Number of SEND children excluded from schools in Bedford is double national average

Chris Morris, acting chief officer for education, SEND and schools infrastructures

The number of students with educational health and care plans in Bedford borough being excluded from school is double the national average.

Chris Morris, acting chief officer for education, SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or a Disability) and schools infrastructures, said it was a statistic the council was not proud of.

And he told yesterday’s Children’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee (Monday, July 4) that a SEND child should not have to be excluded to ensure they are getting the right support.

Councillor John Wheeler (Conservative, Wootton Ward) said: “I have sat on a few of these exclusions, and it seems to me one of the reasons is the lack of support for that particular child.

“It wasn’t enough, so the child, unfortunately, had to be excluded.

“Another case I dealt with recently, fortunately enough the child has now gone on to a much better school who are [better] suited for this child’s needs,” he said.

Mr Morris replied: “I vehemently and really strongly want to make sure that we should never be permanently excluding a child so they receive the support they should be getting.

“That should just never happen.

“We should be in a position where we are able to put the support in place for that child so that child does not have to go through the trauma of a permanent exclusion.

“I know that for some schools, and for some experiences, they feel that’s had to happen, and that’s where we need to learn from those experiences and make sure those are never events again.

“We shouldn’t have a system where you have to fail to make sure that you get the support,” he said.

“We want to make sure that schools are picking up the phone and speaking to one of my heads of services around SEND and saying ‘we are struggling with little Johnny what advice can you give?’, he said.

The lack of local special school places may be a factor for the Bedford Borough’s permanent exclusions for children with education health and care plans being higher than the national average, a report on borough’s SEND Provision in Mainstream Schools said.

The report showed that 14.2 per cent of pupils in schools in Bedford borough had identified Special Educational Needs and/or a Disability, which is lower than the national average of 16.6 per cent.

Of the children with education health and care plans (EHCP), 50.1 per cent were educated in a mainstream provision compared to the national average of only 40.1 per cent.

Subject to recruitment, the council will have a new SEND advice line running from September for schools to ensure their pupils are getting the right support.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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