CAMPAIGNERS accusing Warwickshire County Council (WCC) of ‘failing their duty’ to school pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have staged a protest outside the council’s headquarters.
Lobby group SEND Crisis Warwickshire laid 60 backpacks on the steps of Shire Hall in Warwick, each said to represent a child ‘failed by education, health, or social care’.
The group has submitted a report to Ofsted officials who are conducting an inspection into SEND across Warwickshire this week, saying teachers and families are ‘being ignored’ and ‘the truth airbrushed to meet an agenda which is all about saving money’.
The group claims there is a lack of parental choice, provision and resources, and a ‘crisis’ relating to waiting lists for diagnoses.
A spokesperson said: “We have been contacted by over 150 Warwickshire families in the last year who have told us their often heart-breaking stories.
“Many children face the wrong provision and are often under so much stress they fail to attend school and become isolated, which can lead to self-harm and suicide attempts. Others have told us of family breakdowns.
“A number of headteachers are absolutely overwhelmed with the increase of children with SEND and the lack of resources they have to cope with this need.”
The group says there are currently around 20 SEND children in Warwickshire who cannot attend school due to lack of places and support.
They added: “The New Inclusion Programme launched by the council has led to a lack of parental choice, with many children being forced into mainstream provision when they need specialist provision.
“Central government funding cuts have left local authorities with insufficient money to fulfil their legal obligations to SEND pupils.”
Group member Helen Adkins, former leader of the Labour Group at WCC, said the council’s Conservative leadership should ask central government for more money.
She said: “The Tory leadership at WCC should be making more noise about the crisis schools and families are facing.
“The New Inclusion Programme is all about saving money at the expense of the safety and best interests of the most vulnerable children.
“I hope the Ofsted inspection will be an opportunity for the council to be open and transparent about the problems families across Warwickshire face in finding the right provision for their children with SEND.”
Coun Jeff Morgan, WCC’s spokesman for children’s services, said: “In Warwickshire we have the highest aspirations for all our children and young people, including almost 14,000 with special educational needs and disabilities.
“We believe we have the right plan in place to deliver the best outcomes and in the last year, we have been working hard to fundamentally rethink and transform the way we deliver local services.
“Change will take time and there is still more work to be done, but we remain committed to listening to the voices of our children and their families.”
WCC Chief Executive Monica Fogarty said: “We welcome the Ofsted inspection team to Warwickshire along with a further opportunity for parents and carers to have their say.
“Should there be improvements to be made, we will do so with vigour and pace. Children are the future of our communities and each and every voice should be heard.”