Last week’s Secret School column highlighting the delays to vital assessments for children with special educational needs provoked a strong reaction from Sheffield Telegraph readers, ranging from school staff to frustrated parents.
Tim Plant, a primary school volunteer, said that, even though he was part of ‘additional support services’ - in his case helping with pupils’ reading, “In nearly all cases there is a clear requirement that the children need additional professional assessment and access to specialised services.
“Almost without exception these children, their families and teachers have not received these services, or have waited far too long to be assessed or have been offered a far smaller package of care than they needed. As a result their education has suffered and their futures put at risk.
“The situation has been made much worse by the relentless procession of cuts and service reductions that mainstream schools have suffered for years on end. The school has lost a number of teachers, teaching assistants and support staff in addition to the disappearance of the specialised resources.
“While the details are yet to be formally announced I expect that, as a result of central government policies, Sheffield Council will soon require schools to make further savings that will mean yet more teacher and teaching assistant posts will go this year and next.”
Mr Plant added: “All children in Sheffield deserve fair and equal access to the highest quality of educational facilities, we must ensure that the most needy and deprived children benefit from their education as much as the most fortunate.”
Meanwhile the Sheffield Parent Carer Forum, which gathers parents’ views and reports trends and themes to the council, NHS and schools, said the Telegraph’s piece was ‘consistent with the feedback we have been receiving’.
The council set up a special Quality Assurance group after the forum echoed families’ worries about the standard of education, health and care plans for children.
“In Sheffield we still have some way to go towards embedding true co-production with parents at every level,” said the forum. “However, we believe that the will is there, and that it is worth persevering with this approach.”