Leaders from the City of Wolverhampton Council have heard first hand about the experiences of parents and carers of, and professionals who work with, children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

They went on a fact finding mission to the Gem Centre and Green Park School meeting staff and service users and seeing how the council and its partners work together to meet the needs of the thousands of children and young people in the city with a special educational need or disability.

Cabinet Member for Education and Skills Dr Michael Hardacre, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People Councillor John Reynolds, Director of Education Meredith Teasdale and Director of Children's Services Emma Bennett began their tour at the Gem Centre.

The ground breaking centre, in Wednesfield, was opened by The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust in 2006, bringing together for the first time a wide range of specialist community health services for children and young people under one roof, alongside services from the council.

Today it provides a range of high quality, co-ordinated support services, including community nursing, physio and occupational therapy, audiology and speech and language services, the Special Needs Early Years’ Service (SNEYS), Wolverhampton Information, Advice and Support Service and the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

The group also visited the Gem’s state of the art Child Development Centre, run by the SNEYS, meeting parents and children who access its play and SEND nursery sessions. 

They then moved on to Bilston for a tour of Green Park School before joining the children in their afternoon assembly. The school has seen considerable growth in recent years, adapting and evolving to meet growing demand for places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Councillor Dr Hardacre said: "This was a great opportunity for us to get out and about and spend time with frontline staff, parents and carers and their children and to find out what works well, what works not so well, where there may be gaps in provision, and to see first hand the impact that our hard working professionals have on improving outcomes for some of the city’s most vulnerable children and young people.

"It was also an opportunity for our Special Needs Early Years Education Service to showcase its strengths and highlight to us some of the pressures it is facing because of growing demand.”

Councillor Reynolds added: "We discussed with parents their experience of having a child with special educational needs or disabilities in the city and were impressed by the fortitude, bravery, honesty and candour of everyone we spoke to. We also enjoyed meeting with some of the children who were having a fabulous time in the Child Development Centre.

“Around a sixth of children and young people in Wolverhampton have special educational needs or disabilities, and we are acutely aware of how important it is that they, and their families, get the help and support they need. The feedback we received will help us as we shape priorities going forward.

“It was also an opportunity for us to recognise the high quality of practice and the dedication of our city’s SEND staff and to thank them for their efforts on behalf of the city’s children and young people.” 

Following their visits to the Gem Centre and Green Park School, the group met with the Pupil Services team at the Civic Centre who arrange and co-ordinate home to school transport, specialist place planning and commissioning, and with the SENSTART team, hearing about the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) Hub which will allow parents to take greater ownership of their child's EHC Plans.

The day ended with an update on Wolverhampton's new Co-production Charter which was approved by the Children and Families Together Board recently. It gives a commitment from members of the Board and children, young people and families to work together to design and deliver SEND services – and ensure that the voice of children, young people and families is at the heart of this process.

  • The City of Wolverhampton Council's SEND Local Offer website showcases the help and support available to children and young people. The website brings together a wealth of information and has sections devoted to advice and support, education, care, childcare, Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), health, leisure services, travel and moving into adult life.