MP Hayes and education lead split over SEND plans for Lincolnshire
A split over the future of special schools has emerged between John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, and Lincolnshire education leaders.
Mr Hayes claimed that a £40million plan to reform the way children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are taught would see a £2million to £3million cut in school transport costs.
However, Coun Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council, said the reform was about “giving children and young people the opportunity to attend a suitable school closer to their home”.
Under the plans, Spalding’s Garth and Priory Schools would merge but still be based at two sites in Pinchbeck Road and Neville Avenue respectively.
But Mr Hayes said: “The estimated transport reduction of £2million-£3 million per annum is bound to mean that fewer
students will attend the SEND school of their choice.
“Although I welcome the £40 million in investment across the whole county, I am acutely aware that by reducing the transport budget per annum, there will be more children who find themselves unable to attend special schools that provide the help and, crucially, the environment they want and need.
“Instead of attending a school of their parent’s choice, without the means to travel, pupils will be obliged to go to their local school.”
Mr Hayes called on Coun Bradwell to rethink the perceived cut in the SEND transport budget and offered to work with the county council and parents “to reach a sustainable solution where SEND schools, parents’ wishes and children’s needs
The estimated transport reduction of £2million-£3 million per annum is bound to mean that fewer students will attend the SEND school of their choice
But Coun Bradwell said: “There is no intention to reduce the SEND transport budget and all children and young people entitled will continue to get free transport.
“This review isn’t about reducing transport costs but about giving these children and young people the same opportunities to attend a suitable school closer to their home like the majority of children do, rather than traveling long distances to attend a special school every day.
“Of course, if more parents want to send their children to a suitable school nearer their home then the natural result is reduced transport costs and savings further down the line.
“But this isn’t the driver for this review and the majority of special school head teachers, parents and carers in the county support the proposals which will bring significant improvements in provision and extra investment of £40million.”