Schools under 'incredible pressure' due to rise in pupils with high needs

PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:18 17 October 2019

The number of children with educational health and care plans (ECHP) in North Somerset has risen by 81 per cent in the past five years.

The number of children with educational health and care plans (ECHP) in North Somerset has risen by 81 per cent in the past five years.

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An increasing number of schools and families in Weston are struggling to support children with a range of complex needs.

The number of children with educational health and care plans (ECHP) in North Somerset has risen by 81 per cent in the past five years and this is expected to continue to increase.

The rise, coupled with a reduction in top-up funding and support services has left schools struggling to meet the needs of students and manage their behaviours.

More: Schools face huge funding shortfall for special educational needs provision.

Adam Matthews, chief executive of the Extended Learning Academies Network (ELAN) said: "It's put a huge amount of pressure on schools because there's less money, fewer resources and therefore less provision for these children.

"Pupil referral units and special schools in North Somerset are over capacity and that's causing problems.

"More children have to be given places outside of North Somerset, which costs a lot of money.

"Schools are under incredible pressure to meet the needs of pupils with high needs and they are absolutely doing their best.

"They are using their budgets and resources in the most creative way possible to ensure the best for all children."

Up to £206,161 has been allocated to North Somerset Council to set up resource bases for pupils with high functioning autism spectrum disorders.

The money will be split between two primaries and one secondary school to create hubs for children with EHCPs on the school sites.

The council has permission and funding to open up a free social emotional mental health school.

The authority is also planning to expand the provision at Baytree School, by opening another site, and Westhaven School, in Uphill, will take infant-aged pupils from September.

In August, the Government announced an extra £14billion would be spent on schools, including £700million for children with special educational needs.

Education leaders are hoping the money will help to ease the pressure on schools and lead to more provision in North Somerset.

Mr Matthews, who is also the headteacher at Bournville Primary School, added: "We are hopeful the Government will come up with the funding that will help provide what we need and we get the extra places we need."

The council wants to expand Baytree School by opening a second site at Brookfield Walk, in Clevedon. Doing so would enable its capacity to rise from 72 to 120 places.

Neighbours are unhappy with the location choice and North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox has said he will seek Government intervention if the plan is not changed.

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