'Too many Wirral children being given special educational needs statements' - consultants

'Too many Wirral children being given special educational needs statements' - consultants

'Too many Wirral children being given special educational needs statements' - consultants

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Editor

THE number of Wirral children and young people given a statement assessing them as having special educational needs should be reduced, says a firm of consultants hired to cut council costs.

Their controversial recommendation came with another proposal - that more special needs youngsters should attend mainstream classes instead of going to specialised schools.

Wirral Council has committed itself to reducing special needs transport costs by £564,000 by 2020.

The authority brought in London-based management consultancy firm iMPOWER to examine their figures.

They discovered the savings target could not be achieved by reducing transport costs alone.

The consultants said the high demand for special needs transport – more than 1,200 young people - is “being driven” by a statementing rate 20% above neighbouring councils.

Their report, to be presented to the families and wellbeing committee next week, says to make a “step change” the council should adopt a “bolder” approach to special educational needs statements - an assessment by education professionals detailing a child's learning difficulties and stating help that will be given.

It comes as a 12-week consultation over closing Lyndale School in Eastham gets underway.

By cutting numbers in receipt of a statement and bringing it in line with the rest of Merseyside, one-fifth of Wirral's transport budget could be saved.

The report tells officers: “If you implement demand management and reduce numbers in line with statistical neighbours, your financial target can be exceeded.”

It also says if more special needs pupils – especially those with moderate learning difficulties - were educated at their local mainstream school, it would not only reduce the mileage rate costs but would also increase the number of “feasible transport options.”

This would have a “positive impact” on the council’s finances.

The review found transport cost per pupil is low, but because so many receive free transport to school, the overall cost is considerably above average.

The report goes on: "Due to the high number of specialist schools in Wirral, the majority of the budget is spent on transporting pupils to these schools."

It states that in order to meet target savings, the demand for special needs schools "has to be addressed. and the broader challenge is to address the source of the demand."

Wirral has a 20% higher rate of special educational needs than its neighbours and 14% higher than England and the North West.

Twenty-one per 1,000 Wirral school pupils attend specialist schools - which is 77% higher than the England average.

Ten per cent of all Wirral schools are specialist schools, compared with 4% for England.

IMPOWER said: "These figures suggest that unlike other areas of the country, Wirral’s mainstream schools are not educating pupils with SEN to the same extent.

"The comparatively high supply of specialist provision means that some pupils are not attending their nearest school.

"If they were, and with parental support, they may be able to travel to school without the need for specialist transport."

The review divides parents of statemented children into three "Value Mode Groups."

They are: "Pioneer", "Prospector" and "Settler".

The consultants said "Prospectors" expressed the highest level of interest in alternatives to the present system, while "Settlers" showed the least.

Key recommendations are that the council should introduce "Independent Travel Training" which will increase a pupil's independence; investigate setting up Personal Transport Budgets, and bring in a system known as "Structured Contact", wherby a child's transport needs are "challenged at all stages" and alternative options explored.

Councillors will discuss the findings next Tuesday.

IMPOWER's website explains "the company’s mission is to reshape the public sector to deliver sustainable and fit for purpose services in a modern environment. "

You can read their 40-page Wirral report here.

Comments (8)

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12:59pm Thu 3 Apr 14

Thepleb says...

How convenient as the 12 week Lyndale school consultation starts, how much was paid to this consultancy firm?
How convenient as the 12 week Lyndale school consultation starts, how much was paid to this consultancy firm? Thepleb
  • Score: 14

1:05pm Thu 3 Apr 14

bigfoot says...

In some circumstances a consultant's impartiality is needed,but wasn't there one any nearer?
But indeed 'very convenient' timing!
In some circumstances a consultant's impartiality is needed,but wasn't there one any nearer? But indeed 'very convenient' timing! bigfoot
  • Score: 10

4:54pm Thu 3 Apr 14

JimmyMercury says...

Here we go again, hit the sick, poor and disadvantaged. For IMpower, read ATOS.
Here we go again, hit the sick, poor and disadvantaged. For IMpower, read ATOS. JimmyMercury
  • Score: 11

9:49pm Thu 3 Apr 14

Joeblogg85 says...

If the Council ask them to find savings then savings will be found. Simples!
If the Council ask them to find savings then savings will be found. Simples! Joeblogg85
  • Score: 7

1:34pm Fri 4 Apr 14

ASDFriendly says...

A statement of SEN (and their replacement from September, an EHCP) is issued because extra provision beyond what is available in a mainstream school is necessary to educate a child. It is a legal document detailing the reasons for the extra provision, what it will consist of, and where it will come from.

And it is illegal for any local authority to withhold a statement or EHCP for financial reasons. The law explicitly states that statements/EHCPs must accurately describe what is needed and the local authority must "secure the provision" described in them.

It seems that these consultants are unaware of the most basic principles of special needs education law.

There are only two legal ways to reduce the number of statements/EHCPs in an authority:
1. Increase the basic provision in all schools so that the needs of children with learning disabilities are met without having to make special arrangements;
2. Persuade all the families of children with special needs to move somewhere else.
A statement of SEN (and their replacement from September, an EHCP) is issued because extra provision beyond what is available in a mainstream school is necessary to educate a child. It is a legal document detailing the reasons for the extra provision, what it will consist of, and where it will come from. And it is illegal for any local authority to withhold a statement or EHCP for financial reasons. The law explicitly states that statements/EHCPs must accurately describe what is needed and the local authority must "secure the provision" described in them. It seems that these consultants are unaware of the most basic principles of special needs education law. There are only two legal ways to reduce the number of statements/EHCPs in an authority: 1. Increase the basic provision in all schools so that the needs of children with learning disabilities are met without having to make special arrangements; 2. Persuade all the families of children with special needs to move somewhere else. ASDFriendly
  • Score: 14

3:41pm Sat 5 Apr 14

Jane McConnell, IPSEA says...

If the LA implement these recommendations then they WILL be breaking the law on SEN/ Transport. This consultants report is misleading and dangerous and has been written by people that clearly do not understand a LAs legal duties in these areas. It is bad, bad advice. Councillors should seek good legal advice and ask for a refund of all the £ spent putting this report together. Dangerous stuff. If implemented it will lead to legal challenge which is very costly - time, money and staff resources.
If the LA implement these recommendations then they WILL be breaking the law on SEN/ Transport. This consultants report is misleading and dangerous and has been written by people that clearly do not understand a LAs legal duties in these areas. It is bad, bad advice. Councillors should seek good legal advice and ask for a refund of all the £ spent putting this report together. Dangerous stuff. If implemented it will lead to legal challenge which is very costly - time, money and staff resources. Jane McConnell, IPSEA
  • Score: 8

7:27pm Tue 8 Apr 14

keen gardener says...

Bring in a Barrister to stick the knife in at Fernbank Farm!

Now bring in Consultants to stick the knife in at Lyndale.

Speaks for itself I think!

For goodness sake MBW - "get your act together".
Bring in a Barrister to stick the knife in at Fernbank Farm! Now bring in Consultants to stick the knife in at Lyndale. Speaks for itself I think! For goodness sake MBW - "get your act together". keen gardener
  • Score: 2

4:26pm Wed 9 Apr 14

water1lily says...

Purely another cost cutting exercise with once again very little consideration for the needs of the children and young people involved. It would be interesting to know exactly what brief was given to the consultants and how much input WBC had into the final report. Seems like they are trying to hammer square pegs into round holes.
Purely another cost cutting exercise with once again very little consideration for the needs of the children and young people involved. It would be interesting to know exactly what brief was given to the consultants and how much input WBC had into the final report. Seems like they are trying to hammer square pegs into round holes. water1lily
  • Score: 1

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