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Ofsted Report Criticises Service Provision for Children With Special Educational Needs

Published on: 12 Dec, 2016
Updated on: 14 Dec, 2016

A Guildford county councillor has demanded Surrey County Council (SCC) acts on recommendations made in a critical Ofsted report on the provision of services for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Cllr David Goodwin (Lib Dem, Guildford South West) said: “The message from this Ofsted inspection is clear – Surrey County Council needs to improve the services it provides to children with special educational needs and disabilities, and at a much faster rate than it is currently doing.”

A spokesman for SCC responded: “…we know there is much more to do and we’re all focused on making the changes needed…”

The first main finding of the report stated: “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.

“This is the result of parents’ continuing difficulties in obtaining the timely and accurate assessment of, and planning for, their children’s needs. The area is making only slow progress in dealing with a significant backlog of applications for assessment.”

Parental dissatisfaction has led to a high number of decisions being appealed, and the report states, “A high proportion of tribunals are found in favour of the parent.”

Weaknesses in the authority’s information management systems were also identified. These were found to, “…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…”

But areas of good performance were identified too. The report said: “The school-age children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, identified by the local area, achieve well compared with their peers in similar local areas” and, “All the children and young people met by inspectors in their provision felt happy, safe and cared for well.”

Cllr David Goodwin

Cllr David Goodwin said: “It is imperative that the Conservative-run administration urgently improves its relationship with parents and carers, and must act on assessments so that they are efficient, fair and timely. The current situation is a battleground, with too many tribunals and a high rate of success for parents suggesting that the county council made the wrong decision in the first place.

“Liberal Democrat county councillors have been clear in their support for parents and carers who want to feel they are being listened to and that the services being provided are efficient and responsive. We have also called for more SEND places to be provided here in Surrey, which we think would lead to a less bureaucratic, more efficient system, and would allow more money to be spent on raising standards, rather than being spent on out-of-county transport costs.

The SCC Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Educational Achievement, Cllr Linda Kemeny (Con, Woking South West) declined to comment but a statement was received from a council spokesman who said: “The education and care of children with special needs and disabilities is of paramount importance to us and our partner agencies and before inspectors visited we were aware there was more we needed to do to make sure they always get the right support and were already putting in place a series of improvements.

“The inspectors recognised the progress we’ve made so far and said that all young people they met felt happy, safe and well cared for but we know there is much more to do and we’re all focused on making the changes needed at a time of rising demand for services in this area.”

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