Oxfordshire County Council working to educate more children with special educational needs and disabilities within the county

Nearly 200 Oxfordshire children have to be educated outside the county to get help with special educational needs, a higher number than other neighbouring counties.
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A total of 400 children from the county with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are getting help through specialist independent schools, not funded directly by the state.

Out of those, there is only room for 209 in Oxfordshire, with the remaining 191 educated out of county.

And out of those educated outside of Oxfordshire, 59 have to travel further than to neighbouring counties like Berkshire or Northamptonshire.

Nearly 200 Oxfordshire children have to be educated outside the county to get help with special educational needs, a higher number than other neighbouring counties.Nearly 200 Oxfordshire children have to be educated outside the county to get help with special educational needs, a higher number than other neighbouring counties.
Nearly 200 Oxfordshire children have to be educated outside the county to get help with special educational needs, a higher number than other neighbouring counties.

In total, this currently costs £20m a year to the public purse, and Oxfordshire County Council is trying to find ways to educate more children with SEND within the county.

Details of the demand for special education were revealed earlier this month as county councillors were given an update on plans to improve Oxfordshire’s provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

At the meeting on February 3, Hayley Good, deputy director for education at the county council, told the committee that there was a growing need for support for SEND kids.

She said: “We know that demand is growing and the complexity of need of those demands is increasing. We also know that resource is under huge national pressure financially.”

But she also added that currently there was not often enough support available within Oxfordshire to help some of these children.

The cost of helping these children with travel would be even more on top, but Ms Good did not have the figure to hand.

To address problems with SEND support, the council is setting out a ‘transformation’ agenda.

Its plans include starting to work with schools and nurseries to find children who might have extra needs at a young age, so that when they grow older there is support in place for them within Oxfordshire and they do not have to travel out of county.

Committee member Gill Sanders said sending children out of county for extra teaching support had gone on for ‘a very long time’.

She added: “Apart from the money the actual putting youngster out of county is not a good thing. Not for them, for their families. It is not a good thing.”

While nearly 200 children from Oxfordshire have to travel out of county to get help with SEND, 48 kids from other areas have places at ‘maintained schools’ within the county, which are directly overseen by the county council.

However, there may be more pupils at schools the council does not oversee: many schools are now overseen by central Government as academies or free schools, and the county council does not have the same data on these.

A council spokesman confirmed Oxfordshire had a ‘higher than the national average’ of children with SEND in these independent schools.

Kate Bradley, the council’s Strategic Development and Improvement Manager for SEND, said the council was trying to make sure that children were able to go to schools that were ‘closest to home’.

She added: “We want young people to get home from school at a reasonable time and go to the scouts or go to their swimming club. That is an important aspiration for us all, we want them to have local friends and be part of their communities.”

In August last year, plans for a new £12m school in Blackbird Leys geared towards children with special educational needs and disabilities were announced, with Oxfordshire County Council appointed as the main contractor to oversee it.

It will serve 108 pupils between 10 and 18 years old.

Another 100-place school called Bloxham Grove Academy will be built in north Oxfordshire, operating as a free school, and will serve pupils between seven and 18 years old.

The county has faced problems in the past with delays to legally binding plans which can help kids get extra support in the classroom or even a place in a special school.

But the council’s education scrutiny committee also heard that these Education Health and Care Plans were now being rolled out at a faster rate than the national average.