Part 2: Kent County Council’s special-education system is on its knees

Updated @ 08:35 on 10.05.22

The number of Kent Children and Young People aged between  0-25 with Education & Health Care Plans (EHCP), has risen from 15,281 in 2021 to 19,500 in March 2022, according to Kent County Council data. This is a 28% increase in one year.

However, in a document to go before the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee – Tuesday, 10th May, 2022, it states:

Kent County Council maintains approximately 20,000 Education & Health Care Plan (EHCP), a significant number of which have not been updated and amended and/or actions taken following annual review. It would be expected that Educational Psychology advice contributes to approximately 10% of EHCP annual reviews to support decision-making with regard to provision and whether to maintain or cease an EHCP. Current capacity of Kent EP Service is such that EP advice contributes to fewer than 1% of annual reviews.

The document goes onto say:

KCC  “are, in a number of cases, failing in this duty, impacted by the capacity of the EP Service.”

When carrying out an EHCP needs assessment that will lead to an EHCP, the law is clear, the final plan must be issued within 20 weeks of the initial request. However, KCC have failed to meet these statutory time limits 56% of the time on average over the last 13 months, according to their data.  The main reason for the failure is the lack of Educational Psychology services to provide  reports

To cure this failure of duty, KCC will procure increased capacity of Educational Psychology Services (EPS) by way of an external provider at a maximum cost of £3.6m over two years.  This process has already begun and the service is anticipated to start in Dec 2022.

There is an anticipated overspend to clear the backlog which at July 2021 was approximately 450 children waiting for an Educational Psychology assessment as part of their Education, Health and Care needs assessment.

  • Between April 2019 – March 2020 the EPS produced 1680 pieces of statutory assessment report.

    Between April 2021 – March 2022 the EPS produced 2971 statutory assessment reports.

This is equal to an 77% increase in two years.

Regardless of this increase, KCC continues to fail to fulfill its duty to comply with the legislation. Any improvement will not be felt or seen until mid 2023, which for SEND pupil parents will no doubt be very concerning.

The number of parents requesting statutory assessment requests for SEND pupils in Kent is set out in the Cabinet Committee report

Now for those of you who are not aware, the assessments are very important, especially Educational Psychologist’s [EP] report. They are often the most important report in any assessment, it should be a full assessment of your child’s needs, not just a singular observational visit of the pupil, at school. It should include a full cognitive or diagnostic assessment, as well.

This EP’s report affects a child’s special educational needs, outcomes; and their special educational provision – hence why it is vital that a comprehensive assessment of your child is undertaken.

We know parents appeal  the EHCP assessments and Mark Walker KCC Director for SEND, said just last month

What parents want, are places at expensive independent schools

and he blames the SEND Tribunal, which “hears appeals against local authority decisions, for helping them get their way. In 2020-21, this national independent tribunal ruled in favour of parents in 96% of cases.”

Are Mr Walker’s comments ‘parenting blaming‘ for daring to use their rights to challenge KCC decisions?

Is he not taking responsibility and ownership for this failure of statutory duty?

Only SEND parents can decide that. But the report does go onto say:

The capacity of Kent Educational Psychology Service (EPS) was insufficient to address the increased demand from the existing staff structure. This issue was highlighted as a weakness in the Ofsted Local Area SEND Inspection report (2019).

So for three years he, his boss, Matt Dunkley and Sue Chandler Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services have known about the problem and only now sought remedies to address this failure of duty. Between them they earn in excess of £350,000.

KCC have a statutory obligation to complete EHCPs in a 20-week timeframe. As an authority they are, in a number of cases, failing to fulfill their statutory duty, which has been caused by understaffing KCC EP Services. The recommissioning of a service to provide additional EPs staff will, they hope, resolve the issue.

KCC will receive a bailout for the £103.3m SEND deficit, the largest in England & Wales. Negotiations for a bailout figure have begun but will not be known until Sept/Oct 2022. But they bailout will come with strings attached as they’ll be expected to drive reform and improvement in their high needs systems and associated spending to make them more sustainable long-term and stop deficits growing. Any additional funding KCC might need, will be subject to strict monitoring of their progress in driving down costs, and will be allocated over several years.

Without a doubt these cuts are coming down the pipe. They will affect SEND pupils. The fact Mark Walker – KCC Send Director (pictured) and his boss, Matt Dunkley (pictured) failed to act on the Ofsted report 3 years ago, has brought the KCC SEND service to its knees.

 

KCC predict that by the end of July 2022, 80% of EP assessments will be completed within the statutory deadline, assuming the number of initial EHCP  requests remain within the range forecast. We have reservations about their crystal ball forecasts, as much has been promised in the past and so little delivered.

It is time we believe for new leadership and ownership of the SEND pupil issue at KCC. The directors and cabinet member, plus KCC as a corporate parent, have failed these SEND pupils, all 18,186 of them. These pupils are one of the most vulnerable groups in Kent and they deserve better, much better. Each pupil deserves to have the best possible education, either in a main stream school or special school, regardless of any form of disability.

Finally there is SEN training for parents living in England.  This is offered by SEN Help, who have provided training to Parent Forums and can provide testimonials. They can be contacted here and you can view their resource’s page here

Disclaimer:

The information in this web post and links to other sites is not to be regarded as advice for any individual case.  Instead we aim to provide a wide range of information, guidance and resources that we hope will be helpful to your situation.

The Shepway Vox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

About shepwayvox (1499 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

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