The Council are once again failing to provide the specialists placements so desperately needed by Suffolk children. Despite the long-standing promises of "800 new places", the speed of delivery is clearly woefully inadequate.
Predictably, COVID-19 and "demand" (a disingenuous interpretation of need) both feature in the list of excuses.
Suffolk Headlines 25th May 2021
Message from Allan Cadzow- Director for Children and Young People, Suffolk County Council
"We are very aware that we have not been able to confirm specialist placements for all children where a request has been received, within the timescale we would have liked to. The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have most definitely made the situation more complex. We know the delays have caused distress and anxiety for some parents, children and young people. We also know we have not always communicated as well as we could and should have with some families. That is not a place where we want to be.
Council officers have worked very hard to deal with a further increase in demand for specialist education placements. We have shared with families this week a number of placement offers and further outcomes will be shared by the end of the first week of June. The majority of local specialist places will have been allocated at that time. We are struggling to secure places for some children requesting a specialist placement for reception and for older children with identified social, emotional and mental health needs, despite having increased Suffolk’s specialist placements for September 2021. We will review the outstanding requests over the half term break and work with colleagues to identify possible solutions.
Requests for specialist provision are still coming in. Priority will be given to those children and young people without a current or school placement for September 2021 and these will be responded to as quickly as possible.
As soon as we have finished allocating the places for the 2021/2022 Academic Year, we will be working on the timeline and processes for the 22/23 academic year to ensure timescales are met and our communication processes are more pro-active and more responsive.
Thank you for your understanding at what has been a very difficult time for so many. I apologise that it has been so difficult."
It is clear that no progress has been made since last year's identical fiasco. The promised "fundamental rethink" either didn't happen or insufficient intellectual resources were brought to bear.
Suffolk Headlines 2nd July 2020
"The Specialist Admissions process has now been concluded for Sept 2020 and all families and settings should have received letters notifying them of the outcomes by the end of this week (post permitting). We know that we need to have a fundamental rethink before the next round of specialist admissions as the current system has not been able to cope with the volume of applications. We would like to thank everyone who has contacted Tracy Winwood to offer help with this. As we have said in previous updates, the number of applications for specialist placements far exceeded those available and this has meant making some very difficult decisions[*] about placement offers. We have tried to ensure those children with the highest level of need have been prioritised. We realise that some schools will be disappointed that the pupils they put forward have not been offered a place. We are committed to working with you through our specialist outreach services to support you in meeting the needs of these children within their current setting.
As part of our changes to the specialist admissions arrangements we will, with immediate effect, be changing the way that applications for alternative provision (AP) placements are made. From Monday 6th July new applications for AP placements will be accepted and considered on a rolling basis and it will therefore be possible to apply for a placement at any point during the academic year with no cut off dates. Applications should be made using the Inclusion Referral Form, as currently. Once received, applications will be considered at the LA’s Specialist Education Panel, which meets weekly before consultation with the relevant AP setting. Following both stages a response will be made to the application. This will mean a much more dynamic and responsive system for AP applications which we hope will enable more timely support, however it must be emphasised that places remain limited and therefore an application may not result in allocation of a placement in an AP setting"
[* Children will be without education]