Somerset’s joint inspection of SEND services by Ofsted and CQC – report published

A report into how well Somerset meets the needs of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their families has been published today by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) and Care Quality Commission (CQC ).

Inspectors visited and undertook a joint inspection of SEND Services in the local area of Somerset in March. They judged how well the local area has worked together to put the 2014 SEND reforms into place which includes services that are available to support children and young people with SEND.

The local area comprises Somerset County Council, education providers, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and associated health partners.

The Inspection Team visited education and health settings, heard the experiences of children, young people, parents and carers, and met with staff and senior leaders.

As a result of the inspection a report has now been published. This identifies several areas of significant weakness and local area SEND service leaders are now required to draft a joint Written Statement of Action for approval for Ofsted and the CQC, to outline how these will be addressed.

Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Frances Nicholson, and Chair of the NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Ed Ford, have issued the following joint statement in response to the report:

“We are sorry that some children, young people and families with SEND have not received the effective support and care that they need, and we wish to provide. We fully accept the areas for improvement identified. Positive progress is being made in many of these areas following a self-evaluation exercise that took place and we will continue to build on this.

“We want to ensure that all children and young people with SEND in Somerset are given the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential, and we are jointly committed to ensuring swift progress is now made to improve standards so that services in the local area help to improve the lives of all children, young people and their families.

“Our immediate task is to provide Ofsted and the CQC with a strong joint Written Statement of Action for SEND services in Somerset, which will form the basis our of improvement plan to address the weaknesses outlined by inspectors. We would also like to thank our hard-working staff for their dedication and commitment in developing and improving the services we all deliver, and parents for their continued support and understanding.”

In addition to the areas of improvement identified, the report also acknowledges some areas of good practice in the local area which can be built upon; inspectors highlighted ‘joint working for very young children leading to effective early identification of children with complex needs, as well as appropriate support for families and effective transition to early years or school’. It was also noted that some schools provided excellent provision for children with SEND, highlighting the strong care provision and Short Breaks service which is highly valued by families.’

Inspectors also found that ‘special schools and pupil referral units with enhanced provision provided a strong service for children and young people and there was praise for the effective relationships formed between the Parent Carer Forum and SEND service leaders across the local area, including schools, which has the potential to be the bedrock for ensuring that services meet the needs of children and families through a process of genuine co-production.’

Ruth Hobbs, Director of Somerset Parent Carer Forum added: “Lots of opportunities were provided during the inspection for the experiences of children, young people who have special educational needs and disabilities and their families to be heard.

“This has led to a report which accurately reflects their experiences. Our focus over the next 18 months will be to work with Somerset County Council and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure that good practice is built upon and the improvements needed are made, while keeping the needs of children and young people central to any changes.”

Inspectors identified nine key areas where improvement is urgently required:

  • We all need to work more closely with children and young people with SEND and their families to understand and learn from their experiences as we develop strategies to improve the area. Inspectors recognised that there are many strengths in this area, but we are not consistent in our practice.
  • We need to improve leadership capacity across services in Somerset to provide effective support to children with SEND.
  • We need to continue to strengthen and embed partnership working across Education, the NHS, Public Health and Social Care.
  • Our pathway for children with autistic spectrum disorder needs substantial development to address the poor service too many families are receiving.
  • We need to improve the outcomes for all children with SEND, through ensuring effective identification of needs and the right support to make the difference for children.
  • The quality of professional input for Education, Health and Care Plans needs to be at a consistently high level.
  • The multi-professional assessments and planning required for Education, Health and Care Plans needs to be carried out more swiftly.
  • By improving joint commissioning arrangements between Somerset County Council and the NHS, we can improve leaders’ abilities to ensure they meet area needs, as well as improving outcomes and achieving cost efficiencies.
  • We need to extend inclusive practice in schools across the local area and in turn reduce exclusion rates which currently mean too many children and young people are not accessing education.

We welcome the Government’s national review of Special Educational Needs arrangements, announced last September, as overall the reforms launched 5 years ago are not having the intended effect, and whilst it is no excuse, over 50% of local areas inspected are in a similar position to Somerset.

You can read the full report here

Should you have any queries regarding this or SEND services in general please call 0300 1232224.