Progress continues to be made by Medway agencies supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities
Medway agencies supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities have today (19 February) welcomed the findings from Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) that progress has been made in their work to improve the services they deliver for young people.
Today has also seen the launch of a strategy setting out the strategic direction, vision and key areas of development that will be the focus for local partners involved in supporting Medway’s children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Ofsted and CQC visited Medway between 9 and 11 December 2019 to carry out a joint revisit of the area’s SEND provision. The revisit was carried out to decide whether sufficient progress has been made in addressing eight areas with weaknesses identified in a previous visit in 2017 and set out in a written statement of action in January 2018.
Ofsted and CQC found that Medway has made sufficient progress in five of the eight areas with successful joint initiatives and practices highlighted in the report.
Areas where sufficient progress has been made
- Taking suitable responsibility for ensuring the effective implementation of the reforms
- Clearly understood and effective lines of accountability
- Effective co-production at all levels
- Sufficient information to inform accurate evaluation
- Quality and rigour of self-evaluation and monitoring and effectiveness in driving improvement
Areas where sufficient progress has yet to be made
- Improving joint strategic leadership between the council, CCG and education providers
- Lack of a clearly communicated strategy understood and shared by leaders across the area
- Quality of EHC plans
Overall, agencies in Medway are working better together to support children with special educational needs and disabilities, and improve the service they provide. Inspectors recognised that ‘a network of skilled and committed professionals’ are determined to implement effective improvements.
The report praised, in particular, the voice given to children and young people as part of the improvement journey enabling them to act as ambassadors for young people and children with SEND, ensuring that the voice of children, young people and families is heard and understood by leaders in decision making roles. The important role played by the Medway Parents and Carers Forum was also recognised for their excellent work in providing support to struggling families and providing effective challenge to professionals.
The review acknowledged a number of successes, including specialist training and newly created roles within schools which have helped strengthen the effective implementation of improvements. The inspectors also found that Medway has made strong progress to strengthen self-evaluation to better meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
Inspectors also acknowledged that there is greater emphasis on gathering information and forward planning. Medway Council has carried out a review of suitable school provision for children and young people with SEND, and inspectors recognised how this piece of work has helped identify 120 new school places.
Multi-agency work to support children
A SEND Improvement Board, co-chaired by Medway Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services and the Chief Nurse for Medway, has been established including the wide range of partners from education, health, government, parents, carers and young people. The board’s role is to ensure the efficient implementation of the reforms and Medway’s SEND improvement action plan and is now working well together.
To ensure that the improvement journey continues at pace, a multi-agency SEND Strategy has been launched today (19 February) setting out a joint strategic direction to be taken by all local partners involved in supporting children and young people with SEND. The strategy, which sets out seven key priorities and actions, was produced with the input of parents and young people and focusses on key areas for improvement that the council, health, social care and education partners will focus on to improve opportunities for young people with SEND to help them live fulfilled lives and achieve independence in their local community. The strategy sets out aims for children and young people including early identification of special educational needs, high quality inclusion provision in mainstream schools, sufficiency of school places in Medway, promoting independence skills in preparation for adulthood, increasing co-production with parents and young people, joint planning and pooled resources, and enabling young people to have the best possible physical and mental health and wellbeing. The strategy is set against a challenging environment in Medway which is seeing increasing demand for specialist placements with an estimated need of 484 more special school places, 200 more resourced provision places and 500 more children supported in mainstream placements by 2024/25.
Portfolio holder for Children's Services
Commenting on the findings of the revisit review and the launch of the SEND strategy, Cllr Josie Iles, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said: “Medway’s children are at the heart of everything we do and I am pleased that Ofsted and Care Quality Commission have recognised the improvements we have all been implementing. It is encouraging that Medway agencies have improved in many of the areas identified by the initial inspection, however, we recognise that there is still some way to go to better support children with special educational needs and disabilities.
“We are working even closer with Medway CCG and other key partners, such as schools, to improve on the three remaining areas, as well as to sustainably maintain the five areas we have already improved.
“We are pleased to be launching our SEND strategy today setting out a clear direction of travel for the provision of SEND services locally to together ensure all our children and young people with SEND are provided with opportunities to reach their full potential. It will require all parties to pull together over the coming years to tackle the ongoing challenges, not least the increasing numbers of young people needing our support particularly within a school setting.”
CCG's Chief Nurse
Paula Wilkins, Chief Nurse at Medway, Swale, West Kent and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “We are very pleased that progress has been made in the majority of areas but obviously there is still work to be done. The introduction of the SEND Improvement Board is helping us to work more efficiently together and hear directly from children, young people and their families.
“We will continue to work closely with Medway Council and education providers to ensure young people with special educational needs or disabilities have the provision they deserve.”
Medway Parents and Carers Forum
A spokesperson for Medway Parents and Carers Forum said: “Medway Parents and Carers Forum have yet to read the report in detail due to the half term but are pleased to note that the team conducting the inspection revisit observed some progress since they last visited two years ago, though we feel there is still much work outstanding.
“We would like to thank all parents who participated in and contributed to the Ofsted/CQC Inspection Revisit.
“The Forum will continue to offer parents a voice and to support them, providing clear and effective challenge to both service commissioners and providers to ensure that the service our children and young people receive in the future is of the highest possible quality.”