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Scrutiny commission probe into special education needs services in South Tyneside

Council bosses are launching an inquiry into special needs education provision
Council bosses are launching an inquiry into special needs education provision

Council bosses have agreed to launch a scrutiny review to help improve services for people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in South Tyneside.

Currently, SEND provision in the borough includes commissioned health services, special schools and extra support in mainstream schools.

There are 22,149 children in nursery, primary and secondary school in South Tyneside, with nearly 20 per cent needing some form of support.

South Tyneside Council’s Education and Skills Panel backed plans to lead a six-month scrutiny commission on the service ahead of a future Government inspection.

Head of learning and early help at South Tyneside Council, Beverley Scanlon, said the plans which will focus on identification, assessments and outcomes for SEND children.

She said South Tyneside has higher levels of children needing support than regional (15.8%) and national (14.9%) averages.

She said: “While we have data, it’s something we need to understand much more fully and this commission can help.”

Coun Anne Hetherington raised concerns about health assessment waiting times for children who may have an autism spectrum disorder and lack of specialist provision in the borough.

She added: “We need to look at future provision and how we address it. It’s about meeting the needs of the child rather than just ticking boxes.”

South Tyneside currently has four special schools and eight specialist units attached to mainstream schools.

The meeting heard potential issues could include the availability of SEND services and whether children are correctly placed in special or mainstream schools.

The review will see councillors from several scrutiny committees discuss the service for those aged 0-25.

Witnesses will include headteachers, councillors, council  bosses and South Tyneside’s Clinical Commissioning Group.

Findings are expected to return to the education and skills panel in April next year.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service