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(UK) Oxfordshire: "Damning report" on special ed after inspection

Sept 18, 2023, Banbury Guardian: Banbury MP speaks out on damning OFSTED report on the dire state of SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) provision

SE England

An ongoing crisis in provision for children with special educational needs in Banbury and wider Oxfordshire has led to desperate parents feeling angry and helpless.
Oxforshire County Council’s (OCC) officers and councillors have issued deep apologies for the dire state of the SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) process after a catalogue of long-standing failings was published last week by OFSTED.

Their revelations show the situation is not a sudden problem. And Banbury MP Victoria Prentis said today (Monday): ”It is unacceptable that only 5,427 out of approximately 23,000 children and young people with SEND in Oxfordshire had an Educational, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place in January 2023. They must now right their wrongs, overhaul their processes and restore confidence in the system.”

"For most children, young people and their families, their experience is one of confusion and delay, alongside frustration that their presence and voice are not listened to or valued. Many do not receive the right support or have their needs met effectively… far too many children and young people are lost in the system. The processes intended to support them, hinder them.

"Children’s and young people’s needs are not consistently identified accurately or assessed in a timely and effective way right from the start. Where they are involved, early years settings, health visitors and school nurses do their best to identify and respond to emerging needs in babies, children and young people. However, there are lengthy waiting times for help and leaders have not acted effectively enough to ensure appropriate support is available to mitigate the negative impact of excessive waiting times.”

OFSTED continued: "Too many children and young people do not receive the right help until they are close to crisis point. This is hampered by the lack of cohesive communication systems between services which inhibits joined-up working. Poor information-sharing means important knowledge of children, young people and their families is not connected efficiently and effectively.

“In schools, staff are not always well supported to understand and meet the different needs of children and young people with SEND. Leaders know there is a lack of appropriate specialist settings and alternative provision (AP)… delays in finding the right setting to meet their needs means too many children and young people miss out on important learning and help for an extended time. Oxfordshire County Council's SEND provision was inspected by OFSTED which has released a damning report...

" Around 2,000 parents and carers shared their views with inspectors who said: “A tangible sense of helplessness runs through their descriptions of their lived experiences. These were typically about the years spent waiting or struggling to be heard to get support in education, health and care.”

An OCC statement said: “Oxfordshire local area partnership commits to significant improvements for children with SEND. (It) apologises to families and has committed to significant change to improve support....

Stephen Chandler, OCC’s Interim Executive Director, People, Transformation and Performance, said: “I am so sorry we have let families down. We fully and unequivocally accept the findings of this report. We must and will do better together as a partnership.

“We are urgently focusing our efforts to address the concerns raised. To do this, we want to develop a joint action plan together with parents and carers of young people with SEND as well as with other support and advocacy organisations....

Victoria Prentis MP said: ”I have long raised constituents’ concerns with the leadership at OCC but have often found them difficult to engage with. Having met a number of parents and carers to discuss their experiences, I know how challenging it has been for them to have their voices heard.

“The ‘widespread lack of confidence in area leadership’ identified in the report comes as no surprise.

“It is right that OCC has accepted full responsibility for their failings. They must now right their wrongs, overhaul their processes and restore confidence in the system.”

Oxfordshire County Council commissions a range of alternative provision for children or young people, including for those who cannot attend school due to social, emotional, and mental health and medical needs, or for those who are at risk of or have been permanently excluded.


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