Following the news of the proposed Resource Base consultation we knew that we had to be heard in this process. Any changes needed to be born out of co-production, engagement meetings and a consultation process that includes everyone who will be impacted by any changes. Please note we have not been able to record detailed notes . We just wanted the council to listen to what we were hearing..
We also are aware of how difficult and upsetting this situation is for many of us affected so we wanted to get all the key persons from the Local Authority around the table so that most importantly our concerns can be heard and so we have the chance to put your questions forward. This meeting was held on August 8th at Poole Court. This is by no means the last meeting or opportunity to contribute your thoughts, there will be many more. This was our opportunity to open a dialogue with the Local Authority and start the process of co-production and collaborative work. We asked for any parents who wanted to represent some of the resource bases that had possible changes. We wanted to make sure everyone was heard so made sure parent’s were given the space and freedom to just talk and be heard without interruption.
We received lots of your questions over messenger and emails we realised we needed this information in one place and so to prepare to represent you and our collective voice we created a short survey and sent this over email and social media for anyone impacted directly or with thoughts to contribute. We had an amazing 53 responses, thank you so much community! We compiled the questions raised in the survey into a report for everyone present who attended.
Those present were:
• 2 Parents from Charborough Road,
• Parent who spoke to us about Emersons Green
• 2 parents from Chipping Sodbury Access Centre
• 3 parents from South Glos Parents and Carers
• Santie from Supportive Parents SENDIAS Service
• Toby Savage – Leader of South Glos Council
• Mustafa Saleh –Head of Financial Management and Business Support, South Glos Council
• Erica Williams, South Glos Councillor (Member for schools, skills and employment)
• Duane Chappell – Strategic Lead 0 -25 Service
• Hillary Smith – Head of Education, Learning and skills
• Chris Sivers – Director of Children, Adults and Health South Glos Council
Everyone present was listened to and heard and the parents in attendance had the space to express some of their thoughts, concerns and questions and the Local Authority was able to explain their reasons behind carrying out a review, it’s scope and purpose and the future challenges with SEND provision in South Glos they are seeking to solve.
We would like to thank everyone who joined us as we know parents had to to find childcare, meetings rearranged and thank you to our reps and Santie from Supportive Parents who came in on their holiday .
Some of the key concerns raised by parents
Emersons Green is a national and international recognised resource base as a centre of excellence
Numbers: Emersons is full and always has been, parents are concerned that it is suggested it is not at full capacity.
EG’s outcomes are excellent considering the barriers to learning, 4 of these students are meeting national standards, parents have concerns that these children might otherwise be placed at special schools as the children have cognitive abilities beyond special school.
There has been an increase in early years EHCPs issued - are these for children with complex needs such as those at EG RB?
Funding – can complex needs be met in mainstream schools – need band 10-11 – how many children in this need band are in mainstream presently? Additional money will be needed to meet needs.
Cost effectiveness needs to be addressed in reviews. Economies of scale, professionals can visit one site, equipment held in one space for example.
The Local Authority has not explained what the alternative provision would look like.
Changing Places toilets in other schools? How many? Cost to implement?
Specialist therapists are a rare resource, are they expected to travel around?
Adaptions of resources spread across South Glos? What will happen to all the resources gathered over years at EG?
Staffing expertise In EG is highly specialised, how can this be replicated in other settings? TAs go off sick, what will happen to the child in a mainstream setting?
Higher Learning Teaching Assistants – they have a lot in place at EG but this is due to the number of skills required by staff – tube feeds etc.
Attendance at Emersons is really good.
Concerns most of these students would end up back at special schools.
100% included in lessons – not accurate, they all need to come out regularly for therapy, braille practice and medical and personal care needs.
Does the Local Authority have figures where mainstream placements have failed?
Charborough Road Parents
Concerns expressed that the Local Authority has required the implementation of changes at CR ahead of consultation as soon as September, reducing the provision from 2 classes to 1. Parents feel these changes are happening too fast and without proper consultation with parents and carers.
Concerns that children will be forced into integrating into mainstream classes when they are not ready.
The Resource Base has a differentiated curriculum and has been running like an access centre, concerns were raised that children would not be able to access mainstream class curriculum.
There is criteria in place at CR that measures when a child is ready in terms of Speech and Language for mainstream integration.
Non integration can sometimes be a necessary short term intervention.
None of the parents feel that EHCPs will meet their child’s needs in a mainstream environment as they are too vague without provision clearly quantified and stated.
Parents asked how they can make informed choices as to the next setting for our child with all these changes going on? How can parents know what their options are?
Some CR parents feel as though ASD needs take precedence, what about children with just speech and language difficulties?
Parents want options and choices of settings and levels of inclusion.
Chipping Sodbury Access Centre Parents
Feedback from parents and carers about this Access Centre is all positive. It is unique, lots of parents feel this is the only space suited to their child. If it is working for everyone, why does it need to change?
Access Centres are the bridge to Resource Base – if Access Centres are phased out, what is for the children who fall through the net? What about those who do not need a special school but are not ready for a Resource Base and expected integration into mainstream.
Worried that there are too rigid categories and that some children will fall through the gaps.
Some children will be joining the centre in September and it was chosen for these children based on how it is structured and defined presently, how can we prepare these children for school and help them to feel safe and secure?
The Next Steps
Timeline At the meeting a timeline for the consultation leading into March 2020 was presented. Since this meeting the forum has questioned the timeline and highlighted a need for many others to be included in the engagement. The forum have been in contact with the local authority about this and are awaiting a response.
Engagement Meetings: It has been agreed that some engagement sessions will take place and we are waiting to work with the local authority as to what these will look like. These engagement meetings will be an opportunity to go through the reviews in more detail and gather the thoughts and views of more parent carers directly impacted. It will also create opportunities for discussions to be had about the challenges we face in South Glos and other alternative ideas and solutions to be heard. We will be working co-productively with the Local Authority so will communicate all relevant information when it is available.
Communication: All present agreed that communication is key and needs to be timely, clear, concise and in plain English. We will be working to ensure that you are kept informed in an accessible way that doesn’t involve horridly long documents but ensures that you have all the key information that you need to contribute your voice and be heard!