County takes steps to improve support for children with SEND
Work to improve support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) is being stepped up in Oxfordshire.
A report on the roll-out of new national reforms in the county, published today by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, calls for better planning for children with SEND and raises concerns over exclusion rates at mainstream schools. It also confirms educational outcomes for children and young people with SEND are improving and that children feel happy and well cared-for when receiving local services.
Both Oxfordshire County Council and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) accept the findings and have already taken steps to address the issues raised.
These include strengthening leadership across both organisations and a stronger focus on the quality and timeliness of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, which underpin the support provided for families.
Steps are also being taken to provide more effective support – and stronger challenge - for mainstream schools to reduce exclusion rates for pupils with special educational needs.
“Best possible start in life”
Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education Hilary Hibbert-Biles said: “Children with special educational needs and disabilities deserve the best possible start in life and we are determined to deliver these improvements alongside our health partners. This is a new national inspection framework and many of the issues highlighted in Oxfordshire are being flagged up elsewhere in the country.”
She added: “It’s important to remember that Oxfordshire is among the very poorest government-funded areas for education in terms of per-pupil funding, which has a bearing on the ability of schools and local agencies to bring in specialist support. For instance, we receive £17m less in ‘high needs’ funding than neighbouring Buckinghamshire, despite being a slightly larger county with higher levels of deprivation. This is something I am continuing to lobby central government over.”
Sula Wiltshire, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s director of quality and lead nurse, said: “We accept the report and the additional work that we need to do. We welcome this external review and are pleased to see the strengths identified in the report as well as those areas that need further work.
“We acknowledge there are improvements needed and we are working with our partners to ensure these are prioritised so that our most vulnerable children and young people in Oxfordshire have the joined up services they need and deserve.”
Stephanie Harrison of Oxfordshire Parent-Carer Voices said: “The findings of this joint inspection not only identify the areas of strength within the County’s provision but also highlight some of the shortcomings of the service, echoing the concern expressed by many parents.
“This should be seen as a positive report and I believe the implementation of the recommendations will provide the impetus and support needed to bring about genuine and lasting improvements to SEND provision within the County.”
She added: “Oxfordshire has a strong reputation for co-production - where parent Carers and young people are seen by professionals as equal partners - and this report highlights the need to cement that approach between service user and service provider, in all settings.”