Council meet to address troubling Ofsted report about children with special educational needs

Children in special needs education in Sheffield do not “have their needs assessed accurately or in a timely way” according to a council report.

In November 2018, Ofsted Inspectors held 20 focus groups and visited 12 Sheffield Local Area Special Educational Needs & Disabilities schools, meeting with parents and young people.

In response to these findings, Sheffield City Council launched a scrutiny committee in cooperation with NHS Sheffield to tackle the issues raised.

The committee found that educational establishments have not implemented national reforms consistently or swiftly enough.

According to figures from the Sheffield Autistic Society, there are at least 6,000 autistic people in Sheffield.

Julie, who does not wished to be identified, is a single mum whose son was temporarily excluded from a specialist secondary school in December 2015.

Julie expected Sam would re-attend in a matter of days, but shortly after his expulsion he was told he wasn’t allowed to return.

Sam didn’t go back to school for almost two and a half years, but remained technically enrolled at the school and not permanently excluded.

The school provided him with a teaching assistant for homeschooling but this was for only six months and they would only be available for 11 hours a week. Some weeks, they even had no support.

Regarding the upheaval, Julie said: “Sam has lost trust. He has no peers, got no friends. He’s lost that motivation and routine. It’s so hard to undo the damage that has been done.”

Sam now attends Robert Ogden Independent School in Rotherham, a specialist school for young people with autism, 26 miles away from the family home. It is run by the National Autistic Society.

Principal at the school, Lorraine Dormand, spoke to the BBC in November about the vast amount of referrals they receive and children forced into other education options.

She said: “It’s deeply concerning and is of course very distressing for the children and their families.

“We are then left to pick up the pieces. We are seeing children who have been out of school for years, and the impact can be devastating. It can rob them of their self-confidence.”

Robert Ogden High School is a better fit for Sam, but Julie says he has struggled to adapt as there is a limited peer group for him.

The Children, Young People and Family Support Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee decided to exclude the press and public from a council meeting today.

Julie added: “[Sam] is doing okay, but it’s simply the only option we’ve got. That’s it. It’s a fantastic school, though.”