Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have carried out a joint inspection to assess the effectiveness of special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) services across South Gloucestershire.
Between November 6 and 10, a team of inspectors looked at how effectively services provided by the council, education settings and the NHS identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEND, and how their outcomes can be improved.
During the week, inspectors spoke with groups including children and young people with SEND and their parents and carers at early years, schools and post-16 education settings. They also spoke with the South Gloucestershire Parents and Carers Forum*, NHS professionals at the Clinical Commissioning Group as well as health partners providing community health services for children and young people.
The main findings of the statutory inspection have now been published, highlighting strengths and areas where improvements need to be made.
The report recognises that in recent months, the pace of change to improve services for children and young people with SEND has improved. This is down to new key senior leaders within the council’s SEND team who are committed to delivering high-quality SEND services – as set out in the local offer* – that lead to improved outcomes for families.
The council’s early years team is praised for becoming increasingly active in checking that pre-schools make the appropriate referrals when needs are identified. Overall, the outcomes for children who have SEND in early years, and by the end of key stage 1 are positive and improving.
In 2016/17, a ‘Year for writing’ was launched to raise pupils’ literacy standards in South Gloucestershire. This resulted in improved achievements at Key Stage 2 for almost all children who have SEND. Their achievements in reading also improved, inspectors reported.
The council’s 0 to 25 transitions team is working effectively with young people leaving special schools to develop community-based opportunities to suit their needs. This work starts in Year 9 to help children and families prepare the way for life after school.
An effective supported internship programme has also been set up with South Gloucestershire and Stroud College (SGS) with around 10 students on roll this year. Other internships with local employers have also been established and last year, out of eight students, five went on to gain paid work. These internships are highly valued by families.
Where the area needs to improve, inspectors said the SEND reforms introduced in 2014 could have been implemented faster; the way services are commissioned and co-produced with health partners needs to be strengthened. The length of time children and young people wait to have their needs assessed by some clinicians and specialist health and social care practitioners also needs to be improved.
More needs to be done to ensure students with SEND make as much progress as possible at the end of Key Stage 4. Too many young people with SEND are excluded from academies and secondary schools, and this is an area the council is already addressing alongside the Regional Schools Commissioner* and the Local Schools Standards Board.
Cllr Jon Hunt, Cabinet Member responsible for Children and Young People, said: “We fully accept the overall findings of the report, which highlights many strengths to build on and recognises the progress made in improving services and outcomes for children and young people with SEND, particularly in recent months.
“To better meet the needs of these children, we set up an Improvement Board to drive positive change because we recognised from an early stage that more needed to be done to plan and deliver high-quality services.
“By investing around £845,000 in the 0 to 25 service, the council has been able to take on new staff and set up a transitions team*. This service helps children and young people with SEND explore their options for further education, employment and training and has been received positively by the Parent and Carer Forum.
“The process for getting Education, Health and Care Plans in place has been drastically improved as the 20 week statutory process for completing these plans is being met.
“We are already working closely with our NHS partners and education settings to bring about rapid improvements to the outcomes for children and young people with SEND and their families.
And in January, we will be running a consultation on the revised SEND strategy so that parents and carers can have their say on this important area of work which will help shape the way services are provided by the council and our partners in the health service.”
Director of Nursing and Quality for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) Anne Morris said: “We welcome this report from Ofsted and the CQC and would like to thank all the children, young people, parents and carers who contributed to help us understand more about the local SEND service. The report highlights the strengths of the current system and documents areas of improvement, whilst recognising areas of concern and the need for improvement in others.
“The CCG has already taken action in many of these areas including targeting waiting times in key therapeutic services, and investment in a waiting list initiative to reduce waiting times for assessment of children who may have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are also working with South Gloucestershire Council’s public health team to conduct an ASD needs assessment and help us to better understand the individual requirements of the local community.
“Services for young people with special educational needs and disabilities are among our top priorities. We look forward to working with our partners in South Gloucestershire Council and community health providers to implement our agreed service development and improvement plan, improve South Gloucestershire SEND services and provide the highest quality care for children and their families.”
We will now develop a Written Statement of Action with partners in education, care and health to address the main findings of the report, which has to be published within 70 days.
This inspection provides an overall assessment of how the council, education and health services are providing special educational needs and disability services across South Gloucestershire. It is separate to the Ofsted inspection of children’s services which was published in February this year and as such does not provide a rating of good, requires improvement or inadequate.
The final report was received on Monday 18 December and we have a statutory duty to publish the findings within five working days, which we have done.
We have also jointly issued a letter to all parents and carers of children with SEND to update everyone on the findings of the inspection and on the progress of the work being carried out locally. The letter and the report is available online at www.southglos.gov.uk/SENDstrategy