Warwickshire County Council must do better for SEND children says Ofsted
Families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) say the results of a recent Ofsted report into the county’s provision 'don't even skim the surface’ of failings.
Earlier this year the Herald was contacted by numerous parents highlighting serious problems in the county council’s provision for SEND children in Warwickshire, which were causing significant distress.
Among the issues raised were overstretched services, difficulty getting specialist provision and a lengthy and expensive appeals process.
The parent-led group Send Crisis Warwickshire held a protest outside County Hall back in July, with some saying the authority was failing SEND children at every turn.
Last week an Ofsted report into SEND services was published presenting a very mixed picture, with improvements needed in some areas but good practice highlighted in others.
On the positive side, the report says leaders have the expertise, drive and commitment to improving outcomes for SEND children and that many parents have had positive experiences with SEND provision.
However much of the report will make for difficult reading at County Hall.
It concludes that SEND children are waiting too long to be assessed, that reforms have been implemented slowly and says there is a legacy of children and young people who have not been placed in the correct settings for their needs.
It details how communications with parents, schools and carers has been poor, and schools have not accessed enough training to help staff understand and provide for children with young people’s needs in mainstream settings.
Worryingly the report acknowledges that some parents do not have confidence in the ability of mainstream schools to support their children’s needs.
It adds that area leaders know that the local offer is not fit for purpose and a comprehensive review has been undertaken.
Despite the criticisms, SEND Crisis Warwickshire say that the report doesn’t come close to exposing the level of trauma some parents of SEND children have experienced.
A spokesperson for SEND Crisis Warwickshire, said: “As a parent and carer led group, we are pleased that a written statement of action has been ordered. However, we are gravely concerned that the report's findings are not reflective of the lived experiences of many Warwickshire children and young people and their families. The report doesn't even skim the surface of the trauma caused and does nothing to repair the broken trust parents have in Warwickshire’s present provision or give them confidence for the future.”
Jerry Roodhouse, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Warwickshire County Council, said: “The release of the joint inspection carried out on SEND services is clear Warwickshire could be doing a lot better. To those who know the services the report has no surprise. The question that needs to asked now is how the County Council will react to the findings.”
Reacting to the report on behalf of the county council, Councillor Jeff Morgan, portfolio holder for education and children’s services said: “As a local area, we are determined and focused to implement our plans to meet the needs of all children and young people with SEND. I am pleased that the inspectors have recognised the commitment of the leadership in Warwickshire and have confirmed that we have the right plan in place with the Send and Inclusion Change Programme.
“However, we recognise that there is more work to be done and we know there are several areas where we need to do better and improve the services, we provide.
“As with many places in the country, we have been asked to produce a written statement of action to outline how those improvements will be made. The statement will be drafted in the next few weeks with input from our colleagues in education, health, social care, Warwickshire Parent Carer Voice and other key stakeholders. Our action plan will be robust, and we will work with rigour and pace to ensure changes are made to help us to improve and enhance the SEND offer in Warwickshire.
"SEND is a key priority and the work we have done as part of our SEND and Inclusion Change Programme has been acknowledged as the right plan addressing the key issues to ensure changes are made. Our ambitious plans to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND including building a new school and resource provisions, providing clear pathways of support, reforming our decision-making panels and ensuring our systems are sustainable into the future will help us to make a real change to the way in which support children and young people with SEND in Warwickshire.”
This week the county council provided grant funding to a national charity providing support young people aged 14-25 with SEND.
KIDS West Midlands will be running the new programme for the next year supporting young people’s mental health and increasing their participation in their local communities.
The charity will be organising an online monthly group creating an opportunity to meet new people, make friends and take part in a range of activities to promote positive emotional wellbeing and have a voice. The online group will be facilitated by KIDS staff with the young people planning and agreeing the activities.