Devon SEND Parents and Carers for Change protest in Exeter

Parents have protested against the quality of services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Devon's schools.

The Devon SEND Parents and Carers for Change group gathered outside Exeter's County Hall on Thursday.

Parents shared their experiences, with one calling the services "not fit for purpose".

The council said it would introduce a new framework for support for those pupils in the coming months.

An inspection by education regulator Ofsted in 2022 said the county had "not made sufficient progress in addressing any of the significant weaknesses".

It added that, despite a new strategy launched in 2020, it "fundamentally fails to address the significant weaknesses that were apparent at the previous inspection and are still evident now".

'Not fit for purpose'

Lee Farrell, from Upottery, has been fighting for the past two years to secure his 10-year-old daughter support from Devon's SEND service.

"This council has been classed as inadequate for five years," he said. "I would like to see the Department of Education remove educational services from this council and take them over themselves.

"They're not fit for purpose."

Another protester, Helen, has two children with special educational needs.

She said: "My oldest son is 15 now and ever since he started school I've spent the whole time trying to get support in place and trying to make Devon County Council fulfil their legal obligations," she said.

"They blatantly break the law and nobody holds them to account."

Councillor Lois Samuel, responsible for the service since last summer, said the "improvement journey that we're on in Devon will take time".

"We understand and recognise that many parents and carers remain frustrated at the pace of improvement, but the changes required involve whole system changes, along with the need for our responsibilities as a council to improve," she added.

Devon County Council said it had hired a new director of SEND improvement and educational psychologists are working in 100 schools to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.

It said it was seeking more financial support from the government and was engaging with Essex County Council, its improvement partner.

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