Parents protest over lack of school places for SEND children in Bedfordshire

  • Watch Elodie Harper's report for ITV News Anglia

Parents have held a protest outside Central Bedfordshire Council over the lack of school places for children with special educational needs.

Campaigners say 52 children are without a suitable school place for September 2021, with at least 148 on part-time timetables.

The Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group organised a protest ahead of a children's services overview and scrutiny committee meeting at Priory House in Chicksands.

The council's SEND provision has been in the spotlight after a critical Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) report in November 2019.

Protesters outside Central Bedfordshire Council in Chicksands. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker has offered to act as spokesperson for the parents.

"There's been very little improvement in SEND services since the Ofsted report in November 2019," she explained.

"Although CBC talks of 'green shoots' of improvement, I think they've all but died now despite the council spending large sums of money on contractors and an audit of EHCPs.

"The Action Group knows of 52 children without school places in September 2021.

"Some of these children have places in Easter or September 2022, but not all of them.

"Until then these young people are expected to try and attend mainstream education.

"Even with the extra support provided, this is usually unsuitable for most children that require a special school place."

Protesters laid out 52 pairs of shoes to represent the SEND children who don't have a suitable school place. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A CBC spokeswoman said: "As a council we're completely committed to developing a service that meets the needs of SEND children and their families, and that it's a service of which we can be proud.

"As with many other local authorities, we're experiencing increasing demand for special school places.

"We're revising our forward plans to meet this growing demand to include a significant £6.5m capital investment for the creation of more than 100 SEND specialist places during the next three years.

"An extra 59 places will be available from September 2021. We're also working closely with our neighbouring councils to secure additional places where possible."