The outcomes for children and young people in Cambridgeshire with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) are improving, says Ofsted – and strong leadership from organisations and agencies involved in supporting them is making a difference.
Back in March, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) conducted a joint inspection to judge Cambridgeshire’s effectiveness in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms, which are part of the Children and Families Act 2014.
The full findings of that inspection are published by Ofsted today (Thursday, June 22), but the main points highlighted by inspectors were that: council, health and education leaders understand well the issues around the development of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services; improvements they’ve already made are having an effect: they are clear about what they still need to do.
They found all organisations understood that while they might not have been quick enough to implement improvements needed around the reforms of 2014, there are now credible plans in place to make rapid improvement; and that the actions being taken are making a difference.
Main findings included:
- Leaders collaborate effectively with parents to develop services that meet the needs of children and young people, such as the design of a lifelong pathway for SEND.
- Providers and local area officers make sure that the views of parents and carers, children and young people are included in the plans.
- Safeguarding for this group is given a high priority – particularly for those placed out of county with regular visits and scrutiny of providers.
- Children and young people with SEND progress as well as others at secondary schools and colleges. However, the children receiving SEN support make less progress than all pupils nationally during key stage 2.
- Young people are well supported into adulthood with high proportions in work, further education or in training.
- Specialist health services are providing care within the target 18 weeks.
- Health professionals hold joint clinics to identify those with SEND needs early.
- A high proportion of new education, health and care plans (EHCPs) are completed within the required 20-weeks.
- Specialist services provided by education, health and social care professionals are of high quality and are well regarded.
- Professionals across the local area are organised in geographical teams and make sure that there is close joint working between agencies, including services that are available to all and some targeted at specific groups.
- Professionals share information about individual children and young people, making their work more cohesive and ensuring that needs are met more effectively.
Inspectors found that senior leaders in the local area are working well together to improve services:
- As a result of local area leaders and school leaders working together to support children exhibiting challenging behaviour, the number of permanent exclusions has reduced by three quarters in a 12-month period.
Strong and effective leadership is evident in joint commissioning arrangements:
- As an example health and social care are jointly commissioning face-to-face and online counselling services as part of their work to improve emotional health and well-being. Children and young people were involved in the design of the services provided. Keep Your Head and Kooth
Simon Bywater, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee said: “Supporting vulnerable children and their families and improving their life chances is central to everything we do as a County Council. This inspection shows that we are an organisation that knows itself, can work collaboratively with our partners and make real improvements where we need to.
“This report gives us plenty to think about and to build on, but it makes encouraging reading for us and – most importantly – for those families who rely on us to support their children’s development”
Jill Houghton, Chief Nurse, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s encouraging to see that Ofsted recognises the progress we are already making on improving the areas highlighted within the report, and that they can see the positive affect these improvements are having on children and families. This is an excellent example of how local organisations and service users can work in partnership to improve the quality of care provided to local people.”
As part of the inspection, Inspectors spoke with children and young people who are receiving the services, parents and carers, and officers and leaders from Cambridgeshire County Council and the Cambridge and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group. They visited a range of providers and spoke to leaders, staff and governors about how they were implementing the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) reforms.