County struggling to deal with surge in special educational needs

Some primary school children in areas with the highest Covid infection rates will not be returning immediately after the...

Essex County Council is receiving 220 SEND assessment requests per month - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Assessment requests for children in Essex with special educational needs have hit more than 220 per month since the start of the pandemic, according to a council report.

Essex County Council said its SEND operations team has faced an “unprecedented situation” with a need now to provide additional capacity in the team to deliver the authority’s statutory duties.

The council report said the authority received  223 requests for education, health and care (EHC) assessments last year once Covid struck – up from 197 per month in 2018/19.

The county council is now making more than £1million available to bolster capacity within the SEND team.

From March 2021 in particular – when pupils returned to schools in greater numbers – there was a marked rise in the number of requests for assessment made by schools, with 306 requests being made in March 2021 alone.


You may also want to watch:


The £1.06m investment will enable the recruitment of 26 full time SEND staff between October 2021 and September 2022.

The authority added its SEND operations team capacity has been affected by a number of factors including a significant amount of additional and more “complex work” in the system.

Most Read

As a result of the backlog in processing EHC needs assessments, it has become difficult to allocate educational psychologists (EPs) by the required point in the 20-week cycle and this in turn is resulting in pressure for the SEND operations team.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has put increased pressure on lots of council services nationally.

“Like other county councils, Essex continues to recover from its effects, manage the ongoing impact and build resilience within its services and across local communities.

“As part of these efforts, a recent bid was approved by our Cabinet for additional, one-off funding to temporarily increase capacity in our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) operations team.

“This extra resource will be used to manage the significant demand and complexity of Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments created over the course of the pandemic and mean we will be better placed to fulfil our statutory duties in respect of all SEND pupils.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter