Over the past year, hundreds of teachers and locals parents have signed Harrow West MP, Gareth Thomas’s petition calling on the Department of Education to finally deliver Harrow a new SEND school. Last month, Thomas once again called on Parliament to support Harrow children with Special Educational Needs after revealing that Harrow has a much greater reliance on private SEND schools than the national average.
Thomas highlighted the need for a new 300-place special school in Harrow after the borough has seen a 55% increase in youth with education, health and care plans in the last five years. Harrow has four special schools with just under 500 places between them, leaving the council to find out-of-borough placements for over 200 children.
After several years of crisis for schools and families, Harrow’s most recent application for a special school was denied for a THIRD time by the Department for Education. Notably, the Government considered this a “high-quality application” which “demonstrated several strengths including a clear and well-argued inclusive SEN strategy, a demonstrable need for the school and the associated benefits this would bring to Harrow.”
As a lifelong Harrow resident and SEN parent, Alicia Goulding said: “we wanted our son educated at a local school, but there was no appropriate SEN provision for him. The only option was an out of borough, expensive independent school with 3 hour round trip on Local Authority funded transport, which wasn’t good for anyone!”
“Children want to go to school in their own communities, close to home where they can make friends and have school holidays at the same time as their siblings but lack of spaces locally has prevented this.”
“The money spent on sending children to out of borough schools would be much better directed to creating a provision within Harrow where a new SEN school is desperately needed.”
The news comes as official data from the National Network of Specialist Provision showed that 80% of special schools reported a budget deficit in year one of their financial cycle, rising to 90% in year two, with the average size of that deficit as £145,000 in year one.
The Conservatives in Government have failed to help students succeed as well as forcing Harrow to feel the brunt of fee increases on the existing special needs budget.
Cllr Stephen Hickman Shadow Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services:
“Harrow desperately needs more special needs provision. There are now greater numbers of children and young people with SEND and complex needs than ever before. By 2025, 180 additional places will be needed and by 2029, this rises to 330 places. Underinvestment in the special needs system does not remove our responsibility. We do need more strategic plans here to reduce our excessive reliance on expensive out of borough provision.
This is both morally and financially the right thing to do as these fundamental cost and demand issues are driving councils to deficit and threaten the future of local government. I am disappointed that after 13 years of austerity, Harrow is having to adopt a begging bowl approach to provision that it clearly needs.”
Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West said:
“Harrow is currently facing a pressing need for a new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) School. Despite the detrimental impact on children with SEN, their families, and the broader educational ecosystem, the Department of Education has regrettably turned down three separate applications for a much-needed 290-space Special School.
In a recent meeting with the Education Secretary & Department of Education, I shared my campaign for more SEND funding, backed by hundreds of parents and school staff in Harrow. As I raised in Parliament, this is an issue that must be addressed in the forthcoming budget.”