SEND re-visit 4 to 6 July 2022

Outcome of Inspector’s revisit of SEND Local Area

The outcome of the Ofsted and CQC re-visit of Central Bedfordshire’s SEND Local Area is published today (8 September 2022). Read the letter (PDF).

Ofsted and the CQC assessed the Local Area’s progress against the six areas of weakness that were detailed in the inspection report letter dated 20 February 2020. The inspectors recognised progress had been made in all six areas, with three areas making sufficient progress that the inspectors no longer require these to be monitored. These were:

  • SEND Strategy
  • co-production
  • Local Offer

The inspectors noted that the area has a well-thought-out SEND strategy, with well-established multi-agency structures to provide strategic oversight and ensure operational delivery of the strategy. The inspectors also noted a positive culture of joint working and openness across the partnership. Collaborative working was highlighted as a strength with an increasingly strong commitment to co-production and increased opportunities for leaders to listen to families and respond to what they hear. Inspectors could see our Local Offer is helpful to families and professionals and is reflective of the aspiration and interests of our children and young people. Although these three areas don’t need to be externally monitored anymore, we will continue our hard work to continuously improve in each of these areas.

There were three areas where inspectors acknowledged some progress had been made but changes were too recent to have an impact and be felt by parents yet. These were: 

  • ensuring that the needs of children and young people are identified and met in their education, health and care plans (EHCPs)
  • the quality of new EHCPs
  • delivering good outcomes for children and young people with SEND

We know how fundamentally important timely and quality EHCPs are to children and young people with complex needs getting the right support. We published information in May about this and acknowledged that this is unacceptable and we explained what we were doing to address this.

We accept our progress in this area has been too slow and our more recent actions to improve EHCPs have not had time to make a noticeable difference, but inspectors commented that the steps we are taking are in the right direction and we have a good understanding of the extensive work that is required to improve, and we are addressing this critically important area with candour and greater rigour.

Inspectors commented that some of the more recent annual reviews are of very high quality. We want every child, young people and their families to have this experience.

Inspectors recognised our recent recruitment of additional Educational Psychologists, introducing a robust quality assurance process, early intervention initiatives and continuous monitoring and reporting are already leading to improvements.

We also have plans in place to implement a completely new EHCP auditing tool which has been tried and tested at other local authorities and proven to be extremely effective. Staff across the partnership will be trained to use this new tool and we plan to implement in September.

Inspectors could see that we are putting children and young people at the centre of everything we do, there is effective and open partnership working and they have confidence that we will be able to build on our progress. They reported that both leaders and staff feel there has been a sea change in the culture of joint working and openness to respond positively to challenges and recently appointed leaders have seized the opportunity to build on this and accelerate the pace of change.

In terms of what happens next, we are required to produce a progress plan to the DfE and NHS England who will monitor our progress on the remaining three areas over the next 12 months. This plan will be our commitment in making sure these three areas continue to improve sufficiently and everyone will feel the benefits. This will be available on our website once it has been agreed.

We will provide more information about the inspector’s findings and our accelerated improvement plan at the next Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Of course, the Written Statement of Action is only part of our improvement. In their verbal feedback to us, inspectors acknowledged and commended our approach to taking a wider view of where we need to improve. Inspectors said area leaders and members are genuine in their recognition of the legitimate concerns of children and young people with SEND and their families. We are determined to deliver the best service for our children, young people and their families.

View or download letter from CQC and Ofsted (PDF)