To note the attached LGA SEND Peer Review report.
7.1 Kirsten Harrison, Director for Education, introduced Helen Ford, the new ICB (Integrated Care Board) SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Senior Responsible Officer. She explained that lots of improvement work had been going on around local area SEND services and that the LGA (Local Government Association) SEND Peer Review had been invited to test GCC’s self-evaluation and examine its improvement plans. It had been a helpful benchmarking process with a number of learning points. She explained that an Ofsted- CQC Local Area SEND inspection was expected in the coming weeks and significant work following the LGA review should mean there would be improvements recognised in the upcoming inspection.
ACTION – DSU to explore involving HOSC Committee members when the Ofsted Local Area SEND inspection comes to CFOSC.
7.2 Helen Ford explained that they were taking a joint approach with a joint strategic improvement plan. A programme board had been set up with different work streams to address specific areas that needed improvement. They were currently advertising for a programme manager and investment had been secured for additional staff in the community trust who would be able to assess health needs in Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) more rapidly. The officer also explained that a joint commissioning strategy was being worked on.
7.3 A member asked for more information on how the review processed worked. It was explained that the LGA had been asked for experts by GCC and the LGA identified an experienced team to undertake the review process in April 2023. The upcoming Ofsted inspection would be similar to the Joint Target Area Inspection (JTAI) in format and duration except it would be led by an education HMI (His Majesty’s Inspectorate) and the exact number of inspectors was determined by the size of the authority. It would be a three-week inspection, with the first two weeks involving field work, surveys and conversations with children and their families. The inspectors would also oversee a multi-agency audit process around EHCPs and triangulate the outcome of those with conversations with the children and parents and other evidence. The officer explained that it would be a very thorough inspection process against 11 inspection framework criteria.
7.4 In response to a question about involvement of families that had written to Ofsted to complain about GCC, it was explained that the inspectors would have access to all communications and complaints to them and they would consider all the data available and whilst they may interview those people, they would not necessarily seek out those individuals as part of the interview process.
7.5 In response to a question about training for staff in maintained schools and academies and support for SEND co-ordinators (SENDcos), it was explained that workforce development was a key focus. There was already lots of training available and it was important to make sure teaching staff and SENDcos were aware of those resources and were able to use them fully. It was explained that more could be done to be more co-ordinated at a strategic level in workforce training mapping. From September 2023 there had been investment to ensure every school had a named educational psychologist who would support children and support the school in making sure staff were aware of inclusive practice. School colleagues also now sit on EHCP panels. It was highlighted that the Ofsted inspection would be focusing on impact, and that this would follow from the correct planning and mobilisation.
7.6 A member noted that SEND support seemed strong for early years but deteriorated in older age groups. It was explained that the excellence noted for early years and primary was not being sustained across all phases and that the transition from primary to secondary had challenges. It was expected that with new special schools opening, there would be more provision for those that were not adequately supported in mainstream schools and this should help outcomes for these children.
7.7 Philip Robinson, the Cabinet Member for Educations, Skills and Bus Transport, explained that a lot of work had begun since the review in April. He highlighted that high needs block funding was in a significant deficit and that the national funding formula was not adequately providing for children with SEND needs. He also highlighted that this under-funding would not be taken into account by Ofsted. Efforts were being made to campaign for greater funding.
7.8 In response to a question about the 11 judgement criteria used in the review, it was explained that there were 11 framework criteria that areas were assessed against with 3 main outcomes. The member was reassured that the process was presented to parents in a way which would not be overwhelming. It was also clarified that parent experiences were taken into account as part of the review.