For the past 4 years I have been writing about how Derby City Council’s Special Education Needs (SEN) provision for children has fallen woefully below standard. How the development of children with SEN has suffered and how their parents have had to battle with the Council for their children’s right to an appropriate education. How the standards of the new Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) have been very questionable and the time for implementation has been considerably longer than the statutory maximum.
On many occasions over the years the Council has denied that there has been a problem and sought to gloss over the issues.
OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission have just published their report which set out “to judge the effectiveness of the area in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014”
The report has vindicated the concerns raised in my articles. The summary conclusions are:
- The local area has made too little progress in implementing the SEND reforms
- There is an inequality of provision for children and young people with SEND across services in Derby
- Local area leaders are aware of the deficiencies in SEND provision. They know how far behind they are in carrying out the reforms. However, there is no coproduced overarching strategy to identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
- Over the last three years, there have been purposeful efforts to improve the procedures for identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND. However, the local area has failed to establish the cohesive and joined-up actions needed to implement the reforms.
- Leaders have shown a lack of oversight and monitoring of the effectiveness and impact of initiatives since the implementation of the reforms.
- The joint commissioning arrangements for services across education, health and social care are not adequately ensuring that the needs of children and young people with SEND are known or subsequently met by professionals.
- Parents and professionals have little confidence in the ability of leaders to improve provision for children and young people with SEND.
- There are serious weaknesses in the system and processes for the assessment of children and young people with SEND for an education, health and care (EHC) plan. The timeliness and completion of EHC assessments are too variable and the quality of EHC plans is generally weak.
There were some positive comments:
- The early years provision for children in Derby is strong. There are well-established working relationships across services that identify and meet the needs of children and their families to improve long-term EHC outcomes. Parents value the support they receive from a range of professionals within the early years services.
- Educational outcomes for children with SEND in the early years and key stage 1 are improving as a result of targeted intervention work and training for teaching staff.
The EHCP is the “contract” that the parents have with the local authority which details, specifically, the support that their child will receive. It is critical that thorough assessments are conducted to ensure proper outcomes. The reforms required that the old SEN statements be converted to EHCPs. I wrote on many occasions that this programme was being badly managed; this culminated in 2 final articles’
The latter article concluded by saying:
“Perhaps there should be an Independent External Review?”
That external review observed a very damning situation:
“The quality of EHC plans is poor. Although all statements of special educational needs were converted to EHC plans within the statutory timescale, this process was rushed and the quality of the plans was compromised. Professionals and parents report many examples of how plans have been inadequately reviewed, contain errors and provide inaccurate information. For example, a plan describing a child’s needs in nursery provision had not been updated for three years, despite professionals sending amendments to the local authority after each annual review.
Too many EHC plans are inaccurate and out of date and are not received by parents and professionals in a timely way. Many professionals report that plans are not shared consistently across education, health and social care.
Outcomes are typically ill-defined and have not been developed in an appropriately personal way. Inspectors saw examples of plans for some children with complex health needs where no health outcomes had been identified.”
Some might say that this results from poor funding. However the Council’s attitude to parents is reflected in this observation in the report:
“A significantly higher number of EHC plan appeals result in tribunals than seen nationally.
Some children’s and young people’s outcomes are hindered while they wait for their needs to be appropriately assessed. There is no robust plan or process to address the growing trend of tribunals. Worryingly, a large proportion of parents feel that mediation and tribunals are becoming an engrained part of the prolonged process of their struggle to improve outcomes for their children”
Perhaps Derby City Council should take heed of this report and stop battling with parents over the education of their vulnerable children, and start working with them in a cohesive and co-operative way – it might actually cost less in the long term and improve the educational outcome for the children.
Worth a try?