Staffordshire County Council told to produce statement to tackle “weakness” in SEND provision

Thursday, April 18th, 2019 10:34am

By Kerry Ashdown & Richard Hilton

Inspectors have ordered an action statement to tackle “weakness” in SEND provision by Staffordshire County Council.

Organisations responsible for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities in Staffordshire have been told to produce an action plan after “significant areas of weakness” were found during a recent inspection.

Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) “did not achieve well”, the report from Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors said.

The quality of Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs) – legal document detailing a young person’s educational, health and social needs, as well as the additional support they require – was described as poor.

A letter from Ofsted and the CQC, addressed to Staffordshire County Council and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) bosses, said: “As a result of the findings of this inspection Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness on the local area’s practice.

“Children and young people with SEND in Staffordshire do not achieve well and are often ill prepared for the next stages of their education, employment and training. Ineffective leadership has resulted in a fragmented and dysfunctional approach to education, health and care agencies working together.

“This means that families do not get the help and support they need for their child. Inspectors were told that there is a sense of ‘diminishing inclusivity’ in Staffordshire and that children and young people are often not placed in the right educational establishment.

“Staffordshire has experienced significant organisational change since the revised code of practice was introduced in 2014. Children and young people with SEND have not received a consistently strong service during this time.

"As a result, outcomes are generally lower than those found nationally.

“The experiences of families and their children have not been good enough. For example, several families told inspectors that they feel they have to ‘battle’ to get the right support for their children.”

The letter added that transformation had taken place in the last 12 months to ‘catch up’ and improvements were starting to be made however.

And at an operational level there was “much valuable and effective work taking place”. The efforts of the virtual school team (who oversee and support looked after children), sensory support team, youth offending service, autistic outreach team and designated clinical officers were highlighted.

The letter said: “The local area has higher proportions of young people with SEND in employment, education and training than those found nationally. More young people are gaining places in further education.

“The speech and language therapy team have gained an award in recognition of the impact of their work and the improvements in the service. Short breaks are a strength. Families can access a range of activities based on their children’s needs.”

The Staffordshire SEND partnership board has taken responsibility for writing the statement of action. A draft statement was presented to the latest Schools Forum meeting.

The draft statement said: “This action plan sets out how Staffordshire County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCGs) will work together with partners, parents, carers, young people and school leaders to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

“It is expected that this plan will support the collective drive for improvement.”

A report to the Schools Forum added: “The SEND transformation programme will be a vehicle to deliver aspects of the WSoA (Written Statement of Action).

"These include options to develop resource centres and contact bases in mainstream schools in order to provide early intervention, prevent later higher cost needs and pupils being referred into statutory processes.”

Tim Moss, County Commissioner for School Quality Assurance and Intervention, told the meeting: “We have to provide a written statement of action to address the areas that have been identified that require improvement.

"When we have produced that it will be submitted to Ofsted as a high level strategic plan.

“It’s about everybody working together to make the system work.”

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