Parents and professionals discuss SEND at round-table event
Over 100 parents, carers, head teachers and special needs teachers came together to discuss special needs education in Hackney.
The Hearing SEND Voices event has hosted by Cllr Chris Kennedy, who was recently appointed Cabinet Member with responsibility for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The round-table event, at City Academy Hackney, was an opportunity for the Council to find out what residents think about existing provision and how it could be improved in the future. The feedback from the event will help to shape Council policies around SEND and will also inform the work of a new SEND working group.
The working group will be led by an independent Chair, Bernard Hawes, Chair of Governors at Stormont House special school, with representatives from parents’ groups, campaign groups, councillors, teachers and other professionals. Their first meeting is expected to be in July.
It is hoped that this group will explore options about the way EHCPs are provided and are funded in mainstream schools, to ensure the Council can continue to adequately fund high quality services for young people. The outcomes will be consulted on towards the end of the year.
I'd like to thank all those who took the time to join in this event and share their experiences, concerns and ideas. SEND funding and provision is a crucial topic and one that we need to get right. I understand parents' frustration at previous attempts by the Council to address funding issues, and I really hope that this event will help to reset our relationship with parents. We're all on the same side, and ultimately we all want what's best for Hackney's children and young people.
The feedback has given us a great starting point for the Working Group, and I look forward to updating them on the work of that group. As we compile and work through the feedback, it will undoubtedly give us recommendations for improvements and changes across the board, but one key issue that came up time and time again was funding.
The Government has effectively frozen funding for Education Health and Care Plans - which support our most vulnerable children - since 2011, despite an increase of 35% in the number of young people we support. In Hackney we have chosen to fill that gap through making cuts to other services, but we cannot continue to do that. We’re plugging the gap for high needs - or ‘top-up’ - support by over £7m a year, yet face ongoing reductions to our Government grant across the council of £35m over the next two years.
The Council will continue to lobby the Government to make sure our voice is heard, and I hope that parents and careers will join us in that, as well as taking part in ongoing discussions about SEND provision here in Hackney.