Some Sheffield schools are struggling to help special needs pupils, says council chief
Special schools in Sheffield have become fuller following a growth in demand, say council bosses.
An inspection found seven areas of weakness in special educational needs and disabilities services at Sheffield Council and while substantial work has taken place, services are not improving quickly enough.
Tim Armstrong, head of SEND, said the growth in demand for specialist provision has “risen exponentially” nationwide since the introduction of the Children and Families Act in 2014.
He told a scrutiny meeting that the city needed to make sure it had the right provision and expertise.
“One of the challenges is our special schools have become fuller. Some of that is parents and primary schools struggling to see a route for children in secondary education with additional needs because of curriculum challenges,” he said.
“We’ve seen schools struggle to meet the needs of the most complex pupils sometimes because they’re dealing with the needs of a lot more kids than they would have done previously.”
Mr Armstrong said there was still a lot of work to be done.
“We absolutely are not there yet, we have massive challenges in terms of capacity in our specialist schools and it is a real concern for us but we are committed,” he added.
“We know that there are far too many young people who’ve had bad experiences with their educational support and we need to make sure that at every stage schools have got the right skills, resources, curriculum and provision in place.
“We know it’s a challenging area, we know that we have substantial issues to address and we are continuing to do that.”
Mr Armstrong also said it was important to look at educating children of all abilities together.
He said: “Ideally we want children to be included within the mainstream sector as far as possible, not to have to travel across the city for their education and to be alongside peers who don’t have SEND.
“And there’s an advantage for children who don’t have SEND to be alongside children who do, that’s a really important part of what we should be thinking about as a city.”
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