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Parents of disabled children protest over changes to educational provision

parents protesting outside Dudley Town Hall
parents protesting outside Dudley Town Hall Image credit: birminghammail.co.uk

A group of parents disrupted the first meeting of the municipal year at Dudley Council by taking to the streets protesting about changes to the education provision raising concerns for disabled children.

The proposed plans will see changes made to SEND (Special education) provision and the merger of early years, educational advisory and childcare strategy following an Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspection carried out in 2019.

However Rachel Gardner, CEO of We Love Carers charity, said parents like herself are worried children with disabilities will not have adequate care when they are placed in mainstream schools and specially trained staff will not be on hand to support them under the new changes.

Rachel told Birmingham Live: "We are concerned about the lack of consultation over the mergers of three services, changes to the SEN matrix (an area, department or school, specifically-built to offer a safe and empathetic place for students to learn) and the local authority's agenda of getting the majority of special needs children into mainstream schools.

"These kids will be losing vital services, they'll be more vulnerable and there will be far more exclusions. We believe mainstream isn't set up to have SEN children in at the moment.

"We know changes have to be made and all special needs schools are full. But what we're saying is there has to be a proper strategy in place. There has to be a full consultation on what their agenda is.

"They are looking at changing policies without consultation. If full consultation brings the same outcomes, then we would be happy but you can't make changes without a consultation.

"The council has had one review with an independent consultant and what they have planned is parents can be part of the co-production.

"But the main part of the co-production which is the integration of services and the probable job losses, we can't be part of. We have no say in that so the consultation is effectively done.”

Racheal expressed her disappointment parents are not being permitted to read the plans before they are put into place.

"We are asking for a full and fair consultation so that everyone is allowed to speak. We've not even been allowed to see the review and don't even know what's in it. How can that be fair?” she argued.

"To us, it feels like they are downgrading services. We need specialist teachers to look after the children.

"They are under the impression support workers can do that job but they can't.

"These teachers are a lifeline for some families, they go above and beyond to support the families.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children’s services, said: "We are remodelling our early years, educational advisory and childcare strategy teams to form an integrated service to best serve our children and families.

"These changes will maximise opportunities for children with additional needs and will give families easier access to wider preventative and locality-based provision and follow recommendations from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission during an inspection in 2019.

"Significant work is also taking place across Dudley borough’s maternity and early year’s partnership to improve the outcomes for our youngest children and their families, with recent independent review and meeting with DfE sighting our positive progress.

"Dudley Council is committed to achieving good outcomes for all families, children and young people in Dudley borough."

SEND provision is designed to help children and young people with SEN or disabilities to access the National Curriculum at school or to study at college.