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Calls for more special school places in Suffolk as some families travel up to FIVE HOURS to access education

PUBLISHED: 08:18 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:49 06 September 2018

Joanna Hammond (right), co-chairman of the Suffolk Parent Carer Network, with fellow members Picture: SUFFOLK PARENT CARER NETWORK

Joanna Hammond (right), co-chairman of the Suffolk Parent Carer Network, with fellow members Picture: SUFFOLK PARENT CARER NETWORK

Archant

The leading voice for parents and carers in Suffolk has called for more special school places after it was revealed less than one in five families feel their child has the opportunity to achieve their best.

Joanna Hammond, co-chairman of Suffolk Parent and Carer Network, said an increased number of places is necessary to relieve pressure on parents relying on transport networks.

In a survey held by the group last year, 415 families responded with only 18% saying they felt their child was able to fulfil their potential.

Mrs Hammond said that some families had to drive up to five hours to school due to a lack of available places nearby.

“We know there are families being turned away and having to go out of county,” she said. “More and more have started home education – some are being almost forced. Some feel it’s the only option left.

“We have some go miles and miles and miles away. Some are four or five hour drive away, we have some families travel over an hour away in a taxi just to try and access the right provision. It’s not huge numbers but it’s happening too often.

“We really need schools to get on board. They can do an awful lot more. We hear it all the time [from schools] – ‘we cannot meet the needs of your child, try down the road’. There’s an awful lot of work to try and improve that situation.”

It comes as a Suffolk County Council report published this week painted a stark picture of the situation, with a projected rise of 18% more youngsters needing SEN care in the next two years.

In response to the report, a Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “We want to make sure every child with special educational needs gets the support that they rightly deserve, which is why the department is giving Suffolk over £1.7m over three years to improve facilities and increase places for SEN pupils.

“We are investing a record £6bn in the high needs budget this year – nearly £60m in this region – and require schools to ensure they have the right support in place, including dedicated SEN co-ordinators in every school.”

Last year, Suffolk received approval to seek a sponsor for a 60-place special free school to be set-up in east Ipswich on the former Holywells High School site in Lindbergh Road, next to Inspire Suffolk. The school will cater for those aged between eight and 16 with social, emotional and mental health needs.

Last year, Suffolk received approval to seek a sponsor for a 60-place special free schoolto be set-up in east Ipswich on the former Holywells High School site in Lindbergh Road, next to Inspire Suffolk. The school will cater for those aged between eight and 16 with social, emotional and mental health needs.

To voice your concerns about provision for special needs children in Suffolk, or share your own experiences, go to: the Suffolk Parent and Carer website at https://spcn.org.uk/.

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