Suffolk ‘not effectively’ meeting special educational needs of children, say inspectors

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The special educational needs of many children and young people in Suffolk are not being effectively met, according to a new report.

Education watchdog Ofsted and the health and social care regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) judged how effectively disability and special educational needs reforms were being implemented in Suffolk during a joint inspection in December last year.

Inspectors found ‘inefficiencies in practice and gaps in service provision’ as well as ‘dissatisfaction, frustration and confusion’ among parents of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

In a report, published on Friday, inspectors said: “Governance and the strategic leadership of the SEND reforms have not been rigorous or effective in developing a coordinated, cross-service approach to identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people.”

The areas of ‘significant weakness’ identified – which led to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (HMCI) calling for a written statement of action on how services are to be improved – include ‘ineffective’ governance and leadership, ‘poor timeliness, integration and quality’ of SEND statutory assessments and plans, ‘lack of joint working’ to improve outcomes for children and ‘lack of local understanding’ of the support available and the ‘poor quality’ of the local offer.

“Too many (parents) feel that they are driven to crisis point before additional support and advice are identified and put in place for them and their children,” said the report.

But inspectors did note that practitioners are ‘starting to understand the changes needed’ and there is an increase in the ‘confidence and competence’ of teams as a result of the recent training of frontline staff.

It added that there are ‘good examples’ of special schools providing effective outreach services to improve provision within localities.

In a joint statement, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups apologised for not meeting the needs of children and young people effectively.

They said: “We fully accept the findings of the report and apologise that the local area’s services and provision have not effectively met the needs of children and young people in our county. Transforming these services is our priority.

“Prior to the Ofsted and CQC inspection, we identified that significant improvements needed to be made to the way children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and their families access support.

“We have been working in partnership with the Suffolk Parent Carer Network to introduce a number of changes covering education, health and social care, and we are beginning to see the positive impact of these. The number of Statements to be transferred to Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs) has reduced and production of new EHCPs has increased.

“We recognise that it is not just about the speed of production but also improving the quality of the EHCPs produced. We are investing in training across all partners and providers focussing on improving co-production of EHCPs.

“Whilst the report recognises the early steps taken to make improvements, it clearly highlights that there is still much more work we need to do and we agree with these findings.

“Since the inspection, together with the Suffolk Parent Carer Network, we have identified three key areas of focus to bring about the rapid improvements that are needed. We are working together to improve access to information, improve the SEND journey and develop the services and provision available locally.”

To read the report in full, go to click here.