Tomorrow night, Council Officers will be presenting a report to the cross-Party Executive Scrutiny Board on “Transfers from Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) to
Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP)” which will
“recognise the Council’s success in transferring 1,375 Statements of SEN EHC Plans for the statutory deadline of 31 March 2018”.
There are a large number of parents of SEN children who share a completely different opinion of this transfer process.
I have covered this subject on many occasions over the last few years and appealed to the Council to take this programme seriously. It was only in the last few months as the deadline loomed that the Council took extraordinary action which achieved the government set target, at the expense of quality.
The programme started in September 2014. There were around 1350 children who needed their SEN statement converted to an EHCP.
The original plan was to complete the conversions well within the target date of 31 March 2018. The plan was centred around conversions coinciding with when children moved schools.
In the 1st 2 years of the 3 year delivery programme ( to April 2017), just over 400 had been completed – around a rate of 15 / month
In the 8 months from April 2017 – December 2017, just over 200 were completed – around a rate of 25 / month
With 3 months left, 737 were still to be completed ( a required rate of 245/month – a 10 fold increase)
At the beginning of March 2018 – 4 weeks left, there were still 502 outsanding. – a 20 fold increase)
Officers have given many dubious reasons about how the monitoring was ” complicated”, about why the delivery programme was not linear, and that, despite, many concerned parents that everything was ok.
Quality of the conversions
The report goes onto say:
“In relation to conversions, to date no specific complaints have been received regarding the quality of the EHC Plans and, of the 1,375 transfers, only 14 appeals to he First Tier Tribunal have been lodged by parents to the SEND Tribunal Service. The Council is following the required tribunal process in relation to these 14 appeals.”
I know of parents who have complained, but they are a minority. Typically, parents are afraid to complain to the Council as they fear that the support for their child may be diluted, or even removed – it is a risk that they dare not take. Appealing a decision is a formal process and, for many, both intimidating and expensive.
Using the number of complaints as a benchmark is only valid if the definition of success is zero complaints. If it is quality outcomes for the child, which it should be, then another methodology needs to be used. One which is not covered by the metrics specified within this report.
This report is worthless. A document written by the Officers which summarises their performance is pointless and of no value to the Executive Scrutiny Board. It does not give the elected member any opportunity to challenge the “orthodoxy” that is promoted by the Senior Officers. This subject is far too important to be “airbrushed” for the sake of the career prospects of Senior staff within the Council.
It feels as though just enough information is given to discharge the Board’s action, but woefully insufficient to allow any searching questions to be asked. It is not in the interests of the Officers to give Councillors the opportunity to dig deep into activities that are not performing. This is precisely the reason why the Cabinet member knew nothing about the A52 overspend until it was too late….
I trust that the Scrutiny Board will not allow this subject to be “brushed under the carpet” as a “job well done”. This is, after all, children’s education, and they only have one chance at it!
Perhaps there should be an Independent External Review?