Council unveils plan to create 78 new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities

Hackney Mayor Caroline Woodley. Photograph: Hackney Council

Hackney Council has set out plans for an extra 78 school places for youngsters with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Residents can have their say on the proposals, which are a response to what Mayor Caroline Woodley describes as a time of “exceptional need”.

In just the last two years, the number of children in Hackney with an education, health and care plan (ECHP) has increased by 18.5 per cent.

ECHPs are for children and young people up to the age of 25 who need more help than is available through special educational needs support.

In February 2023, the percentage of young people with an EHCP in Hackney was the ninth highest in England.

To help meet this increasing demand, the Town Hall wants to create 24 places for early years at Comet Nursery in Hoxton, 24 places for speech and language needs at Sebright Primary near Haggerston Park, and 30 places for social, emotional and mental health needs at Stoke Newington School.

The places are set up through what are known as additonal resource provisions (ARPs), which offer specialist support for children with SEND.

ARPs often have dedicated classrooms and facilites within a school, and are run by qualified SEND professionals.

Children who have been allocated an ARP by the council’s education, health and care panel typically spend part of their time in an ARP and their remaining time in mainstream classes with their peers.

Mayor Woodley said: “Hackney has one of the highest percentages of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities across the country – and many of our local families are also struggling with the everyday challenges of the cost-of-living crisis.

“We want to make sure that in these times of exceptional need we do everything in our power as a local authority to provide high quality, timely and sustainable support to those who need it most, despite the challenges we face due to insufficient central government funding.

“The current proposals demonstrate our commitment to create 300 additional places for children with SEND by 2026. They are an important step towards ensuring that all children in Hackney have access to the educational provision they need in order to live a happy, fulfilled life.”

In September 2023, 74 new places opened at three other schools in Hackney – 50 places at Side by Side Special School, 12 places at Nightingale Primary, and 12 places at Simon Marks Jewish Primary.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, deputy mayor and cabinet member for education, young people and children’s social care, said: “We are incredibly proud of the exceptional work of the Hackney family of schools, and we want to thank them once again for their relentless dedication to supporting the needs of children and young people, their parents and carers.

“We will continue to focus on finding the right solutions to best meet the needs of our changing and evolving community. We will continue to invest in providing the right provisions to respond to the year-on-year increase in numbers of children and young people with SEND, while at the same time supporting schools tackle the falling numbers of mainstream school-age children and young people in Hackney.”

The consultation comes not long after the council’s plan to close four local primary schools was rubber-stamped, with affected families thought to be considering a legal challenge.

In September last year, families with SEND children at one of the four schools hit out at the way they had been treated by the Town Hall.

Anyone interested can share their views on the new proposals until 7 February by visiting the council’s consultation website.

Comments will be considered by Hackney Education and a decision on the next steps is expected to be made in the spring.