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‘ABSOLUTELY APPALLING’: Residents speak out on Hertfordshire County Council’s failings in SEND provision (VIDEO)

 Published on: 6th February 2024   |   By: Darius Morgan   |   Category: Uncategorized

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) will have “blood on their hands” if their provision of education for children with special education needs and disability (SEND) doesn’t improve, according to a parent who has endured 10 anguished years of dealing with the authority.

In November, an Ofsted report into HCC’s SEND provision identified widespread and systemic failings and gave the council the lowest rating possible.

MyLocalNews heard from more than a dozen affected families who shared their unique but comparably prolonged and tragic experiences of securing education for their children.

Rickmansworth residents Nisha and Hamal Soni spoke about the many years of hurt in getting their son “what he deserves”.

Nisha said: “It’s absolutely appalling. I knew who my SEND officer was by name, but for eight years, I never had contact.

“The people that we are relying on, that hundreds of families are relying on, to help us help our children, are failing us and failing our children.”

Hamal added: “You feel completely discriminated against. Our son doesn’t get access to education the same way that a typical child would.”

Jaycee Andrews, a Mill End mother whose son has severe physical and learning disabilities, has described how her son has been told to join a mainstream school in September, despite the council already asserting that he needs to attend a Severe Learning Disabilities school at an earlier date.

Jaycee said: “I’m now taking this to tribunal, but waiting times are up to a year. They know he can’t be in a mainstream school, but they’ve recommended it anyway.

“He’ll be staying at home with me. I’d rather take the fines.

“We want our children to be seen as children, not just a file on the desk. We want them to be seen as people, not just being ticked off. They deserve the same treatment as any other child. But it seems like their education is not as important.”

The sentiment was shared by another Mill End resident who wished to remain anonymous.

They said: “My child is a file to his SEND officer. She hasn’t met him. Because they’ve read the file, they think they know everything. It’s just broken, the whole thing is broken.”

MyLocalNews sat down with councillor Richard Roberts, the Leader of HCC, to hear more about how the authority is hoping to combat Ofsted’s findings and address residents’ concerns.

Cllr Roberts was optimistic about how the council’s recent £7million injection can “make a really big difference”, and also responded to the reported findings that state, on average, HCC’s SEND officers are tasked with managing between 400 to 600 children each.

He said: “That’s an accurate and alarming figure, and it’s something we’re actively working on. On the back of the recent investment, we had a recruitment campaign which saw 600 applicants for 80 places. We have set up an academy to make sure they aren’t just thrown into work but are able to learn before they meet parents. That should reduce the cases down to around 200 [per officer].

“Parents want to have confidence in the services that we offer. I think that with the measures we’ve taken, we’re making great progress. We’ve put the money where our mouth is, and I want to reassure, particularly the parents of children with SEND, that we’re there for them and we will not put money before children – our children will come first.”

Photo credit: Grumpy and Curious/Shutterstock

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