Work continues to improve services for children with special educational needs and disabilities

Oxfordshire’s local area partnership¹ continues to make progress to improve services and support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).   

This follows Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission’s inspection of SEND partnership services in July. The partnership includes Oxfordshire County Council, NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board and the parent carer forum (PCF), the official body for the voice of parent carers.

Progress includes proposed investment into resourcing SEND services; an improvement in the timeliness of assessments for education, health and care plans (EHCPs); the establishment of a SEND improvement board to drive and quality assure the delivery of the partnership’s priority action plan, which has now been approved by Ofsted; and improvements in information provision and engagement opportunities.

Councillor Kate Gregory, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for SEND Improvement, explained: “We recognise that we are only at the start of our improvement journey and that it will take time for real change to be felt by families. But progress is being made.

“Our 2024/25 budget proposals include an investment of £1 million in additional capacity in the SEND service to help ensure that children receive timely and good quality responses to their needs within education and health care plans. This year, we have also redesigned roles within the service to better meet demand and have successfully filled 11 permanent posts within the last two months, which will significantly reduce our use of agency workers.

“This is building on work that has been underway for over twelve months to improve the timeliness of education, health and care needs assessments.”

As of November 2023, in Oxfordshire 52 per cent of education, health and care needs assessments were processed within the statutory timeframe of 20 weeks, which is just above the national average (currently 50 per cent²). The partnership will continue to work to improve this.

An Oxfordshire SEND Strategic Improvement and Assurance Board has also been formally established to drive the action required to deliver better services for SEND children, young people and their families. The board has met twice and is made up of senior leaders from across the partnership and members of the PCF. Steve Crocker³, is the board’s independent chair. 

On 24 October, the partnership submitted a draft priority action plan to the Department for Education (DfE), which was approved by Ofsted on 12 December. The plan sets out what will be achieved across five priority action areas. 

  1. Gathering and acting on the views of children and young with SEND and their families.
  2. Developing effective communications systems across the partnership to ensure coordinated approaches.
  3. Improved timeliness and quality assurance of education, health and care plans.
  4. Commissioning of services to meet the needs of children and young people and their families.
  5. Producing plans that are coproduced with children and young people and their families, which are rigorously monitored.

The plan will be published by Oxfordshire County Council, on behalf of the partnership, on Monday 18 December. The partnership will continue to work with Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission on prioritising actions to secure immediate improvement for children and young people with SEND and their families.

The partnership is also enhancing existing arrangements to listen to, and act on the views of children and young people, parents, carers and professionals. On top of existing meetings with the PCF and other parent and carer support groups, a variety of termly information gathering and sharing sessions will be held, online and in-person, including in educational settings, to gather feedback. These will begin in December followed by regular engagement opportunities in the new year, including with parents, carers and families.

The PCF will be directly involved in activities in the priority action plan that lead to improving services and outcomes for children and young people with SEND. 

Cllr Gregory added: “We are working hard as a partnership to ensure we have the right foundations in place to deliver real and lasting improved outcomes for children, young people and families. Progress has been made but much more is to come. I look forward to continuing to forge strong relationships with partners and with families with SEND children to ensure we do this together. We are all determined to make a real difference on this improvement journey.”

SEND e-newsletters have also been set-up to share helpful information and updates, one for professionals and one for parents and carers. Parents and carers can sign up for the e-newsletter online and SEND coordinators can also fill in a simple form. In addition, online support for parents and carers of children with SEND has been improved to make it easier to find information. Further improvements are being made into the new year. Information can be accessed at oxfordshire.gov.uk/localoffer

Notes to editors

  • ¹The local area partnership members include Oxfordshire County Council, NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB), Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. They have worked together with the county’s parent carer forum (PCF), as the official body for the voice of parent carers, and professional subject matter leads, to develop the priority action plan detailing clear and measurable service improvements. 
  • ² This is the current national average as reported by the Department for Education in the annual SEN2 data return (June 2023). The SEN2 survey is a statutory data collection that takes place every January, which local authorities must complete.
  • ³Steve Crocker has recently retired from his post as Director of Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council and was a former President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. He was awarded an OBE in 2018 in recognition for services to children in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. Steve has played a leading role in the improvement of children’s services in other local authorities and is also a key influencer nationally. He has been called on regularly to contribute to the shaping of policy on areas such as adoption, social work reform and innovation.
  • On 16 November, the DfE published an improvement notice, which was issued to the county council. This is an official document sent to councils following inspections that have similar outcomes, outlining the steps needed to evidence progress in the improvement of services.


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