Inspection of special educational needs provision in Sunderland highlights areas of progress but “significant concerns” remain

The city’s education and health leaders have said they’re “pleased with the overall report” from a recent inspection but acknowledge there are still “significant concerns” which need to be addressed.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 5:00 am

A joint inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was undertaken to assess support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The report identified “significant developments” in SEND provision since Children’s Services were taken over by Together for Children and in particular the increase in educational settings for SEND children and additional resource provision in schools but also highlighted “significant concerns” regarding effectiveness.

A joint statement from Sunderland City Council, Together for Children and the Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are pleased with the overall report received from Ofsted and the CQC, who’ve recognised there are several areas of strength within SEND services across the local area and that improvements have been made to improve the outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

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Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have carried out an inspection into provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Sunderland.

"We know there’s more to do and we are taking steps in the right direction to ensure the experiences of children and families are consistent and their needs are addressed in a way that’s right for them.”

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Inspectors praised the speed with which children with SEND are identified – which is above the national average – and the implementation of Education Healthcare (EHC) Plans to address individual needs.

The report highlighted how this has contributed to improving outcomes for children.

Sunderland City Council's Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Louise Farthing, said that children with special educational needs and disabilities are "a top priority for the City Council".

Inspectors stated: “Overall, academic outcomes for children and young people with SEND are improving, especially in the early years and in primary schools.

"Partnership work between the education team and headteachers is beginning to have a positive impact on outcomes for children and young people with

SEND.

"The proportions of children and young people with SEND who are subject to fixed-term or permanent exclusion are decreasing. The attendance of children and young people with SEND is improving and the proportion who are persistently absent is decreasing."

However the report also identified concerns which require the submission of a Written Statement of Action to Ofsted, outlining how they’ll be addressed. Health and education chiefs were keen to stress this is not an unusual occurrence with 59 per cent of Local Authorities nationally asked to submit one and 72 per cent across the North East and Yorkshire and Humber.

A key concern is a lack of cohesion in the “joint commissioning” of support for SEND and consistency of provision during periods of transition. The report highlighted “parents feel there’s a cliff edge when their children reach the age of 18”.

Inspectors also said academic outcomes for children at Key Stage 4 (Year 10 and 11) are “improving but remain too low”.

Councillor Louise Farthing, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Young people with SEND are a top priority so we’re pleased Ofsted and the CQC have recognised a number of areas where SEND services are working well and the progress that has been made in improving services in recent years.

"We fully accept there’s still work to be done and are already addressing the areas where further improvements need to be made.”

During the production of the report inspectors surveyed families of children with SEND who make up the Parent Carer Forum which was identified as being ‘active and influential’.

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