Ofsted have published their findings following a recent revisit of services in South Gloucestershire for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), run by the council and the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSGCCG).
They found that improved leadership, training and collaboration across the sector, as well as better links with service providers and the parents and carers of young people, means that we have made sufficient progress to address issues in six of the areas identified as being ‘significant weaknesses’ in their last inspection. More work is required to meet the standards required to support these young people and their families in two areas, which we agree is a fair reflection of the current position.
Following their last full inspection, Ofsted required South Gloucestershire Council and BNSSGCCG to provide a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) to set out how they would address concerns and improve outcomes. Since that time, working collaboratively with our partners with a joined-up approach that inspectors praised in this letter, we have been working hard to improve.
Ofsted’s letter sets out the progress we have made and where more work is still required, including:
• We are now securing improvements and the pace of change is increasing. For example, we are working collaboratively with the Parent and Carer Forum for South Gloucestershire, which is improving and strengthening the SEND local offer.
• Access to specialist services, such as speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has improved significantly.
• The council and school leaders have taken action to reduce the high level of exclusions, especially from mainstream secondary schools. These initiatives are making a difference.
• The experience of children and young people with SEND who access education, health and social services has improved. Young people who spoke with inspectors described how they welcome the activities now available to them. They explained how these opportunities help prepare them for adulthood, for example, by preparing them for future careers in catering and hospitality and the young people’s peer support group has recently received national recognition.
• Health professionals are now receiving more training in relation to the needs of children with SEND. This is highly valued and is contributing to improvements in practice.
The letter also identified areas where further improvements are required, including:
• Parents still do not always feel that Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) are meeting all of their children’s needs and Ofsted said the quality of the plans; how they are shared among professionals; and the review process will need to be improved quickly. At the same time, an increasing number of parents do value the support and guidance provided by EHCP case workers and the support from the Parents and Carer Forum and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS), which provides families with free, confidential, impartial advice about SEND services.
• In 2019, the progress made by young people receiving SEN support at the end of Key Stage 4 remained low. However, inspectors recognise that there have been some improvements for young people with an EHCP.
Responding to the Ofsted letter, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Jon Hunt and Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Employment, Councillor Erica Williams, said: “We welcome the findings of the Ofsted reinspection and want to take this opportunity to thank the staff and partners who have worked so hard to help us make the improvements that have been recognised.
“We also want to make clear our commitment to keeping up the momentum and accelerating progress in the key areas where we are not yet meeting the standards expected. Not all improvements in practice are immediately visible in services delivered, but we are confident they are increasingly forming part of a better experience for young people and their families, and we aren’t going to take our foot off the pedal.
“Every young person deserves the opportunity to have high aspirations and to achieve them and whatever assessment we may receive from Ofsted in the future, we will always look to work harder and to keep improving to make that happen. We want to enshrine inclusion throughout the system so that services and support can be delivered locally, starting in local schools.”
Deborah El-Sayed, Director of Transformation at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We welcome this report from Ofsted and the CQC, and we are pleased that inspectors recognised the many improvements to SEND services in our area. It is particularly encouraging to see the recognition of improved partnership working between education, health and social care and an acknowledgement of the positive work to co-produce services with children, young people and their families.
“We would like to thank the children, young people and families whose experiences have informed this report. We recognise that further improvements are required to reduce waiting times for assessments and ensure Education Health and Care plans provide the most meaningful support. We have already begun working with children, young people and families to improve these processes.
“Every young person deserves the opportunity to improve and reach their full potential. We are building a strong partnership with South Gloucestershire Council and community health providers – alongside children, young people, parents and carers – and are determined to ensure services continue to improve for everyone.”
Following the publication of the letter, South Gloucestershire Council and BNSSGCCG are now working to update their action plan that will set out how we will bring the two remaining priority areas for improvement up to the standard required. We are continuing to work closely with young people and their families, service providers and groups such as South Glos Parents and Carers, the Parent and Carer Forum for South Gloucestershire, to develop and implement these plans and improvements.
The letter published by Ofsted is available here: https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50150804
To find out more about the services provided by a range of providers, as well as to get updates, news and developments in the area go to the SEND local offer website at www.southglos.gov.uk/SENDlocaloffer
The council has also introduced a support line and email address for parents and carers to contact us with queries by email: SENDCovidEnquiry@southglos.gov.uk or by phone 01454 866123 (staffed between 9am – 1pm Monday to Friday) if they need help or support during the ongoing COVID-19 response.