A report from an Ofsted and CQC revisit to the services provided to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Southend-on-Sea, has found sufficient progress has been made in three out of four areas of significant weakness identified in a December 2018 inspection.
SEND services are offered jointly by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), schools and other partners.
The report highlights improvements to the Local Offer, the multi-agency approach to education health and care (EHC) plans and better evaluation of education needs, as well as commenting on the ‘palpable’ change in culture and greater commitment to joint working for the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND in Southend.
However, inspectors found more progress needs to be made in joint commissioning but recognised that since March 2020 the pace of change had been ‘accelerated’ in this area. Inspectors also acknowledged that systems have now been established to ‘give clearer oversight of joint working and better accountability, but because of these necessary changes, some important elements of the WSOA are only recently established or not yet fully implemented.’ Inspectors also found that ‘area leaders ‘understand the scale of the change required to reach all families and regain the trust and confidence of significant numbers of parents and carers.’
During the revisit, inspectors were looking to see if sufficient progress has been made against the four areas of significant weakness identified. During the revisit, inspectors spoke with leaders, professionals, parents, young people and reviewed performance data, a selection of education health and care (ECH) plans. They also reviewed the 366 responses to the inspection teams online survey for parents and carers.
Today the report has been published by Ofsted and the CQC and it mentions the progress made in:
• The Local Offer and its promotion to those families who will benefit from it. Inspectors noted that ‘the local offer has improved significantly since December 2018.’
• The multi-agency approach and quality assessment of education, health and care (EHC) plans. Inspectors said that ‘recently established systems are now enabling partners in education, care and health to hold one another to account and consider how well children and young people’s outcomes are planned for and met.’
• Evaluation of learning needs and provision of good quality, full-time education
However, inspectors found more progress needs to be made in joint commissioning but recognised that since March 2020 the pace of change had been ‘accelerated’ in this area. Inspectors also acknowledged that systems have now been established to ‘give clearer oversight of joint working and better accountability, but because of these necessary changes, some important elements of the WSOA are only recently established or not yet fully implemented.’
Cllr Laurie Burton, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “Whilst we know there is still more work to be done, I am encouraged by this report which highlights the efforts of the SEND teams to work together and improve the services on offer to our children, young people and their families. We need to listen to them because they are using the services and they are the experts.
“For example, there has been a great deal of work done around the Local Offer and the report highlights the clear plan for developing it further hinges on the excellent consultation carried out with children and young people with SEND, professionals across education, health and social care and Southend SEND Independent Forum (SSIF) to gain that wider view.
“I would like to thank all the teams involved for the work and effort that has gone into improving these services this far. We will continue to work hard with partners, parents and children to build on the positive aspects of this report, but also deliver the improvements underway in the area of joint commissioning and other areas that have been highlighted through the re-visit.”
Tricia D’Orsi, NHS Alliance Director for South East Essex, said: “I am encouraged to see the hard work and dedication of colleagues, parents and volunteers across the SEND partnership is being positively recognised in this way and that services are moving forward.
“Take for example the improvements made to the delivery of EHC plans, which have a more holistic, multi-agency approach, producing better quality plans than the ones seen by the inspectors on their last visit. The continued inclusion of children, young people and their families inputting into the development plans will lead to better outcomes.
“We will continue with these improvements, building even further on the work already done and strive to provide the best possible services for children and young people and their families with SEND.”
The report highlights the work been done to evaluate learning needs and work with schools to support students in good quality, full-time education.
Jackie Mullan, CEO at The St Christopher School, said: “It is pleasing that the report recognises the increase in the variety, quality and scope of different provision in schools for young people with SEND in Southend. Parents can increasingly access high quality appropriate education for a broad range of SEN’s in a wider range of settings. All schools are working together to ensure effective full-time education wherever possible. Services are continuing to develop to meet the increasingly complex needs of the pupils.”
Local leaders have pledged to continue working with partners, parents and carers to make timely improvements and build up confidence in the processes in place.
The report also praises the independently appointed and recently established parent carer forum, Southend SEND Independent Forum (SSIF) for “injecting strength and energy” to the areas of work in which it is involved.
A spokesperson on behalf of SSIF, said: “We agree with the inspectors’ findings that there has been a culture change in recognising the importance of the parent, carer, child and young person’s voice and that ‘they are the experts’ in regard to services and support needed.
“We acknowledge that Ofsted have passed three out of the four highlighted areas on the WSOA but these areas still have a long way to go until they completely meet all the needs of all Southend SEND parents and carers and children and young people and it is our aim to ensure this remains on the agenda.”
As there is one outstanding area of concern, the Department for Education and NHS England will now determine the next steps. Ofsted and the CQC will not carry out any further revisits unless directed to by the Secretary of State.
The full report can be found on the Ofsted and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council websites.
If you want to find out more about SSIF and how you can get involved, visit their website at: http://www.southendindependentforum.co.uk/join-us