Central Bedfordshire Council and partners have been working together over the last year to transform services for children with special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) following an OFSTED and CQC inspection in 2019 which identified areas for improvement.
As part of the council’s commitment to improving the services, we commissioned an independent Peer Review to help us and our health partners objectively assess progress that has been made since 2019 and what work still needs to be done to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND in Central Bedfordshire.
The Peer Review was carried out by four independent SEND experts from other local authorities. They included a member of a Parent Carer Forum, an education expert, a social care representative who is also an OFSTED Inspector and a health representative.
The team conducted a two-day review of the improvement areas outlined by OFSTED in 2019 (Strategic Leadership of SEND, Coproduction, Quality of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and the Local Offer) in July using the best model of practice for SEND local area inspections. Over the two days, the team reviewed the evidence from a cross section of material including policy documents, EHCPs and data sets, and interviewed staff, SNAP members, school staff, health representatives and Overview and Scrutiny Members.
The reviewers acknowledged the significant investment in resources, staff, training, multi-agency working and the development in improving the quality and personalisation of EHCPs.
The reviewers also highlighted that some of the improvements that had been made were not yet being felt by all schools, parents and carers, and young people, because the reviewers recognised that these improvements were not embedded across all services. Likewise, the new developments on the Local Offer need to be more widely communicated to parents and young people.
Whilst the review highlights the good progress that has been made and provides a useful check point that the changes are making a difference on our 18 month improvement journey, we are not complacent about what more we need to do. We will ensure the reviewer’s feedback about areas they identified for improvement are integrated into our current action plan so we can provide a service that meets the needs of SEND children and their families and is a service we can be proud of.