Commitment to improving services for children with special needs

children paper cut out

Bracknell Forest Council and Frimley CCG have renewed their commitment to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), following the release of a joint Ofsted and CQC report inspection of the Local Area provision for SEND.

The report, released on 1 March 2022, looked closely at services provided by schools, health providers and the local authority, to children and young adults with SEND.

The feedback provided from Ofsted, the CQC and stakeholders has been welcomed by local area SEND providers, who had themselves been reviewing the current provision since 2021. Inspectors’ comments reaffirm the findings of these internal reviews, and an agreed action plan of priorities was already in place to address areas requiring development, prior to the visit.

Progress against the current action plan was being made and has continued, although the report noted that improvements were in their early stages.

Inspectors also noted that SEND professionals recognise the amount of work needed to improve services and that there is a sense of urgency to make these improvements. They also recognised that more education and health care (EHC) plans were now being completed on time, compared to the last academic year.

While the report recognises the urgency to improve and is complementary of the SEND early years services provided throughout the borough, it has highlighted areas for development and the council and Frimley CCG will now provide an official Written Statement of Action (WSOA) following the inspection in November last year.

Areas for development of local SEND services include:

  • development of a clear, co-produced strategy for improvements needed
  • improving the confidence from parents and carers regarding education, healthcare and social opportunities for children and young people with SEND
  • ensuring appropriate educational provision for some children and young people with SEND is available in the borough
  • broadening support available to youngsters while waiting for occupational therapy services. Also, increasing capacity in the occupational therapy team, to minimise delays to their contributions to EHC plans
  • averting mental crises in youngsters through providing timely support
  • improving long-term planning for young people as they move into adulthood
  • raising awareness of available advice

However, areas of strong practice have been singled out for praise, including:

  • SEND services in early years (children aged 0 to 5)
  • relationships between health visitors, families and other professionals
  • the GEMS services – providing help and support to children and young people awaiting assessment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • targeted help and support to assist academic achievements, particularly in early years
  • the SEND information, advice and support service (SENDIASS)

Cllr Gareth Barnard, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Learning at Bracknell Forest Council, said:

“We have a duty of care to all Bracknell Forest children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, to ensure they are receiving the most appropriate support in their education and wellbeing.

“We are very aware that although we have started to address areas for development, there are still significant challenges ahead. We fully recognise that current standards are not at the high level we expect of ourselves, or at the standard our children, young people and their families deserve. Communication with families needs to improve to ensure their children and young people are being fully supported. This is an area we are already addressing.

“We are grateful for the advice and support from Ofsted and the CQC and will continue to work with Frimley CCG to ensure we have a very robust plan in place to drive forward changes needed, in line with the recommendations. Some of these changes will take time to establish, but we will work together with our partners and SEND families to ensure we put children, young people and families at the heart of what we do.”

Positive actions that have taken place so far or are currently underway, include:

  • regular Parent Carer Forum meetings, which have resulted in parents offering to participate in five well represented SEN working groups focussing on areas for improvement
  • proposals co-produced with schools and other stakeholders for further SEND placements and provision in Bracknell Forest, due for approval in April 2022
  • revised strategy being developed to identify next steps for improving journey for SEND children, young people and families
  • post 16/pathways to adulthood work prioritised and progressing – developing provision and pathways for young people, with parents, providers and agencies working together
  • progress being made to enhance the current Local Offer website, containing SEND advice, support and social care provision - this will continue in 2022

Fiona Slevin-Brown, Executive Director, Bracknell Forest Frimley CCG, said:

“We are committed to improving outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities living in the Bracknell Forest area and welcome the key recommendations within the report.

“With our partners, we will work with children and young people and their carers to inform our shared improvement priorities.”

The full report can be found on the Ofsted website.