An Overview and Scrutiny report into the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision within Bracknell Forest was presented to the Executive on 18 October.
The review was instigated following the national number of pupils with SEND increasing to 1.37 million in 2020. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the attainment gap between SEND and average attaining pupils increased nationally by over 20 per cent across all age groups.
The review by the council’s Education, Skills and Growth Overview and Scrutiny Panel was carried out after an inspection of SEND services by Ofsted and the CQC in December 2021. It provides another useful insight in how to improve services for families with children and young people with SEND.
During the review, members of the panel interviewed parents/carers and school staff with findings being fed back immediately to the SEND team. As part of the review, the panel:
- visited six schools, one post-16 establishment and two early years settings
- spoke to a number of parents/carers
- interviewed a number of children and young people
- researched good practice in other local authorities
Following the Ofsted and CQC inspection, a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) was produced by the council and local health partners, Frimley Health, to set out the plans and actions to improve the SEND provision within the borough. The panel was able to scrutinise the WSOA prior to its submission and the resulting feedback and comments were accepted.
The panel largely agreed with Ofsted/CQC findings and will continue to monitor the activities laid out in the WSOA. A subsequent review will be carried out in early 2023 to see how the agreed recommendations have been implemented.
Cllr Mrs Gill Birch, chair of the Education, Skills and Growth Overview and Scrutiny Panel, said: “With the rising figures of children and young people requiring SEND provision both nationally and locally we believed this review was essential. The Ofsted and CQC inspection raised a number of areas requiring improvement and our findings agreed with the inspectors’ conclusions. We will continue to monitor these issues in order to strengthen services and support provided for children and young people with SEND and their families in the borough in the future.”
Grainne Siggins, executive director for People at Bracknell Forest Council, said: “We acknowledge that our services for children with SEND, and their families, have not been at the level they expect or, indeed, the level we expect of ourselves.
“The demand on our services has been increasing in the past number of years and, following the Ofsted and QCQ inspection, we now have a comprehensive plan on how these services will be improved to help meet these demands. We have welcomed the feedback from the Overview and Scrutiny panel and will do all we can to ensure their recommendations, which largely mirror the improvements we committed to in the Written Statement of Action, are carried out.
“We are committed to making these improvements as quickly as possible, but we recognise that it will take time to do this well. We are committed to improving families’ experience of getting support with SEND from birth to adulthood and thank our parents for assisting us on our improvement journey.”
Provision of SEND services for children with special educational needs is an important area of policy but in this time of political turbulence it can lack urgency, as the repeated delays to the publishing of the SEND review shows.
That’s why it is essential that when central government can’t or won’t act, local government continues with improvements and everyone else, policy institutes, civil society groups and experts in the field keep up the pressure (as Curia’s Dyslexia Commission does below)