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Special needs review set for Cabinet

12 January 2017

Proposals to strengthen provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Stockton Borough will be considered by councillors next week.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is reviewing all of its SEND provision and has been consulting on a new approach aimed at ensuring more children and young people with SEND can attend a specialist place at a nursery, primary or secondary school near to where they live.

Though feedback has been generally positive, the proposed approach raised concerns about the future of the Borough's Early Support Nursery at High Flyers Children's Centre in Thornaby as it is attended by children from across the Borough.

But after constructive discussions with the "Friends of Early Support Nursery" group, the Council has moved to clarify the nursery's future by proposing to retain it within a stronger overall nursery offer for children with SEND.

A proposal to develop this further, and to ensure special needs places are available across the Borough's primary and secondary schools, will be considered by members of the Council's Cabinet when they meet on Thursday (January 19).

The Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ann McCoy, said: "One of the main aims of the proposed new approach to SEND is to provide more places closer to children's homes and we can understand why that prompted questions about the nursery's future and its role in any new service model.

"We were therefore keen to meet with the Friends group to discuss this in more detail and those discussions have been very positive indeed. Another stated aim of the new approach is to increase nursery provision across the Borough, and we've been looking closely at that too.

"We have listened carefully to all of the views expressed during the consultation and at next week's meeting Cabinet members will be asked to consider a proposal to undertake further work to ensure we can offer parents the 30 hours of childcare they are entitled to every week, with the Early Support Nursery playing a central role in that.

"Local autism charity, Daisy Chain, and a local special school, have also expressed an interest in providing additional nursery places and that's something we are also proposing to explore in the interests of building on the excellent existing provision and offering parents and carers greater choice too."

Councillor McCoy added: "The consultation found support for a new approach to providing special needs places in more of our primary and secondary schools so the proposal to Cabinet is to do further work to ensure the commissioning of those places will enable more children and young people to go to a school near their homes.

"I'd like to thank everybody that has taken the time to share their views with us during this extensive consultation, which has seen us talk to parents, carers, head teachers, children, staff, neighbouring authorities, and health partners. We have listened carefully to the views expressed and they are very much reflected in these proposals.

"The proposals also ensure we continue to protect services for those most in need, which is a top priority for this council."

A further report is expected to go to Cabinet in March to determine the next steps in greater detail.