Agenda item

SEND Improvement Programme Progress Report

To consider a report from the Assistant Director – Education and Skills.


Members considered a report which provided an overview of Cumbria’s SEND Improvement Programme and the progress made in implementing the local area Written Statement of Action (WSoA) in response to the findings of the Ofsted/ Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection of special educational needs and disability (SEND) which took place in March 2019.


The SEND Partnership Strategic Lead provided some background by explaining that Cumbria was inspected by Ofsted and the CQC in March 2019 to judge how effectively the SEND reforms had been implemented by the local area, as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. The inspection included the local authority, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), public health, NHS England for specialist services, early years’ settings, schools and further education providers.


The inspection raised concern about the effectiveness of the local area and determined that there were nine areas of significant weakness. The partners in Cumbria were required to produce a WSoA, setting out the immediate priorities for action; the progress on implementing these actions have been, and will continue to be, closely monitored by the DfE and NHSE.


The Cumbria SEND Partnership Improvement Board is responsible for ensuring the delivery of the WSoA and for reporting on progress to the Health and Wellbeing Board. The Board is led by an independent chair - an experienced DCS and Improvement Lead for the DfE.


The WSoA takes a thematic approach to respond to the findings set out in the letter issued by Ofsted/CQC following the inspection and is supported by six corresponding partnership working groups. These groups meet regularly to progress the work of the partnership and monitor progress; they report every six weeks to the SEND Partnership Improvement Board.


Members heard that as part of the formal monitoring arrangements a review of progress by the DfE/NHSE would take place every six months. Prior to the review a written progress report would be submitted by the local area.  The most recent review took place on 16 November 2020, with the formal post review letter received on 21 December 2020.


The post-review letter from the DfE/NHSE concluded that, as in all local areas, the pandemic had presented challenges for the pace of work or required a change of approach.  It was explained that where this had occurred, the local area was encouraged to illustrate the operational or implementation changes made as a result.


In preparation for the revisit inspection the review undertaken of the nine areas of concern and the statements made in the inspection letter was well received and felt to be helpful in enabling the local area to more clearly link the action being taken with the points made by inspectors.


The local area was also advised to ensure that timescales for action, approval and implementation were clearly set out, so that ‘sufficient’ progress could continue to be demonstrated.


The next review meeting with the DfE/NHSE was scheduled for 25 March 2021, earlier than the usual six-month period at the request of the local area. At this meeting greater emphasis would be expected on the impact of the improvement work on children, young people and their families and the consistency of service/provision across the local area. 


With regards to next steps the SEND Partnership Strategic Lead explained that Ofsted and the CQC would re-visit the Cumbria local area to assess the progress made in addressing the nine areas of significant weakness detailed in the WSoA. This was expected to take place within 18 months of the WSoA being approved; the approval was received on 18 October 2019 and therefore a revisit is expected to take place by 18 April 2021. Arrangements to prepare for the revisit inspection would be led by the SEND Partnership Strategic Lead on behalf of all partners.


A review of the local area’s progress to implement the WSoA was undertaken by the SEND Partnership Strategic lead in November 2020. This included a summary of the key points in the Ofsted letter, aligned with the nine areas for improvement to illustrate how these judgements were made. 


A series of questions posed to senior leaders was guiding priorities for action in 2021, with work now taking place in response. This was supported by the development of a draft self-evaluation for SEND which would be considered by the SEND Partnership Improvement Board at their meeting on 1 February 2021.



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