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SEN shortcomings continue

One of Wales's most deprived authorities is not doing enough for pupils with special educational needs - more than seven years after inspectors pointed out the problem. Estyn, Wales's inspectorate, criticised Blaenau Gwent for being "slow to address" issues highlighted in its last inspection in 2001. At the time, SEN provision was deemed unlikely to improve.

In its latest inspection, Estyn said the authority had reduced the number of pupils with SEN statements - the highest in Wales a decade ago - but that services for pupils with social, emotional and behaviour difficulties were not well advertised.

"As a result, headteachers are not aware of what the authority can offer as a whole," it said.

It noted that inclusion strategies did not link up well enough and schools did not know what was available to them. Last April, the authority's pupil referral unit, Proteus, was judged in need of significant improvement. Blaenau Gwent scored a low grade 3 for all four areas of its provision; just two areas showed good prospects of improvement.

Robert Barbour, Blaenau Gwent's chief education officer, said the council was disappointed about the criticism of SEN provision but was acting quickly. He said the authority was facing up to "difficult decisions" about school reorganisation.

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