Surrey’s children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are set to benefit from a much broader choice of schools and placements within the county following the council’s decision to invest £36m in widening its specialist education provision.
This latest investment will create 213 additional specialist school places for the academic year 2021-22 and follows on from a decision by Cabinet in January 2019 to increase the specialist provision in mainstream specialist centres, special academies and maintained special schools in Surrey.
The programme of development will enable more children and young people with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) to choose from a wider choice of local schools, receive their education closer to home, reduce travel time and costs, and help all young people to reach their full potential while playing an active role in their local communities.
The proposals will increase the places available for secondary and post 16 aged children and young people who have social, emotional and mental health needs, communication and interaction needs, and cognition and learning needs.
Over the past four years Surrey has experienced a significant increase in the number of children and young people with complex Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Autism has grown by a third (32%), and there is a high demand for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) compared to other geographical areas.
Currently the specialist education sector in Surrey provides 770 specialist centre places in mainstream schools and 2698 special school places within the county. A further 1,285 children and young people who have EHCPs attend special educational provision outside of the county and in the independent sector. Three new free schools in Surrey will be up and running in the next 5 years, but as EHCP demand continues to grow, additional provision will still be required to meet demand while these new schools are being established.
Julie Iles, SCC Cabinet Member for All-Age Learning, said: “Our aim is to increase our outstanding specialist provision within Surrey so that all children and young people can receive a good education closer to their homes. Increasing the range of options within the county will help young people to fulfil their potential while continuing to play an active role in their local communities. It will also reduce the number of children having to travel long distances to get to school.
“Providing more appropriate provision within the county will also help us to reduce the cost of finding suitable places elsewhere. Places in the independent sector are usually more costly than those in our own settings and do not necessarily offer better value for money. This will be a much more effective use of our resources.”
The £36m investment is part of SCC’s much wider commitment to improving services for children and young people with SEND, which includes a new autism strategy, an improved single point of access helpline to provide learning support and advice, and a sustainable transport strategy to support independent travel.