seek more government funding, and narrow the gap with neighbouring counties.

In 2022/23, Hertfordshire was allocated only £588 for each SEND pupil, compared with £884 in Buckinghamshire.

Cllr Mark Watkin, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education, said:

“We're pleased that our proposals for more and faster action have been approved. As Ofsted found, Hertfordshire County Council has failed hundreds of our children and young people with SEND.

"The spiralling waiting list for special-school places has also left many parents no choice but quit their jobs and educate their child at home.

"Council staff workloads have reached breaking point and schools are struggling with lack of support".

Hertfordshire Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Steve Jarvis added:

 “The Conservatives have now been forced to admit SEND is failing but can't explain how - as they've run the county for decades - they allowed these services to get into this appalling state in the first place.

They also claim everything's now in hand to fix it, but their complacent lack of urgency is obvious from the sheer length of time involved in rolling out these improvements.

"This crisis was made worse by their refusal in March of our call to increase funding, only to u-turn four months later".

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