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(UK) Devon: "Damning" report on SPED services; 2,000 on autism wait list

July 9, 2022, Radio EXE Devon: Damning special education report

SW England

Government could take action in Devon

The government is threatening to intervene after a scathing new report revealed Devon’s services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have not improved.
Four areas of “significant concern” were identified by an inspector in December 2018 following a joint visit by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), but a revisit this May found “progress has not been made” in fixing any of them.

Devon County Council and NHS Devon, which works in partnership to run SEND services in the county, have both apologised.

Representatives from the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England will meet council and local health leaders later this month to discuss next steps, which could include an intervention by the new education secretary James Cleverly, who was appointed on Thursday [7 July].

The critical findings put further pressure on the county council’s underperforming children’s services department, which was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in a separate inspection in 2020.

Monitoring visits since then, however, have shown some signs of improvement under a new leadership team appointed last year.

The initial joint inspection into Devon’s SEND services in 2019 found that staff needed to improve their understanding of the overall strategy, improve communication, improve support for children with autism and improve the speed and quality of education, health and care plans – legal documents that outline a young person’s special educational needs.

As a result of the findings, Her Majesty’s chief inspector decided a ‘written statement of action’ was required because of “significant areas of weakness in the area’s practice.”…

The fourth weakness – supporting those with autism – has also failed to make sufficient progress. There has been a reduction in the overall number waiting for a specialist assessment, but children and young people “still wait too long.”
“Currently, there are almost 2,000 children and young people on the waiting list and almost half of these have been waiting for over a year. These numbers do not capture the whole picture of need.”

However, the report concludes: “As none of the significant weaknesses have improved, it is for DfE and NHS England to determine the next steps.”

In a letter to the county council and NHS Devon, Fiona Nzegwu, deputy director at the Department for Education said: “The issues raised in the Ofsted/CQC report are serious and it is concerning that progress has not been made in any of the four areas of weakness previously identified….

The meeting between local leaders, the DfE and NHS England will take place at county hall on Tuesday 19 July.


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