Consultation over plans to increase capacity for children with additional learning needs
Proposals to increase the ability of Blaenau Gwent schools to teach children with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) will go out to a public consultation next week.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, April 19, councillors listened to a report that proposed increasing the capacity at “resource bases” inside schools.
This would also bring down long-term costs associated with specialist education.
At the moment there are 61 primary school pupils and 62 secondary school pupils receiving targeted support in Blaenau Gwent schools.
The proposal is to increase the capacity to be able to accommodate 86 children in primary schools which includes creating 15 Welsh medium places.
The ALN capacity in secondary schools would go up to 80 places.
The proposals would also see pupils provided with ALN education outside of Blaenau Gwent brought back into the county borough schools.
Education portfolio holder, Cllr Sue Edmunds said: “The report suggest that there’s been a 27 per cent increase in primary and four per cent increase in secondary schools for additional learning needs placements, and this is likely to increase further.
Cllr Edmunds added that to “promote social inclusion” it is better to teach ALN pupils in mainstream schools.
In a recent inspection of the education department, Estyn and the Welsh Government had highlighted that there is no Welsh language ALN “resource base provision” in Blaenau Gwent.
Cllr Edmunds explained that ALN teaching capacity would be set up in the county borough’s only current Welsh-medium primary school – Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Helyg in Blaina.
Cllr Edmunds said: “The consultation will be from April 24 to June 6 and will include parents and teachers of the affected schools.
“If this provision is not in place we will be forced to maintain out of county provision which is very expensive in fees and home to school transport.”
Head of school improvement and inclusion, Luisa Munro-Morris said: “The cost of out-of-county placements are going up significantly.
“There are very few placements and all of the local authorities are trying to access the same provision.
“As there is so much demand they (providers) can increase their prices.
“By bringing that provision back into the local authority we might see some short term costs in setting it up but then we would expect long term financial benefits.”
She added that after phase one is completed a review will take place to see how much extra provision planned in phase two is needed.
Cabinet member for social services, Hayden Trollope said: “It’s a win-win situation, we’ll still have an open door situation to get the children back into mainstream education.”
Cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr John Morgan said: “Every child matters this is a good move forward for young people in Blaenau Gwent and to keep them in Blaenau Gwent.”
Deputy council leader and cabinet member for environment, Cllr Helen Cunningham said: “I’m really pleased to hear that we’re looking to build an inclusive learning environment.
“It’s really good to see that and endorse that we seek the views and consult appropriately.”
Councillors unanimously approved the proposal.
A report on the outcome of the consultation will return to cabinet.
If agreed, creating the extra spaces could start being rolled out from next September.
By BBC LDRS
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