Progress being made to improve services for children with special educational needs and disabilities
Significant steps are being taken to improve the support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Oxfordshire following Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission’s local area partnership inspection of SEND services in July.
Progress is already being made in improving the timeliness of education, health and care (EHC) plans for those who need them. As of September 2023, in Oxfordshire 48 per cent of assessments were being processed within statutory timeframes compared to four per cent in January 2023¹.
The local area partnership members² – including 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 – have been working, together with the county’s parent carer forum (PCF) and professional subject matter leads, to develop a priority action plan detailing clear and measurable service improvements. This will be submitted to the Department for Education by Tuesday 24 October.
An Oxfordshire SEND Strategic Improvement and Assurance Board (SIAB) has been formally established made up of senior leaders from across the partnership and members of the PCF. The SIAB will drive the action required to deliver better services for SEND children, young people and their families. The board will have an independent chair and will be supported by the new cabinet member at the county council focused on SEND improvement.
Councillor Kate Gregory, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Improvement, said: “My new role is to ensure a constant focus in rapid action to deliver significant improvements. Our priorities must be on rebuilding trust with parents and children. The voices of parents, carers and children and their lived experiences are central to our improvement work. Only by listening, engaging and understanding will we achieve our joint aim of ensuring better outcomes consistently for the most vulnerable children and young people in the county.”
To ensure there is continual dialogue with families, children and young people and professionals, the partnership will hold a variety of mid-term information gathering and sharing sessions (online and in-person), including in educational settings, to gather feedback. These will be supported by existing meetings with the parent carer forum and other parent and carer support groups.
The local area partnership recognises the importance of meeting the needs of children and young people at the earliest opportunity. For those where an EHC plan is required, the county council is continuing to build extra capacity in the SEND team to keep improving the timeliness of EHC plans. It is in the process of recruiting a SEND improvement officer, with responsibility for delivering the priority action plan, and a parent liaison officer who will be a single point of contact for parents to communicate with.
Cllr Gregory added: “Since the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspection, the partnership is building the right relationships together that will be needed to drive significant improvement to services. We are determined to make the changes needed to provide children, young people and their families with the services they need and deserve.”
Notes to editors
¹As of September 2023, in Oxfordshire 48 per cent of assessments were being processed within statutory timeframes. The current national average as reported by the Department for Education (DfE) in June 2023 and based on the January 2023 SEN2 data return is 50.7 per cent.
Monthly progress on processing assessments for EHC plans within statutory timeframes:
|Cumulative % in 20 weeks for 2022|
In January 2023, there were approximately 23,000 children and young people with SEND in Oxfordshire (SEN2 Jan 23 census and Jan 2023 school census data published by the DfE). This included 5,427 with an education, health and care (EHC) plan in the age bracket 0 - 25. The total number of EHC plans that Oxfordshire maintains is increasing month on month, in line with regional and national trends and now exceeds 6,200.
²Oxfordshire County Council and NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB) are jointly responsible for the planning and commissioning of services (across education, health and social care) for children and young people with SEND in Oxfordshire.
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