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'Positive progress’ made 12 months after critical SEND report

Thursday, 16 May 2024

Young person in wheelchair pointing and smiling, looking directly into the camera

Positive progress is being made to make changes for children and young people with Special Education Needs and/or Disability (SEND) – 12 months after significant concerns were highlighted by health and education watchdogs.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had asked the partnership which provides services for thousands of children and young people to make a number of improvements following a critical SEND inspection. A year on they have cited the ‘positive progress’ that has been made towards improvements.

The Nottinghamshire (SEND) Partnership Improvement Board – set up to challenge and scrutinise the partnership’s performance, progress, and implementation of actions – has stated it is ‘heartened by the progress’ made as part of the SEND Improvement Plan since it was put in place in May 2023.

The improvement plan has seen significant investment of more than £1.5million to increase capacity and resource, as part of the drive to reduce waiting times and to issue an increasing number of plans.

There are now more education, health and care plans (EHCP) put in place and within timescale.

However, there has been a continued increase in requests for plans with 30% more requests to date in 2024 than the previous year.

The partnership has recognised that continued improvements are still required to reduce the time taken to issue EHCPs and for waiting times for assessment for speech and language services for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

It has said that it remains committed to making positive changes and has continued to build stronger relationships with families by involving hundreds of parents, carers, young people and schools to make sure their voices are heard and to understand their experiences of SEND.

This has included seven roadshows involving hundreds of parents, carers, professionals and schools, to listen to their views and ideas, SEND strategy engagement events, establishing the parent carer reference group, and asking families to complete questionnaires and surveys to gather feedback and ideas to help shape ongoing improvements.

There has been regular scrutiny of the partnership’s delivery of the priority action plan and activities in the last 12 months – which has also involved the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England, Ofsted and CQC.

Feedback to date includes the DfE stating that there is now ‘a strong sense of partnership, and leaders working more collaboratively to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND’.

Other areas of progress since work began on an improvement journey include additional investment in resource, including an additional nine education psychologists to help speed up access to education, health and care needs assessment.

Complaints have also reduced, bringing health and local authority data together to enable the partnership to analyse needs and identify gaps – and, following feedback from families about communication around waiting times for the neurodevelopmental service, a monthly newsletter for families is now issued with better information and support for those parents and carers still waiting for an assessment.

The independent chair of the partnership, Dame Christine Lenehansaid: “Without a doubt there is still more to be done in Nottinghamshire to improve outcomes for young people and the experiences of families.

“It is really important that we listen to and learn from children and their families and that they are at the heart of this programme.

“I also recognise that many challenges faced in Nottinghamshire, such as rising demand for assessments, plans and services, as well as a shortage of specialists like education psychologists, are being experienced nationally.

“That said, I am heartened by the progress made in this first year. I have seen for myself that the partnership is really working together well, is committed to making changes for the better and to getting young people and their families involved every step of the way.”

Councillor Sam Smith, Nottinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), said the partnership is ‘committed to improving the experiences’ of children and young people with special needs and their families in Nottinghamshire.

He said: “While there is much work to do, progress has been made. Some changes include increasing the number of education psychologists, establishing a team of SEND pathway officers whose role is to improve communication with parent carers requesting education, health and care plan assessments.

“This underlines our commitment as a council to children and young people with Special Education Needs and/or Disability (SEND) which is being further boosted by our progress towards providing 500 new special school places through new SEND schools.”

Colin Pettigrew, Corporate Director, Children and Families, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said rebuilding trust with young people and their families is the catalyst for driving forward ‘positive change’.

He said: “Undoubtedly, we know that there is more work to do for positive change to be experienced by children, young people, and their families.  

“We recognise improving services and rebuilding trust will take time, but the partners will continue to do all we can to make sure that we are helping more young people with additional needs and their families receive the right support at the right time.

“We continue to work closely with schools and support their vital role in the lives children and young people with Special Education Needs and/or Disability (SEND). More than 90 per cent of Nottinghamshire schools are rated good or better by Ofsted, which is higher than nationally.

“In the last few months Ofsted has inspected our specialist children’s homes offering short breaks for children with SEND, both received the highest ‘Outstanding’ judgements with parents and professionals consistently referring to the service as ‘amazing’.

“I would like to thank all the families who have actively been involved in this improvement journey so far, sharing their views and lived experiences and who have so willingly offered their time to working with us to transform SEND services in Nottinghamshire.”

Rosa Waddingham, Chief Nurse at NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, said: “We know that there are areas that we still need to improve, but I feel positive that we are moving as a partnership towards providing the higher quality services and support that families, young people and children in Nottinghamshire deserve.”

Georgina Palmer, the Nottinghamshire Parent Carer Forum’s lead, said: “While progress made since the inspection is encouraging, it is crucial that improvements are now delivered effectively to truly benefit and impact families and that more parent carers and young people are involved in helping to shape the future of the SEND services that they use.”

Parents and carers who have been joining reference groups and engagement events have recognised a change in approach to engaging families.

Parent, Fleur McCole, said: “Meeting the people who work in the SEND team has made a positive impact to my life and my child’s experience.

“Putting faces to names meant that I no longer felt invisible in the system and that I felt listened to. I’ve since been able to access some excellent support from one of the team.”

And in feedback to the partnership, she said: “Keep meeting families, and make coffee mornings and drop-ins a regular thing - as part of the previous frustration has been feeling voiceless. Being able to speak directly with helpful and kind staff really makes a difference.”

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