An improvement programme to ensure Swindon implements disability and special educational needs reforms will be accelerated following a recent inspection.
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have today (15 Jan) published a report after carrying out a joint inspection of the special educational needs and disabilities services provided by Swindon Borough Council, Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Public Health and education settings in November.
The week-long inspection reviewed the effectiveness of the area in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014.
Inspectors pointed out that authorities had accurately identified the right areas for improvement and that some were already being carried out. It was noted that many changes were at an early stage and some had not started to deliver the impact required. These include improvements to the Local Offer website and Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP).
Ofsted and the CQC identified areas of weakness that the partnership is working to address led by strong partnership and collaboration and strengthened governance and accountability measures. A quality assurance framework is in place and a secondary head teacher working group has been set up to review exclusions and absence with specific reference to SEND. Schools will be working with the DFE’s Behaviour Tsar to address issues relating to behaviour and exclusions.
Parents and young people had their say during the inspection and raised some concern about delays in assessments and services available to them. They also said that communication with them could be better. The report highlighted the lack of a designated medical officer.
A number of strengths were recognised by inspectors, including the work of frontline SENCO practitioners in schools, the outcomes in Early Years and Key Stage One, the implementation of a Healthy Child Programme and investment in therapy services.
The report highlighted that public health nurses ensure young people get timely support for speech and language services and the newly-formed Swindon Families Voice provides valued information and support.
The inspection also noted the effective provision for children with physical and sensory difficulties and the Challenging Behaviour courses run for parents which has reduced the number of referrals for Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) assessments.
Councillor Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and School Attainment, said: “We always strive to improve the services we provide for young people who need our help and these types of inspections play an important role in identifying areas where we need to do better, while also acknowledging the good work that is taking place.
“The inspection recognised that our self-assessment was accurate and there is much yet to do. We are heartened that the inspectors recognised that a lot of work is already well underway to ensure that the local area meets the disability and special educational needs reforms. Overall we very much need to up the pace of our improvement programme so we improve the outcomes for children and young people more quickly. We welcome the additional input to help us focus our efforts.
“I am particularly pleased the report recognises the commitment of frontline staff across the partnership, who do a great job and are already playing a key role in implementing the improvements that need to be made.”
Gill May, Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group’s Director Nursing and Transformation, said: “The report confirms the strength of partnership in Swindon and that the local area understands its strengths and priorities and is already working on the key issues identified.
“We are working closely with the Council and with Swindon Families Voice (who represent families of children with special needs and disabilities) to ensure that families and children and young people are at the heart of the improvements that are made.
“We are committed to making the improvements and build upon the good work that is taking place.”
Both the Council and CCG will have 70 days after the publication of the report to respond to the key areas of weakness identified in the plan.