New deal for city’s special needs pupils

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SHEFFIELD’S special needs pupils will increasingly be taught in local mainstream schools – as part of a new strategy to be introduced across the city over the next five years.

A report to councillors says the cost of placing young people in special schools is increasing year by year, and cannot be sustained at a time of budget cuts.

The changes will not see children having to switch schools – the plan is to switch the emphasis to mainstream education gradually.

The proposals have been drawn up after city-wide consultations with parents, governors, children and professionals working in the field.

It is the first time the city has developed clear written policies setting out intentions to give the best possible education to special needs youngsters. Education bosses say each child’s individual needs will still be given top priority and some specialist places will always be available.

But a key objective will be for pupils to access the targeted and specialist support they need while attending their local community school.

Fewer children will be placed at schools outside the city, which is also an expensive option.

Key objectives will include improving attendance levels and educational standards while reducing the number of exclusions.

Education chiefs also want mainstream and special schools to work together more closely to improve achievement levels among pupils.

They intend to put pressure on any school which does not welcome special needs youngsters. The strategy is partly driven by radical funding changes – including the introduction of the Pupil Premium which directs money to needy children.

From September a pilot project will be introduced in selected schools to develop a new approach for meeting the needs of pupils with serious issues within a mainstream setting.

The report says if changes are not introduced, high levels of dissatisfaction among parents will continue, as will the pressure to identify increasing numbers of children as having special needs.