Services for children with special educational needs are improving in Oxfordshire, says inspector

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County Hall
Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has made progress in Oxfordshire with senior leaders from the education, health and care services working effectively together.

This was the finding of a recent Ofsted review of SEND services following a full inspection in 2017.

In the report Ofsted described the leaders as having an ‘aspirational vision’ for children with special educational needs and disabilities and inspectors found that leaders across the education, health and care system were taking full responsibility to improve the service.

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“Accountability has been strengthened and there is now a helpful mechanism for overseeing improvement,” the inspectors said.

Ofsted said that three out of five areas that needed reviewing after the 2017 inspection are now making ‘sufficient progress’, while two need further improvement.

Inspectors found that parents do not yet feel part of this vision and do not fully understand what work is being done to achieve it. Oxfordshire County Council recognises this challenge and is addressing it with education partners.

Lucy Butler, director of children services for Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We strive for excellence in our education of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities.

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"I am encouraged that Ofsted recognises this commitment and the progress made, but we know more must be done to show young people and their parents that we are determined to improve support for them.

“We are already looking at ways to involve parents, carers and children much more so we can work together to make sure that young people get the support they want and need to succeed. This is part of our determination to improve opportunities for all young people and make sure they have the best start in life.”

Inspectors acknowledged progress in the council’s and Oxfordshire Care Commissioning Group's (OCCG) work to improve the quality of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans, which identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.

More new EHC needs assessments are being completed within the statutory 20 weeks, despite a significant increase in the number of assessment requests. However, overall, the quality of EHC plans remains too variable, not reliably reflecting children, young people and their parents’ aspirations.

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Ofsted stated it was encouraged by the reduction in the number of school days lost to exclusion:

‘Initiatives to reduce the high level of fixed-term exclusions in mainstream secondary schools are starting to make a difference. The rate of fixed-term exclusions for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs in secondary schools is also lower than it was in 2017.

Leaders from both the County Council and OCCG are committed to working together to address areas requiring improvement; and those described as making ‘progress’.

Sula Wiltshire, director of quality and nursing at Oxfordshire CCG, said: "We are encouraged by the improvements which have been made over the last two years.

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"However, we continue to work with our partners to make the further improvements which are needed to ensure our most vulnerable children and young people in Oxfordshire, and their parents and carers, have the joined up services they need and deserve.”