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The Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group is calling on Central Bedfordshire Council to hold an extraordinary meeting of the Children’s Services Committee to address what it said are the “many” children who have been granted specialist school places, but who have been told that there are no spaces available for September 2021.

Adding that these children will have to return to their mainstream settings, which are unable to meet their special educational needs.

The Action Group said the director of children’s services and the executive members for families, education and children must be open and honest about how many children are in this situation.

In its petition calling for the meeting, the Group said that there are likely to be many more than the 18 children it has identified as being in this position.

The Action Group said that not finding the spaces for these children would result in:

  • Long-term part-time timetables
  • Loss of learning and some therapies
  • Social isolation
  • Deterioration of child, sibling, and parent mental health
  • Parental loss of income/jobs/careers
  • Children who withdraw from school altogether until a space is available
  • Negative impact on mainstream children/teachers

The Action Group said this extraordinary meeting needs to take place as a matter of extreme urgency over the summer. It added that if these were mainstream children, the council would be going to any lengths to accommodate them.

In response, a spokesperson for Central Bedfordshire Council said:

“In Central Bedfordshire, we met 97% of the demand for over 300 transfer requests for specialist places in all Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) that were amended and finalised by the statutory deadline of 15 February 2021.

“The council continually receives new or amended ECHP requests for specialist places throughout the year. Since February, we have received 107 new EHCP requests for transfer to specialist places with parents and professionals in agreement that a specialist placement is required.

“The council is currently working with the parents of 11 children to identify appropriate education provision. Where they are being educated at home, bespoke support for families will be provided.

“We are revising our forward plans to meet the growing demand for specialist provision places. This includes a significant £6.5million capital investment for the creation of over 100 SEND specialist places over the next 3 years; an additional 59 places will be available from September 2021.”

Requests for the council’s monitoring officer to call council meetings in addition to ordinary meetings can be made by:

  • The council by resolution; or
  • The chair of the council (or in his/her absence the vice-chair); or The monitoring officer; or
  • Any five members of the council if they have signed a requisition presented to the chair of the council and he/she has refused to call a meeting or has failed to call a meeting within seven days of the presentation of the requisition

The Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group’s petition will be considered at the Councils Executive Meeting on Tuesday (3 August 2021).