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Ofsted releases damning report on special educational needs and disability services in the Royal Borough

Ofsted releases damning report on special educational needs and disability services in the Royal Borough

An inspection of special educational needs and disability (SEND) services in the Royal Borough has prompted heavy criticism in an Ofsted report.

It found there was a ‘lack of leadership capacity across local area services’ and that some children and young people were doing well because ‘families pursue and secure what they need, in spite of what is on offer in the local area’.

The report, which was published today, focuses on services provided by the council, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), public health, NHS England for specialist services, early years settings, schools and further education providers.

The inspection, which was sent to Kevin McDaniel, the council’s director of children's services, judged how well reforms in the Children and Families Act 2014 had been implemented in the area.

It stated a ‘Written Statement of Action’ that explains how ‘significant weaknesses’ in the area’s SEND services will be tackled must be submitted to Ofsted.

The report also highlights ‘tardiness and delay in establishing strategies to implement the reforms effectively’, and ‘wide variances in the quality of education, health and care plans caused by weaknesses in the planning and transition processes’.

The Children and Families Act includes a requirement that young people and their parents participate as fully as possible with local authorities in discussions about their care and education.

The report said that ‘at critical points in assessment processes, there is an increase in parental stress and anxiety due to not feeling fully informed’ and that individuals responsible for SEND in the area ‘have not recognised the limited progress in improving the experience and outcomes for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities which results from their slow and piecemeal implementation of the reforms.’

It also states: “Parents overwhelmingly report dissatisfaction with their experience of the system and have very little confidence that things will improve.”

Another section of the report says: “Furthermore, leaders have not tackled effectively the damaging impact of high turnover in administrative staff, which is negatively affecting the application and transfer processes for children and young people and their families.

“As a result, there are inconsistencies between EHC (education, health and care) plans for children who have similar needs. In other cases, families have had to retell their stories on several occasions because their case workers have changed so frequently.”

The report said in some schools in the Royal Borough, children and young people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autistic spectrum disorder ‘are not identified quickly enough, because their presentation is assumed to be a behavioural issue rather than a presentation of need.’

Children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities wait too long to be seen by the services, the report also states.

It says that ‘those children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities whose needs are not met because of lack of appropriate assessment do not achieve as well as they could’.

The report adds: “Inspectors met young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities whose next steps had not been secured, despite being about to leave school within weeks of the inspection.

“In too many circumstances, securing an appropriate next step for young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities has been left to parents.”

It also identified strengths in the area’s SEND services, including that support for children in their early years leads to early identification of those with the most complex needs.

‘Effective training for practitioners to identify and understand mental health difficulties in children and young people’ has been established and ‘some schools in the local area are highly committed to the reforms and make excellent provision for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities’.

‘Children and young people in mental health crises are treated effectively’ and there ‘is an effective, coordinated approach to securing an appropriate care pathway for young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities moving into adult services’.

In response to the report, Cllr Natasha Airey, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “In July Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission undertook a joint inspection of services provided by schools, colleges, health providers, the voluntary sector and the local authority to assess the progress in meeting recent reforms for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

“The report highlights some real areas of success. Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in the borough are safe, achieve highly compared to the national average and many go on to benefit from the life chances afforded by education, employment and training as young adults. Many services are praised for their impact and commitment to the children they see.

“The report highlights however that some parents still have to navigate a complex system of services and young people do not always get the support they need in a timely manner. We are working with schools and health colleagues to agree improvements to the processes for families and will finalise a public action plan in the coming weeks.

“The Royal Borough is committed to giving all young people, whatever their background or needs, the best possible start in life and we will work hard with schools, colleges, health providers and the voluntary sector to make sure there is a level playing field for all within the borough.”

Cllr Simon Dudley, leader of the council, said: “As well as being leader of the council I am chair of governors of two local schools in the Royal Borough.

“I recognise the weaknesses highlighted in this report and look forward to an urgent and rapid improvement in performance in this critical area.”

Visit https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/windsor-and-maidenhead to view the report.

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