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Parents invited to have their say on future of Suffolk's specialist schools

PUBLISHED: 06:26 29 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:50 29 June 2018

There is an increasing demand for specialist school placements in Suffolk Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

There is an increasing demand for specialist school placements in Suffolk Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Parents and carers of children with complex educational needs are being invited to have their say on the future of specialist schools in Suffolk.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) has announced it will be holding a six week consultation gathering public opinion on how to cope with a changing landscape in education – with an increasing number of children with special needs seeking tailored support.

Currently, the county council has a lower number of specialist education places than other similar authorities, resulting in many children having to travel some distance to access support.

The consultation will outline three options available to the council, which seek to deal with growing demand in different ways. Parents are carers will be asked to consider the strategies before making a recommendation to the council based on their own knowledge and experiences.

The first option would involve the council meeting all additional growth for new specialist places through the independent sector.

This is likely to be a controversial strategy, as Suffolk already has a high reliance on independent special school placements – which means children and young people often have to access their education outside of the county and away from their families.

While the council can pay for these placements, it often comes at a cost to precious family time and resources.

The second option suggests that SCC meet most of the additional growth by developing new special schools, and using independent placements for a small number of children with very specialist needs.

The third and final option aims to reduce the divide between specialist and mainstream education – meeting additional growth by attaching new specialist support centres to existing mainstream and specialist providers. It also aims to build new special schools, and still relies in part on using independent placements for a small number of children with very complex needs.

As part of developing these proposals SCC held workshops across Suffolk during April, May and June this year with education providers, parents and carers to develop a set of key principles and alternative options to present for consultation.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills at SCC, said: “The education landscape has changed, therefore, we need to make sure our SEND provision is sustainable and able to meet the growing future demands in Suffolk.

“This is a comprehensive piece of work which has involved all partners in a co-production process for the benefit of children and young people with additional needs. I invite people to take part in the consultation and have their say on the alternative proposals through the county council website or by email or phone. Further details can be found on the website. The consultation closes at 5pm on August 7.”

To find out more about the consultation and how you can have your say visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/SENDsufficiencyeducation.

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