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(UK) Suffolk: Schools "failing children with special needs"

Jan 20, 2024, E. Anglian Daily Times: OFSTED says Suffolk is failing children with special needs

E. England

Suffolk's children with special educational needs are still being failed despite several warnings according to a damning new OFSTED report which says families have been let down.

The report follows an inspection of the service in November - and demands improvements before officials return in 18 months' time.

The report prompted apologies and promises to improve from Suffolk County Council and NHS officials - but parents and opposition politicians say they have heard that before.

There was a scathing report into SEND in Suffolk in 2016 - which led to promises of improvement.

Now the latest report says there are still huge problems in the service….

It is particularly critical of the time taken to assess problems: "Needs are not identified early or well….

"Families experience long waiting times for services, such as for autism assessment and diagnosis.

"Often, children’s needs are not clearly identified or articulated in their plan. This leads to some parents and carers being left not knowing how best to help their children.

"Unidentified and unmet needs sometimes manifest in behaviours which too frequently result in many not accessing mainstream settings, because of  exclusion or absence.

"That said, pupils who need provision in alternative provision and special schools often get the positive support that they previously lacked."

Meanwhile officials and councillors from the county and local health services apologised for the state of SEND provision - and their inability to correct failings earlier.

Rachel Hood, Cabinet Member for SEND at the council said: “We are sorry that experiences and outcomes of some children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are not as good as they should be, and as we want them to be….

Opposition councillors at Suffolk County Council reacted with anger and dismay today following the publication of the report.

Ash Lever, Green, LibDem and Independent Group spokesperson for Education and Child Protection, said: “This report is devastating for the families and children that it is the council’s job to support and serve.

"SEND services in Suffolk have been failing for years and the administration has shown no sign that it is able to get to grips with it.

"Moreover, the Conservatives’ proposed budget makes devastating inspections like these all the more likely, as they are planning significant cuts to the education and learning service, early years and skills.

"This means that families will struggle even more to access the help they need. This report is proof positive that this Conservative run council is in danger of failing an entire generation.”

Former Labour councillor Jack Abbott said: “This is yet another damning report into Suffolk County Council’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

"How many more are we supposed to read before the lived experiences of families start to improve?“This systemic failure has continued for a decade, and yet we are supposed to believe that this time things will be different, that this time the Conservatives really mean it when they say that SEND is now a priority.

“I, and the families who have been left exhausted and broken by Suffolk County Council’s negligence, have completely lost faith that they will ever turn this around. After ignoring this crisis for so long, the Government must now intervene to provide the resources and expertise Suffolk County Council so clearly needs."


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