Northamptonshire head teacher hits out at SEN delays for children

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Graham Stothard

A headteacher has branded a council's approach to helping children with special educational needs "morally indefensible".

Nene Education Trust, which runs Windmill Primary School, has been forced to spend its own reserves to fund special educational needs (SEN) teaching because of a lack of money from North Northamptonshire Council.

A review into SEN provision has been taking place across the Northamptonshire since the start of the academic year and while it is ongoing, schools in some areas have received no interim funding.

The review will try to fix issues inherited from the former Northamptonshire County Council which was dissolved last year and replaced by West Northamptonshire and North Northamptonshire unitary authorities.

Suzanne Edward, principal of Windmill Primary School, said the council's approach to SEN funding was "morally indefensible". Credit: ITV Anglia

Suzanne Edwards, head teacher at Windmill Primary School, said the approach North Northamptonshire Council was taking over the review and lack of interim funding had made life very difficult.

"I think it's morally indefensible, to be honest. We always talk about the future of our society, lies in our youngest generations and we're not picking up the needs of some of our youngest children in society who haven't got a voice. We are their voice," she said.

The Nene Education Trust, which had set aside £150,000 to make up the shortfall in its funding for SEN provision, said it did not doubt that a review of services was needed.

But the trust said a lack of information over how long the review would take was making planning tough.

"The main thing for us is taking a proactive stance to this and trying to do something about it rather than just saying, 'Oh, it's not good enough, there's not enough funding'. We're actually doing something about it," said Chris Hill, chief executive of the Nene Education Trust.

The Disabled Children's Partnership said from 2015 to 2020 there was a real terms spending cut of £360,000 on services for disabled children.

It also reported that since 2016, the proportion of Education Health Care Plans issued within the target of 20 weeks had dropped by 72%.

Marie Reilly has struggled to get the right help for her 2 sons Credit: ITV Anglia

This kind of statistic does not surprise Marie Reilly who lives in Roade, Northamptonshire.

It took her nearly three years to get help for her eldest son, while she has been trying to get help for her youngest son Jack for more than five years.

"Being his mum, I'm supposed to provide for him, get everything, make sure he's OK. And no matter what I do, I don't seem to be able to get anywhere," Ms Reilly said.

"He's clearly struggling in certain areas and because he's not getting the help," she added.

Over the last year, ITV News Anglia has spoken with many families affected by issues with SEND provision across the region.

The review of SEN services which started in September 2021 covers the new North and West Northamptonshire Councils.

Both councils said they were working hard to improve services for SEN children and their families.

West Northamptonshire Council said it was doing everything possible to turn things around.

Fiona Baker, cabinet member for children, families and education at West Northamptonshire Council, said: "I came into this level of council for the last term of Northamptonshire County Council - that was broken. We are now on an upward journey. We are repairing everything that was broken before."

Meanwhile, in a statement, North Northamptonshire council said: “While the review has been taking place in North Northants, all statutory high needs funding has been continued to be distributed to schools to support them to meet the needs of children and young people.

“However, at the recent Schools Forum meeting it was agreed that a revised, more targeted, process for the distribution of additional, non-statutory, high needs funding will be put in place to further support schools whilst the wider review of services is completed.

“Schools are a key partner in the ongoing review of SEND services. Their views will guide and inform the proposals that are developed through this process to ensure that together all partners work together to best meet the needs of all children, young people and their families."