Shortcomings in special needs education to be addressed in future

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘Ambitious’ proposals to make much-needed improvements to special needs education in North Somerset have been approved by a Government watchdog.

Ofsted has signed off on North Somerset Council and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (BNSSG CCG) plan of action to address ‘significant concerns’ raised in a damning review of the district’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision.

North Somerset’s SEND services were criticised in a report published by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission after an inspection in May, which lamented a lack of strategic direction and effectiveness.

Inspectors also highlighted failures in leadership and found ‘not enough children and young people who have SEND are being provided with the quality of support and services to which they are legally entitled to’.

Following the review, the council and CCG submitted a written statement of action to Oftsed, which was approved this week.

The plan vows to improve relationships with parents and carers, ensure children are given the right support quickly, and forge closer links with schools.

The authorities have also committed to improving care planning and the recruitment of ‘key posts’ in health teams.

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Sheila Smith, the council’s director for people and communities, said: “It’s an ambitious plan for the next year and some of the work is already being carried out – we haven’t waited to start working.

“Inspectors recognised the challenge we face in providing the best possible services within very difficult financial constraints, and they found significant positives in how we are approaching this.

“We have especially valued the efforts of parents, carers and schools in contributing to the plan over the busy summer period, and we will continue to work closely throughout the process of putting our plans into action.

“Our shared challenge now is to provide simpler ways to access the right services at the right time, which support children with SEND to achieve their aspirations.”

Deborah El-Sayed, the CCG’s director of transformation, added: “Producing the statement has helped us understand our strengths and areas for improvement and will provide us with a blueprint to develop and improve SEND services.”