Agenda item


To consider a report from Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive) on the SEND Ofsted local area inspection.


(copy enclosed)


A presentation will be delivered on the outcomes of the local inspection.


(copy to follow)


Consideration was given to the report from Executive Director – People which presented the outcomes of the Ofsted SEND local area inspection.


SEND local area inspections were carried out jointly by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to inspect local areas to see how well they fulfilled their responsibilities for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.


The Assistant Director – Education and Skills talked members through the outcomes of Cumbria’s joint inspection in April 2019 and explained that unlike Children’s Services inspections, the inspectors do not give a rating, but produce a report with recommendations for improvement.


The Assistant Director explained to members the headline findings of the inspection which were as follows:-


·         The impact of the SEND reforms on children, young people and families in Cumbria was found to be variable and there has not been enough pace in implementing the reforms


·         There was found to be a lack of joint working between health, care and education and inequitable access to service


·         Some parents and carers were found to have lost faith and trust in the local area and co-production is weak


·         Leaders were found to be developing a clearer understanding of the main strengths and weaknesses


·         There were strengths identified within the report which the service must now build upon.


Members were then talked through the criteria of the inspection and were showed the areas that the service had been found to be delivering effectively and the areas where development was needed. As a result of the inspection the local area had been issued with a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) of which both the Local Authority (LA) and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) are jointly responsible. There were 9 key areas highlighted for improvement which would be monitored at quarterly visits culminating in a re-inspection in approximately 18 – 24 months.


Cumbria’s WSoA will be submitted by 21 August 2019, it is suggested that in that time the Local Authority’s governance structures – Health and Wellbeing Board, SEND Improvement Board – Working Groups convene and begin to explore detailed action plans.


Members share their observations regarding some of the more contradictory findings in the report and ask about how Cumbria compares with other local areas. The Assistant Director – Education and Skills responds that most local area inspections have resulted in the issuing of a written statement and explains that 5 years on from the reforms more local areas are receiving written WSoAs.


Members ask for clarification on the work around alternative provision and the local authority’s work with health, education and social care partners. It is explained that the proposed resource provision hubs would allow children and young people with special educational needs to access support while attending their local schools. It is hoped that this would allow for earlier identification and intervention and for resources to be distributed more effectively.


Officers were asked to comment on Cumbria’s success historically with regards to inclusion of SEND students in mainstream schools and whether this was still possible in a time when resources and funding had become more difficult to attain. It was agreed that this was an understandable concern and that limited funding had resulted in difficulties but the service as a whole had been exploring new ideas for delivering better outcomes.


The Assistant Director – Learning and Skills clarified to members that 28 schools in Cumbria were designated as offering strategic resource provision, and each equipped to meet specific individual special educational needs. The proposal involved removing the specificity of the designation allowing more flexibility so that the needs of children and young people in that catchment area would be better met. The strategy would also ensure mainstream schools would be adequately resourced to meet the needs of students.


Concerns were raised about the strategic integration of the system and members sought assurance that the Local Authority would do more to ensure that the work of the Council and the work of partners in health and social care is consistent and that solutions are found together so that the local area can regain the trust of parents and carers. The Executive Director – People explained to members that the Health and Wellbeing Board and the Children’s Trust Board will be primarily


Officers agreed that this was a priority and assured members that the inspection report had now given them the leverage to work more dynamically with partners across services.


Discussion then took place about the increase in permanent exclusions and officers were asked whether there was any trend identified. The Assistant Director – Learning and Skills explained that while there had been in an increase, the rate of SEND pupils was in line with non-SEND pupils, and Cumbria was still better than the national average for rates of SEND pupil exclusions.


Members ask if more could be done to equip schools to provide earlier interventions for those with mental health needs. Officers agree that certain needs are preventable if services intervene earlier and assures members that training is ongoing to provide teachers with ‘mental health first aid’ skills which together with other means of support will mean improvement in their ability to of intervene early.


A detailed discussion took place regarding concerns over the capacity for teachers to take on more responsibility and sought assurance concerning how schools could be better incentivised to meet ever growing need.


The Assistant Director – Learning and Skills explained to members that consultation with parents will take place and information had been provided to the media. It was AGREED that in conversations with partners a response be produced to reassure parents of children and young people with special educational needs.


The Executive Director – People asked members to consider the role of the Scrutiny Advisory Board – Children and Young People in driving improvement in the area. It was AGREED that regular updates be provided to the Board and a decision be taken on whether to create a working group.


Members thanked officers for the presentation and acknowledged their hard work and the hard work of frontline staff.


It was RESOLVED that,                 


1)    A local area response be produced to reassure parents of children with special educational needs


2)    That the Board further consider the role they will play in improving the service to meet Ofsted and CQC requirements


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