New SEN parent governor role created on CBC children’s committee

Central Bedfordshire Council is to create a parent governor post representing children with special

Central Bedfordshire Council is to create a parent governor post representing children with special educational needs. Photo: THINKSTOCK - Credit: © Royalty-Free/CORBIS

A specialist role to give a voice to youngsters with special educational needs is being created on a Central Bedfordshire Council children’s committee.

The position was on the agenda at the Central Bedfordshire Council general purposes committee meeting held on Tuesday last week, where it was claimed the amount of money spent on SEN by the local authority justifies creating the extra parent governor post in addition to the three current governor roles.

“Children’s services covers an enormous amount of ground,” Conservative Leighton Buzzard North councillor Ken Ferguson, who is the chair of the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, told the meeting.

“It covers education, health and social services in a wide sense.

“Children’s services goes up to the age of 24. The number of issues coming through is quite extraordinary.

“This oversight committee is looking at a wide range of activity. We’re increasingly seeing items come to the children’s committee about special schools and special education.

“I think a member of the parent cortege should be representative of that specialist sector.

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“It’s much more important to have someone that knows what they’re talking about and can truly represent children with special needs.

“The money spent on special needs education is huge. The parent governor who’s resigning did represent children with special needs. These children need to have a voice on that committee.

“We need someone with a particular interest to help us. The members and myself don’t have that specialist knowledge.”

One of the three parent governors has become disqualified from serving another term, according to the council’s head of governance services Jonathan Partridge.

“It led us to think whether the current parent governors are a representation of the schools across Central Beds,” he said.

“Children’s services is already the largest committee on the council, although adding one more doesn’t make a hugely significant difference.

“There’s the minor point about fees paid to those co-opted members.

“They do draw a small allowance, so there would be an implication financially if we were to add on one more co-optee.”

Special schools make up three per cent of the total of schools within Central Bedfordshire.

With a growing trend towards academies in the area, these now account for 45 per cent of local schools.

Mr Partridge added: “The constitution does not allow for the appointment of an academy representative. This minor adjustment to the constitution would allow us to do that.”

Conservative Biggleswade North councillor Jane Lawrence, who chairs the general purposes committee, said they didn’t want to make the children’s services committee “too top heavy”.

She suggested there is a position of “observer status” when someone is a member of a committee and can give their opinion, but doesn’t vote.

And Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Ken Matthews asked: “At the moment we don’t discriminate, do we? Let’s make the case for the academy, which is absolutely right.

“But where does it stop after that? Do we have that someone from upper, lower, middle and then academy?

“Most schools, whether maintained or academies, have pupils with special needs, not so specialist that we consider them special schools.

“So, with reluctance, I can’t support the case for a special needs governor.”

But Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell said she had alot of sympathy for Mr Ferguson’s request, agreeing that “SEN children need a voice on that committee”.

The general purposes committee agreed to trial a parent governor post with special needs expertise on the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee by six votes to two, with one abstension.

And councillors approved the recommendation to ensure one of the current parent governor posts is filled by an academy representative from May 2019.

The impact of the new SEN parent governor role will be reviewed in a year’s time.