New focus on special needs education

Enfield Civic Centre
Enfield Civic Centre

Council announces new investment, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A plan to help young people with special educational needs sooner will lead to better outcomes and save money in the long-term, according to Enfield Council.

The council will invest in two early intervention models centred on speech, language, and communication and autism, to ensure children get support as soon as they need it – avoiding more costly and intensive intervention further down the line.

It is hoped the approach will allow as many children as possible to stay in Enfield and be educated at their local school, rather than having to travel to other boroughs.

A government grant used to fund education in the borough is expected to be overspent by £8million at the end of the 2020/21 financial year – mainly because of pressures on the high-needs block, which provides funding for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

After carrying out a review of the high-needs block, consultancy firm Ernst and Young recommended increasing early intervention and expanding in-borough provision for young people.

The council will now invest more than £454,000 per year in a hub that will train staff to identify and support children with speech, language and communication needs.

It will provide more than £276,000 per year to expand autism support to children under five and over 16. This funding will also be used to create a specialist team designed to improve support – including helping families to understand their child’s needs.

Cabinet members agreed the two early intervention models at a meeting last week.

Rick Jewell, cabinet member for children’s servicers, told the meeting: “The underlying purpose of both projects is to provide early intervention models of practice, and it is envisaged that it will lead to a reduction in requirement for more expensive support and yield savings – in other words, to get in earlier to better support children and their families, and also enable schools to better meet need.

“This is an exciting project and has the support of headteachers, through the schools forum.”