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Pilot scheme to improve special educational needs provision in Suffolk outlined

By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (5601940)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (5601940)

A programme to turn around Suffolk’s special education needs (SEN) has been outlined – with an innovative pilot scheme set to spearhead the measures.

The SEND Transformation Programme will get under way over the next 12 months to help improve special education provision, and tackle soaring demand, which has left some critics branding it a “crisis”.

In a report published for the Suffolk County Council scrutiny committee, the programme revealed intentions to form a new assessment centre programme, improve offerings at pupil referral units and extend specialist units at existing mainstream schools.

The pilot will see health, care and education professionals come together with parents to assess the needs of a child earlier, and put in place an action plan.

This will happen before a statutory assessment takes place, in a bid to help prevent more severe needs further down the line.

Judith Mobbs, assistant director for SEND and skills, said: “People often think that the diagnosis is the answer, but, actually, that’s less important than an assessment of the child’s needs.

“The programme has been in planning for some time, and we are piloting it now to start in January.”

Ms Mobbs said it was an innovative model, which will lead to a much better system for children.

It is then planned for roll-out in west and east Suffolk.

A decision on which schools’ specialist units will be extended is expected in the spring.

Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman, said: “Any move to try to tackle the SEN crisis in Suffolk should be taken seriously, and I cautiously welcome these initial headline proposals.

“However, I say cautiously because Suffolk County Council still has a long, long way to go to deliver the solutions that will meet current and future need.

“The real challenge now will be to move these plans off paper and into reality.”


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