Blaenau Gwent special needs report warning

First published in News

BLAENAU Gwent’s education department will stay in special measures if it doesn’t improve provision for special needs pupils, a report has warned.

There is no certainty that special needs pupils have been accurately assessed, or that they are receiving the most appropriate support from the authority, according to the document which will go before scrutiny panel members this afternoon.

Blaenau Gwent’s education department, which was criticised by inspectors Estyn last year, has yet to develop “a coherent and systematic approach” to meeting pupils’ special needs, the report states, due to changes in leadership.

This is despite high numbers of youngsters with special needs in the county and the council spending around £900,000 a year sending pupils to out-of-county placements.

Last year Estyn said Blaenau Gwent had the second biggest budget in Wales for additional learning needs, but labelled support for special needs pupils as “unsatisfactory”.

Today’s report, written by inclusion lead officer Nicola Allan, proposes setting up a project to develop policies around special needs and inclusion which are “fit for purpose”, developing the skills of staff, and funding the whole system “in the most efficient way possible”.

“The relationships between the schools, the different support services, the local authority and parents need clarifying and strengthening,” said the report.

“Failure to improve provision for pupils with additional learning needs will lead to poor outcomes for vulnerable groups and result in the council remaining in ‘special measures’ for its education services.”

As part of the proposed project, a review into special needs bases at secondary schools and their funding would have begun last month and finish in September 2015.

“There is a high risk of additional costs as a result of a need for new resource base units being identified,” said the report. “There may be capital costs and a need for staff training to prepare new provision.”

Funding has already been earmarked for this, said the report.

Last year council leader Hedley McCarthy insisted the authority would be “unrelenting” in its mission to quicken the pace of school improvement.

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