Table of contents


Background papers: children :: Special educational needs and disabilities [Update in progress] :: Summary


The last five years have seen an increasing number of children and young people requiring additional support. This has had a significant impact on services at all levels — universal, targeted and specialist. This chapter considers children and young people with Special Educational Needs and disabilities (SEND) and their health, education and social care needs.

Key issues and gaps

  1. Medway Council's ambition is to ensure we have effective, local provision to meet the needs of children with SEN and disabilities as specified in the Medway SEN Strategy 2009–14.[1] Research[2] has taken place recently which indicates that the number of children with SEN and disabilities requiring specialist provision and services in Medway will increase over the course of the next five years. The reasons for the expected increase are:

• A recent increase in the birth rate, which will increase the overall number of primary age pupils;
• The raising of the participation age from 16 to 18 from September 2013, which will result in some more pupils remaining in education for longer;
• An increase in the proportion of children with statements of special educational needs nationally;
• Inward migration to the Medway area;
• Increase in survival rate of pre–term babies.

Taking these factors into account the net increase in pupils with statements requiring specialist provision over the course of the next five years, relating to normal population growth alone is expected to be 59 pupils. However if the level of inward migration to the Medway area of pupils requiring specialist SEND provision continues at two thirds of its current rate, the shortfall could be as much as 258 places. Projections took into account the likelihood that some pupils will continue to require a highly specialist placement for low incidence needs which could not viably be provided by Medway. Pupils currently placed in independent non–maintained placements are unlikely to move until they are at a natural transition point to avoid disruption to their studies and relationships. Therefore, projections assumed that in the medium term it is necessary to plan to provide additional capacity for around 151 pupils.

If no further provision is developed these children will have to be placed in independent provision, some outside Medway, putting significant pressure on the local authority's budget. More seriously, independent provision is not available for some age groups and needs, particularly primary aged pupils with severe and complex learning difficulties, meaning there is a risk of some children having no school place at all.

  1. Medway's special schools are all outstanding or good, according to their Ofsted reports. Sometimes, although pupils' SEN needs can be met in Medway, their social needs require a residential element that cannot be met locally. This results in pupils having to attend residential schools outside Medway.

  2. Medway has a higher proportion of pupils with SEN and with Statements of SEN than the national average, in spite of demographic data that indicates Medway should be in line with the national average. It also has a higher proportion of those with Statements of SEN in specialist provision than the national average. This suggests that Medway schools are not consistently able to include young people with SEND. SEN provision for children and young people with SEND is largely undertaken by schools. Most pupils with SEND are in mainstream schools without statements of SEN and their needs are met by schools using their delegated budgets. The capacity of schools to do this effectively is a key issue.

  3. Rates of exclusion are rising in Medway, increasing the need for interim provision for primary and secondary aged pupils. Approximately 60% of those given fixed term exclusions (FTE) are identified as having SEND. 50% of those with SEND were at School Action. It should be recognized that one reason for identifying a pupil with SEND is behavioural difficulties and approximately 35% of those with FTE were at school action plus because of behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD). However, those with Autistic Spectrum disorders (ASD), moderate learning difficulties (MLD) and specific learning difficulties (SpLD) were also represented. For those with Statements of SEN who received FTE, 16 had BESD, 16 ASD and 11 MLD. This suggests strongly that some SEND are not being addressed in all schools and are leading to behavioural difficulties.

  4. Changes to the diagnosis of ASD need to fall in line with recent guidance by the National Institute For Clinical Excellence (NICE) Autism Pathways.[3] Medway needs early identification of ASD via multi agency diagnosis and better links within the teams that identify and provide services for young people with ASD. This has implications for speech and language and occupational therapy and educational psychology.

  5. Development of Medway's operational and strategic SEN processes for assessing and supporting children and young people with SEND and their families in line with the SEND draft legislation is required so that:
    • Children's special educational needs are picked up early and support is routinely put in place quickly;
    • Staff have the knowledge, understanding and skills to provide the right support for children and young people who have SEN or are disabled wherever they are;
    • Parents know what they can reasonably expect their local school, college, authority and services to provide, without them having to fight for it and are more closely involved in decisions about services;
    • Children who would currently have a statement of SEN and young people over 16 who would have a learning difficulty assessment have an integrated assessment and a single Education, Health and Care Plan which is completed, implemented and reviewed over time without families having the stress of going from pillar to post to get the support they need; and,
    • Parents have greater control over the services they and their family use with: – Every family with an Education, Health and Care plan having the right to a personal budget for their support and – Parents whose children have an Education, Health and Care Plan having the right to seek a place at any state–funded school, whether that is a special or mainstream school, a maintained school, Academy or Free School.

The legislation has significant implications for how services for children and young people with SEND work together to reduce overlap and maximise the efficiency of resources. Improvements to integrated working around children and young people with SEND and their families across children's and adult's services in the education, health and social care are required, including resources to enable better information sharing and to support new assessment processes.

Recommendations for consideration by commissioners

To transform the services for young people with SEND and their families Children's Services and NHS Medway should commission, provide or further develop:

Provision for SEND

• A multi agency diagnostic pathway for children with ASD and ADHD ensuring that service provision is able to meet their needs and to support ongoing needs.
• Appropriate levels of SALT, OT and physiotherapy support for schools and Early Years settings
• Local provision for residential or highly increased support for pupils with severe and complex needs to enable them to continue to benefit from local special school education
• Local specialist school provision to meet assessed need
• Local interim provision for those with SEND excluded from school

Improved joint working

• Resources to enable compliance with legislation requiring improved information sharing and integrated working between partner agencies to enable more accurate and joined up assessments of need, clearer signposting of services and more efficient targeting of resources: this is likely to include IT and human resources.
• Better links between services provided for children and young people with emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties particularly between school focussed services and clinic based ones

• A comprehensive and seamless transition service for young people with SEN and disability, including robust integrated care pathways, for access to education and care provision post–16
• A wider range of accessible learning and employment opportunities post–19
• A review of ways of pooling or aligning budgets across education, health and social care to enable single plans to be delivered and resourced Workforce Development
• A comprehensive training framework for universal, targeted and specialist services, regularly reviewed to ensure that new research–based practices are embedded quickly

Further assessment

• Further needs assessments relating to SEND and minority ethnic communities, including consultation with parent–carers and young people from these communities

Abbreviations used

SEN Types:

Statemented (S) School Action Plus (SA+) School Action (A)

SEN Need Types:
Cognition and Learning Needs

SpLD — Specific Learning Difficulties MLD — Moderate Learning Difficulties SLD — Severe Leaning Difficulties PMLD — Profound Learning Difficulties

Behavioural, Emotional and Social Development Needs

BESD — Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties

Communication and Interaction Needs

ASD — Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Sensory and/or Other Physical Needs

HI — Hearing Impairment VI — Visual Impairment MSI — Multi Sensory Impairment PD — Physical Difficulties Other — Other Physical/Sensory Needs


[1]   Medway Council. Special Educational Needs - An inclusive policy and strategy for Medway 2009-2014 2009; Medway Council. .
[2]   Cocentra. Special Education Needs - Masterplan and Trend Analysis (Revision C) 2012; Cocentra.
[3]   National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Autism diagnosis in children and young people: Recognition, referral and diagnosis of children and young people on the autism spectrum 2011;