Review of Surrey SEND services finds many weaknesses

Local paediatrician Dr Paul Wright reports:

On 1 April 2016 OFSTED and Care Quality Commission (CQC) began a programme to inspect all 152 local areas over five years to evaluate how well they were fulfilling their duties in identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people and those who have special educational needs and/ or disability aged 0-25.

20 inspections were completed between May and December 2016. Of the first 16 inspections, 4 areas were issued with Written Statements of Action due to significant concerns. One of the areas which was issued with a Written Statement of Action was Surrey.

Between 17 and 21 October 2016, OFSTED and CQC conducted a joint inspection of Surrey in order to judge the effectiveness of the area in implementing the disability and special educational needs as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014.

The main negative findings were as follows:

  1. Overwhelmingly, the parents and carers of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, and who spoke with or contacted inspectors, lack confidence in the local area’s leaders and services.
  2. The strength of parental dissatisfaction with the outcomes of statutory assessment, and the weak content of education and health care plans, results in high rates of appeal to first tier tribunal. A large proportion of appeals are settled before tribunals take place, indicating an acceptance by the local area that these are likely to be successful. A high proportion of tribunals are found in favour of the parent.
  3. Leaders recognise the need to improve performance and rebuild relationships of trust with parents and carers. Changes in senior local authority leadership in the last year are welcomed by parents, schools, health commissioners and providers. Nevertheless, parents and school leaders are clear that insufficient improvement is evident.
  4. Weaknesses in the area’s information management systems restrict the coordination of information, slowing assessment and planning processes. Furthermore, these weaknesses limit leaders’ analysis, so that staff at all levels are insufficiently held to account for the rapid improvement which is required. In addition, parents and schools continue to experience widely varying quality of service from the county’s four administrative areas.
  5. Children and young people across the county currently experience unequal health and therapeutic provision.
  6. Leaders have been unsuccessful in promoting the ‘local offer’ of provision to all parents. Many of the parents whom inspectors met were not aware of this central facility, despite it being developed and then redesigned in partnership with parents’ representatives.
  7. The local area identifies relatively low numbers of pupils needing school support for their special educational needs, while identifying relatively high numbers requiring statements or EHC plans. Leaders have rightly identified that this indicates weaknesses in the early identification of special educational needs.
  8. The increasing absence and exclusion rates for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities have not been recognised by the local area as a priority for action.

The inspectors stated that the inspection raised significant concerns about the effectiveness of the local area (Surrey) and the local area was required to produce and submit a Written Statement of Action to explain how the local area will tackle the following areas of significant weakness:

  1. The timeliness, suitability and quality of statutory assessments and plans, including when statements are transferred to education, health and care plans.
  2. The under-developed and often limited involvement of parents and carers, and the narrow range of those included, in planning, monitoring and evaluating services. The ineffective promotion of the local offer, and the incomplete statutory transition plan.
  3. The inefficient management and coordination of area information, in administrative processes, to inform evaluation of services and outcomes, and to hold leaders and staff at all levels to account for rapid improvement.
  4. The relatively low identification of need at school support level, indicating inefficiencies in the early identification of special educational needs and/or disabilities.
  5. The increasing rates of absence and exclusion experienced by children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities in mainstream schools.

For further information and the full report: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/575666/Joint_local_area_SEND_inspection_in_Surrey.pdf

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