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Thousands more special schools to open in England

A young boy in a wheelchair next to his mum

The government has announced plans to open thousands more specialist schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities [SEND].

As part of a plan to end England’s postcode lottery, 33 local authorities have been chosen to have schools designated for youngsters with additional needs in their areas along with staff training.

The Department for Education [DfE] has pledged £30million towards short respite breaks which include play, sports, arts and independent living benefits to support children and their families.

A 2022 study found there were just under 1.5million youngsters who have special educational needs across the country.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics [ONS] showed the number of SEND children who do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan [EHCP] has increased by 12%.

Claire Coutinho, minister for children, families and wellbeing, said: "Parents know that their children only get one shot at education and this can have an enormous impact on their child's ability to get on with life.

"Yet for some parents of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, getting their child that superb education that everyone deserves can feel like a full-time job.

"The Improvement Plan that we are publishing today sets out systemic reforms to standards, teacher training and access to specialists as well as thousands of new places at specialist schools so that every child gets the help they need."

Despite the news, the Local Government Association [LGA] have criticised the DfE for believing more should have been done to rectify the situation.

Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "It is good the government has set out new national standards which will clarify the support available, and the focus on early intervention will also ensure needs are met more effectively.

"However, while the measures announced will help to fix some of the problems with the current system, they do not go far enough in addressing the fundamental cost and demand issues that result in councils struggling to meet the needs of children with SEND."

The LGA also called for the government to give councils more responsibility so the SEND systems can run smoothly.

In response the DfE said their process for accessing children’s needs will run through the digital-first EHCPs providing a quicker, simpler system for pupils to access support in school.

[ About two per cent of school-age children attend a special school in England ]

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