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Improvements in SEND education reform commended by Department for Education and NHS England

The Department for Education and NHS England have confirmed that ‘good progress’ is being made in the widescale reform of the way Suffolk delivers education to children and young people with special educational needs.

This review meeting comes six months after an action plan was put in place to improve the way SEND education is delivered in Suffolk.  

Representatives from the Department for Education met with Suffolk County Council, and the Clinical Commissioning Group for Waveney and Norfolk, and Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk, to discuss and monitor SEND progress and improvement. A follow-up letter was sent confirming where improvement had been seen, whilst also urging further progress be made in other areas. The DfE will return in July to further monitor progress.  The letter is available to read here.

Rachel Hood, Cabinet Member for Education, SEND and Skills, said: “It is greatly encouraging that the Department for Education and NHS England have confidence in the progress being made in our SEND reform.

“This is a significant piece of work and we have a long way to go, but already we are seeing real and tangible results. This is credit to the hard work of the SEND team and, on behalf of Suffolk County Council, I thank them for their unrelenting work to achieve these pleasing improvements.”

The letter from the Department for Education praised the newly formed Parent Carer Forum and said it was evident that representatives will provide a robust challenge to statutory services and make a positive contribution to service improvements.

In September 2021, an independent review into Suffolk special educational needs provision highlighted failings in the service. The review looked at processes, communication protocols and family-facing elements of SEND provision and was commissioned by Suffolk County Council in June 2021. The report listed strengths and weaknesses of the service and included nine recommendations for improvement. These recommendations are now being implemented by Suffolk County Council and other partners who help deliver SEND services.

Suffolk County Council is working in collaboration with strategic partner, Impower, who have many years of experience reforming SEND services in other Local Authorities and who are advising on short and long-term improvements. They estimate that significant improvement will take up to 18 months.

Some of the improvement being made to SEND provision include:

  • a new Suffolk Parent Carer Forum (SPCF) has been set up to ensure co-ordinated working with families
  • the recruitment of 42 new members of staff to existing vacancies
  • a huge increase in the numbers of SEND children who received news of their new school place by the deadline (Feb 2022 79%, Feb 2021 22% ).  This ‘phased transfer’ refers to SEND children who are moving from early years to primary school and primary to secondary school, and was achieved by creating additional resource and redeploying staff for the short-term
  • greatly improved the quality of SEND data
  • Suffolk County Council’s Full Council signed off an additional £1.1m worth of ongoing investment in the 2022/23 Budget which will greatly help with capacity and increase staffing above the existing levels
  • a further 304 additional special school places opened in September 2021, on top of 229 created in 2020.  In 2022, a further 158 will be created; and a further 110 in 2023, making a total of 801
  • waiting times for diagnosing children with Autism and ADHD have been reduced by almost 40%
Evidence submitted for DfE & NHSE Revisit July 2022

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