A COUNCIL which has faced intense criticism over plans to transform special educational needs (SEN) provision looks set to press ahead with a move to launch specialist centres at mainstream schools despite a fresh wave of objections.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will next week consider launching units at nine primary and secondary schools, including ones in Thirsk, Leyburn, Selby and Whitby, from September, and 22 more units over the following two years.

They will provide places for children and young people who do not need a special school place, but need support to follow a mainstream curriculum.

Each school will provide eight places for children, who will receive enhanced levels of access to educational psychology, speech and language and occupational therapy, in addition to support from social, emotional and mental health and communication and interaction specialists.

The move would be first phase of a five-year strategy the council says will ensure that children with SEN can be educated locally in North Yorkshire and receive “the right support at the right time and in the right place”.

The executive will hear a consultation on the proposals with parents and other interested parties which concluded last week saw just 22 per cent back the plans and 64 per cent opposing them.

A report to the executive states parents disagreed with the fact that at present there would not enough places or units, but that would be rectified in the coming years with 248 places created.

The consultation also saw just 13 per cent of respondents agreeing that the schools would be able to meet the needs of children.

One parent wrote: “This just will not work! You are making huge cuts to SEN and enhanced mainstream school provisions in the area. In the long run you will now see increased exclusion rates and children and schools suffering.”

Another parent wrote: “This will leave children who require additional support with literally nowhere to go. The impact on class teachers will be huge, being expected to manage larger numbers of very needy children with less and less support. This of course will impact on all children.”

The authority was also accused of abandoning its obligations, with one respondent writing: “The planned provision is unsafe for both teachers and pupils as the ratio of teachers to pupils is woefully inadequate.

“The plan is totally underfunded and is a giant leap backwards. Totally committed and experienced teachers are being made redundant in a time of unprecedented growth in need, meaning that the children’s needs will not be met.”

However, supporters of the plans said access for SEN support beyond mainstream school had been exceptionally difficult and welcomed the move to help the pupils in their local community.

One consultee wrote: “I believe it will build the capacity of staff in mainstream settings to be able to work more effectively with young people with social, emotional and mental health needs with support and advice on hand from the staff working in the units.”