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(UK) Bristol: Govt orders city council to address SPED crisis/"massive delays"

Jan 18, 2023, Bristol Post: Government orders Bristol City Council to fix SEND parents crisis

SE England

The Government has ordered Bristol City Council to fix its “fractured relationship” with parents of children with special educational needs (SEND). City Hall bosses are finalising an “accelerated progress plan”, which needs to be submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) by February 1, following a re-inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in October.

The government officials referred the local authority’s education department to Whitehall for “further action” after concluding it had failed to reverse years of mistrust, a situation exacerbated by last year’s SEND spying scandal. Leaked documents revealed city council staff monitored social media posts and photos of SEND parents critical of the service’s poor quality and massive delays to education, health and care plans (EHCPs).

Then it emerged that the authority had blocked DfE funding to Bristol Parent Carer Forum, the charity that had been liaising with it on improving SEND provision but whose members were subject to the surveillance, although the council insisted the two issues were unrelated. Ofsted and the CQC revisited the city three months ago to check progress in five areas of “significant weakness” identified by the original inspection in 2019 and found sufficient improvements had been made in four of them.

But the fifth – “the fractured relationships with parents and carers, lack of co-production and variable engagement and collaboration” – had not been sorted and “continues to affect the quality of co-production that takes place between area leaders and parents and carers”. City council interim director of education and skills Richard Hanks told Bristol health & wellbeing board on Thursday, January 12, that inspectors found a “more mixed view” from parents onthe quality of support to youngsters than before….

He said: “We acknowledge that not all young people with SEND get the support they need as quickly as they could and that timeliness is something we need to continue to work on. We can make changes to systems and processes and to professional development in the workforce in our schools and settings but it will take time for that to lead to a positive experience for all parents. …

“These are critical, fundamental things that still need a lot of work.” He said there was still a long way to go to improve the four areas where sufficient progress had been made, including lack of accountability of leaders at all levels, inconsistent timeliness and effectiveness in assessing SEND pupils, inadequate EHCPs, and high levels of underachievement, absenteeism and exclusions….

“Parent carers are not difficult, we spend our daily lives having to deal with daily council incompetence and spend years navigating legal action we don't want to take part in simply because the council will not and still does not follow the law. The relationship with parent carers is fractured due to the way the council continues to behave and the way it behaves is a political choice.”


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