An inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into Worcestershire’s approach to special education needs and disability (SEND) has recognised that sufficient progress has been made.
The report, which is due to be published by Ofsted next week, acknowledges that the local area has made sufficient progress in eight out of the twelve significant weaknesses identified at the initial inspection in 2018.
Following the 3-day inspection that took place between 1-3 November 2021, inspectors reported that leaders have put systems in place that effectively monitor vulnerable children and young people who are placed in Worcestershire from other local authorities, including children and young people with SEND.
The reported added that NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire Clinical Commission Group (CCG) has shown increased investment and commitment in their focus on children and young people with SEND and the development of Worcestershire Children First has resulted in a single, centralised organisation that now works in a cohesive structure in partnership with health services.
Other highlights in the report included:
- Leaders have a strong understanding of the area’s strengths and further improvements that need to be made, prioritising and addressing the right issues to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND
- Leaders are committed to ensuring that all the actions in their plans lead to long term and sustainable improvements. They are laying secure foundations on which to build.
- Access to services has been improved through targeted approaches and re-designed services highlighting that there had been a significant reduction in the wait times for an autism diagnosis has been achieved through targeted work.
- Leaders have made considerable improvements to the online local offer and that it now contains all the required information with many parents and carers reporting that the local offer now provides a wide range of guidance and signposting to support.
Inspectors noted that there remain significant concerns about the how inclusive some mainstream schools are across the area. However, since the last inspection, leaders have provided mainstream schools with a range of support to develop the skills and expertise of leaders and staff.
Historically, some children and young people with SEND have not been placed in settings which appropriately meet their needs. There are many cases across the area where children and young people with SEND have been placed in specialist settings when their needs could have been met in a mainstream school. This has led to special schools not having enough places for those children and young people with significant and complex needs.
Despite some positive views expressed by parents, inspectors found that fragile relationships still exist with parents and carers expressing overwhelming negativity about SEND services and provision in the area and concerns remain of lack of engagement and co-production.
The inspection in 2018 found that the education and health care (EHC) plans were of a poor quality. Inspectors reported that there continues to be a lack of effective oversight of the quality of EHC plan but acknowledge that leaders are already taking action to address the issues identified during the inspection.
Inspectors also found that children and young people with EHC plans now achieve positive outcomes but those without do not achieve as well as they should. Inspectors noted that leaders are aware of this and recognised that plans and systems are in place to address this through a process of monitoring and support in mainstream primary and secondary schools.
Cllr Marcus Hart, Cabinet Member for Education said: “On behalf of Worcestershire County Council, I fully accept the findings of the report and am pleased that inspectors recognised the improvements that have been put in place to address the weaknesses identified in the previous inspection in 2018.
“I would like to personally thank all the children and young people with SEND and the parents and carers who shared their experiences with inspectors.
“We take the feedback from parent carers very seriously and for the areas of concern where further actions are needed we will work closely with our services, schools, the SEND Improvement Board, which includes our health partners and the Parent Carer Forum (Families in Partnership) and wider parent groups. We will update our SEND strategy (2021-25) and action plan on the basis of the report to include any actions needed to make these changes.”
Dr Louise Bramble, Clinical Lead for Women and Children, NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG, added: “While it is pleasing to see the improvements that have been made, we must acknowledge that some of our children and young people, families and carers have not had the experience that we want them to have.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, however, we remain committed to working closely with all of our partners to ensure that we continue to improve and provide better a service and outcomes for our vulnerable children and young people across Worcestershire.”
During the inspection Ofsted and CQC also considered the impact of COVID-19 on the lived experiences of children and young people with SEND and their families. Inspectors praised the local area for its response including putting in place clear systems to track and monitor vulnerable children, providing additional support to schools, and offering advice and links to support families throughout the pandemic.
For information and advice for children and young adults with disabilities and learning needs please visit our Local Offer web page