Why angry parents and carers will be leaving empty backpacks bearing names of children on the steps of Warwick's Shire Hall
They are campaigning against what they view as a 'crisis in education' in Warwickshire
Parents and carers from across Warwickshire will protest against what they and campaigners see as a "crisis" in the provision of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services in the county days before an Oftsed inspection for the services.
On Monday (July 12) protesters will place backpacks on the steps of Warwickshire County Council's Shire Hall headquarters.
Each backpack will bear the name of the SEND child whose parents or carers feel "have no educational provision or have been failed by Warwickshire SEND services" along with a message they hope Ofsted inspectors will listen to.
The lobby group SEND Crisis Warwickshire has sent Ofsted a report, described by the group as ‘the voice for families across Warwickshire who are currently being ignored'.
The report shares a number of families' stories which highlight what they claim are "key structural problems within the running of SEND services at Warwickshire County Council".
These include "inadequate parental choice, inadequate provision, lack of resources and the crisis relating to waiting lists for diagnosis".
A spokesperson for SEND Crisis Warwickshire said: "We represent families who have children with SEND needs.
"We have been actively lobbying WCC for a number of years, asking for improvements in provision and adequate funding for our children.
"The county has a duty of care to our children and at the moment, in our opinion, they are failing their duty.
"The New Inclusion Programme recently launched by the council has led to a lack of parental choice, with many children being forced into mainstream provision when they need specialist provision.
"This comes amidst a backdrop of lack of adequate placements and more and more pressure being put upon teachers to work miracles with improper resources.
"The noises coming out of the county council are only positive, but this is not the feedback we get from families day in, day out.
"We have been contacted by over 150 Warwickshire families in the last year who have told us their often heart-breaking stories; many children face the wrong provision and are often under so such stress they fail to attend school and then become isolated which can lead to self-harm and suicide attempts.
"Other stories have sadly told us of family breakdowns.
"We are also in touch with a number of headteachers who are absolutely overwhelmed with the increase of children with SEND and the lack of resources they have to cope with this need.
"This has got to stop
"Teachers and families are being ignored and the truth airbrushed to meet an agenda which is all about saving money."
The lobby group has said that over the last five years special education needs budgets within schools have been hit by multi-million-pound cuts in England and warnings of a national crisis set to affect thousands of children and young people with disabilities across the country have been voiced by many teachers and parents of children with special education needs and disabilities.
They say that Central Government funding cuts has left local authorities with insufficient money to fulfil their legal obligations to SEND pupils and that about 20 children in Warwickshire are not able to attend school due to lack of places and support within schools.
Official figures show the number of pupils with SEND has increased for a second consecutive year and they represent 14.6 per cent of pupils, up from 14.4 last year.
Pupils with SEND are six times more likely to be excluded from school and account for almost half of all permanent exclusions.
Helen Adkins, a member of SEND Crisis Warwickshire, and, until recently, the leader of the Labour Group at WCC, said: "I know that officers at WCC face difficulties with lack of resources from central government, but the Tory Leadership at WCC should be making more noise about the crisis schools and families are facing and should be asking for more money from central government.
"They are just not shouting at all, let alone shouting loudly enough.
"The county council's New Inclusion Programme is all about saving money, sadly at the expense of the safety and best interests of the most vulnerable children in Warwickshire.
"I hope the upcoming OFSTED inspection, will be an opportunity for the council to be open and transparent about the problems families across Warwickshire face in finding the right provision for their children with SEND."
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will be visiting Warwickshire County Council and Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group next week to carry out the area Inspection.
During the week, inspectors will visit several providers including early year’s settings, schools, further education colleges, independent schools and health provision to gather the relevant evidence needed.
And Warwickshire County Councul says it "welcomes the inspection".
Councillor Jeff Morgan, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for children’s services said: “We welcome the inspection team to Warwickshire and the opportunity to show how our ambitious programme of change is working to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND.
“Working together with our partners, we want all children and young people in Warwickshire to lead a fulfilling life and be part of their community.
"We aim to achieve this by promoting inclusion in mainstream settings, giving schools the skills and resources to meet the needs of learners and building the confidence of parents and carers.
“As part of the inspection, the team will visit several providers including early years settings, schools, Further Education colleges, independent schools and health provision.
"They will also be talking to parents, carers and children and young people about their experience of using the service.
"Once the inspection is complete, the report will be issued on our website.”
For more information on SEND provision in Warwickshire visit: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/send