Council leaders today met and listened to families of children with special educational needs and disabilities who are demonstrating about a lack of specialist school provision.
The group of parents staged a protest outside WNC's One Angel Square offices this morning (Tuesday, 6 September) to highlight their concerns over service provision, with each family offered their own one-to-one session with SEND officers to discuss their circumstances and explore practical solutions.
West Northamptonshire, like local authorities across the country, is currently facing significant pressures on its SEND provision, resulting in a shortfall of specialist places.
Moves are under way towards addressing the issues, with the council working closely with local schools, academies and multi academy trusts as well as the Department for Education to develop more specialist education placements within West Northamptonshire.
This includes creating 250 new places within the current academic year and a further 250 places within the next two years, resulting in an additional 500 places by 2024. Projects moving forward include plans for a new free 250-place school at St John's Tiffield and expanding SEND facilities at Hunsbury Hill Primary School.
Cllr Fiona Baker, Cabinet Member for children, families, education and skills at WNC, said: "Like councils across the country, we are seeing significant pressures on SEND provision for children and their families, especially with the current shortfall locally of places and we are saddened and sorry that some families in West Northants are being let down and not receiving the specialist services we know they need.
"Tackling this major challenge is a top priority for us and we have plans to provide an additional 500 new places within the next two years, including 250 places in this forthcoming academic year. We know this does not immediately address the challenges faced by some families and these improvements won't happen overnight.
"I fully appreciate the strength of feeling around these issues and would like to thank those families who took the time to come along to our offices and voice their concerns as part of this demonstration.
"It was an opportunity for us to listen to their experiences and offer them one-to-one sessions with members of our SEND team where they could discuss their personal circumstances with us as we look at ways of trying to reach practical solutions to improve outcomes for their children."
West Northamptonshire Council Communications Team