The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, the Strategic Director - Children and Young People’s Services, the Assistant Director – Education, the Head of SEND Services and Jayne Fitzgerald of the Rotherham Parents and Carers Forum attended the meeting to present a report on the Ofsted/Care Quality Commission SEND Local Area Inspection – Written Statement of Action. The report also included a progress report on the implementation of the SEND Sufficiency Strategy Phase 3.
The report noted that between 5 and 9 July 2021, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission had conducted a joint inspection of the local area of Rotherham to judge the effectiveness of the area in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms, as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEND Code of Practice.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services advised that following the conclusion of the inspection it had been judged that the Rotherham local area should have a Written Statement of Action to address the four main areas that had been identified as having significance weakness that were:
· the variability in the quality of EHC plans, including the contribution of health and social care partners.
· the effectiveness of the graduated response to identify and meet children and young people’s needs, especially in Key stages 1 and 2.
· the quality of provision for children and young people’s preparation for, and transition to, adulthood.
· communication with all parents and carers of children and young people with SEND about the local offer, and the accessibility of the very valuable information included within the local offer.
The Strategic Director – Children and Young People’s Services emphasised that as the inspection had been on services delivered across the Rotherham area, and not just services delivered by Rotherham MBC that the subsequent response would be delivered by a collective approach. The report stated that during the period following the local area inspection that there had been significant activity taking place to address the issues that had been raised by the inspection, with senior leaders across Education, Social Care, Health and the CCG having met to ensure that processes were in place to address the delivery of Rotherham’s Written Statement of Action over the next calendar year.
The report stated that the SEND Strategic Partnership Board, jointly chaired by the Strategic Director – Children’s and Young People’s Services and the CCG Executive Place Officer had met to address the outcome of the inspection and had agreed that there should be four subgroups established with each one of them leading on an area of weakness. It was noted that the subgroups had now been set up and had all met at least once. It was noted that each subgroup reflected the make-up of the Board and had representatives from each sector, as well as from stakeholders and parent/carers being represented.
The full Written Statement of Action was included as an appendix to the officer’s report.
The Assistant Director – Education noted that at the start of the inspection process a self-evaluation of local SEND services had been carried out that had identified the same areas of weakness that had been subsequently identified by the formal inspection. The Assistant Director advised that this self-awareness provided a high level of assurance that the Council and partners were aware of the issues that needed to be addressed regarding the delivery of SEND in Rotherham and as such were in a good position to start delivering the required improvements. The Assistant Director advised that the inspection report had identified many areas of strength in the provision of SEND in Rotherham, notably the role of, and engagement of the Rotherham Parents and Carers Forum. The Assistant Director advised that creation and subsequent delivery of the actions contained in the Written Statement of Action had and would be overseen by Ofsted who had advised that the Written Statement of Action was of good quality and sharp in its focus.
Members asked whether there were any parts of the Written Statement of Action that would be more challenging to achieve than others. The Assistant Director advised that the plan of action was ambitious in its scope but noted that its delivery needed to be seen in the context of many issues that were impacting on the delivery of SEND services nationally, most notably the rise in demand for SEND services. The Assistant Director advised that the action plan was an agile document that would be updated to respond to events during its period of delivery, and as such would be able to respond to any issues raised during the planned review of SEND services. The Assistant Director assured members that the action plan would be reviewed quarterly in order to monitor progress and would be updated if required in response to events.
The Assistant Director advised that the CCG and Ofsted would be fully engaged with the delivery of the action plan. Jayne Fitzgerald of the Rotherham Parents and Carers Forum noted that the Parents and Carers Forum in its engagement with the delivery of the Written Statement of Action would be able support its delivery by feeding in information on the lived experience of children and young people with SEND needs and their families. Jayne Fitzgerald noted that the result of the inspection had not come as a surprise to the Parents and Carers Forum and welcomed how the Written Statement of Action would give the required impetus and focus to enable a joined up approach to be taken that would address the areas that required improvement. Jayne Fitzgerald noted how the Written Statement of Action would also work to engage partners across Rotherham who had not been as involved with the delivery of SEND services as they needed to be. Jayne Fitzgerald also noted how the Written Statement of Action would drive improvements with regard to supporting Looked After Children with SEND needs as these children and young people were a group that was doubly disadvantaged and needed focussed and tailored support.
Jayne Fitzgerald provided the meeting with some contextual information regarding the role of the Rotherham Parents and Carers Forum and how it engaged with other Parent and Carers Forums both regionally and nationally. Jayne Fitzgerald also noted that Parent and Carers Forums would be being consulted with by the Government on three major pieces of legislation regarding SEND over the coming months. Jayne Fitzgerald advised that the major focus in the consultations from the Parents and Carers Forum’s perspective would be to preserve the effective partnership working with the Parents and Carers Forum that had been developed across SEND services. Jayne Fitzgerald advised that the partnership working that had been delivered had had a positive impact on the delivery of SEND services as it had enabled the lived experiences of families to inform the delivery of services.
The Strategic Director reaffirmed the comments that had been made by the Assistant Director in that all the issues of concern regarding the delivery of SEND services in Rotherham raised by the inspection were issues that had been included in the self-evaluation. The Strategic Director assured members that additional resources had been made available in order to support the delivery of the required improvement activities that were detailed in the Written Statement of Action. The Strategic Director detailed the strong governance procedures that would oversee the delivery of the plan and advised that these would enable any issues with the delivery of the required activity to be identified, and for swift action to be taken if there were any issues with the delivery of the activities detailed in the action plan. The Head of SEND Services noted that each of the four sections of activity detailed in the Written Statement of Action would be reviewed during 2023 to monitor their implementation.
The Cabinet Member assured members that due to the high level of self-awareness regarding the areas of improvement required regarding the delivery of SEND services across the partners in Rotherham that improvement activities had started to be implemented before outcome of the inspection had been received. The Cabinet Member noted that that the Written Statement of Action provided a very detailed framework for the improvement of SEND services and that it would also enable members of the Improving Lives Select Commission to monitor closely the delivery of the required improvements.
Members asked for further information on how the delivery of the training that had been detailed in the Written Statement of Action would be delivered and monitored. The Assistant Director noted that training would be delivered in a variety of ways and with the support of national organisations. The Assistant Director noted the benefits of being able to deliver in person training and the successful training session that had been delivered in person by Whole School SEND for all Special Educational Needs Coordinators in the Borough. The Assistant Director advised that due to a Written Statement of Action being in place that additional support with the provision of training was available through the Department for Education in addition to the training resources that could be accessed through the Council, the CCG and the Parents and Carers Forum. The Assistant Director noted that the provision of training would be delivered wildly and would also involve Children’s Social Care and Early Help staff due to the interdependency of these services. The Assistant Director advised that the implementation and quality of training would be monitored via both the governance arrangements related to the Written Statement of Improvement as well as by peer review.
The Vice Chair noted her confidence that progress was being made against the actions that were detailed in the Written Statement of Action but sought assurance that if progress in its implementation stalled that processes were in place to get the required activities back on track. The Assistant Director assured members the SEND Executive Board would be monitoring the implementation of the Written Statement of Action by receiving monthly “spotlight” updates from one of the Written Statement of Action subgroup chairs. The Assistant Director noted additionally that the three other Chairs would at each meeting submit a report to give ongoing assurance to the members of the Executive Board and to give them the opportunity to raise any emerging concerns. The Assistant Director noted that each of the sub-group leads would have overall accountability for the actions contained in their relevant sections of the plan. The Strategic Director reemphasised the strengthened governance procedures that had been put in place around the Written Statement of Action and stated how the improvement of SEND was a high priority for Children and Young People’s Services.
Members noted the activities detailed in the Written Statement of Action regarding the reduction of inappropriate transfers between mainstream and special schools and asked for further information on how mainstream schools supported the delivery of SEND activities. The Assistant Director advised that the activities detailed in the Written Statement of Action regarding the improvements needed with regard to Education Health and Care Plans would ensue that the most appropriate decisions regarding education and support were made for each child or young person. The Assistant Director advised that that as Rotherham had more SEND capacity than other similar authorities that this showed that greater capacity needed to be developed in mainstream schools as evidence showed that children and young people, even with very complex SEND needs, could achieve great success in mainstream educational settings. The Assistant Director advised that in order to enable this that it was essential that mainstream schools had the correct resources and knowledge in order to deliver the best outcomes for SEND children, including the ability to seek additional support and access graduated support if required. Jayne Fitzgerald noted the importance of developing a strong approach to a graduated response of SEND needs that was inclusive to the needs of children and young people and of their families.
With there being no further questions on the Ofsted/Care Quality Commission SEND Local Area Inspection – Written Statement of Action the Assistant Director made a short presentation that provided a progress report on the implementation of the SEND Sufficiency Strategy Phase 3. The presentation provided information on:
· What SEND Sufficiency was and the approach being taken in Rotherham to deliver SEND Sufficiency.
· The current position in delivering Stage 3 of the SEND Sufficiency Programme including the relocation of the Newman Upper School into a new build during the 2021/22 academic year and the appointment of the Ethos Academy Trust to run the school.
· The ongoing work that was being carried out to refresh needs assessment and how it had already identified needs linked to Autism Spectrum Conditions and Social, Emotional and Mental Health as key areas of need and demand.
· The work that was being carried out to focus developing a range of mainstream SEND resource bases which were SEND specialist provision built into mainstream schools.
· The development of further phases of the SEND Sufficiency Strategy.
The Vice Chair noted the successful visit that some members of the Improving Lives Select Commission had made to the relocated Newman Lower School at Dinnington the previous week where members had been able to learn more about the school’s move to its new home.
Members asked whether there would be sufficient funding available for the delivery of SEND services to meet the increase in demand for services that was anticipated. The Assistant Director advised that as an element of funding for the delivery of SEND services was allocated on a basis of the number of children and young people who were accessing SEND provision that there would be the resources available to meet needs. The Assistant Director noted that more broadly that there were significant pressures on SEND budgets and the SEND funding system nationally and that activity was taking place nationally to increase the amount of funding available for SEND provision.
The Vice Chair asked for further information about the related communications strategy and how parents and carers would be engaged with so that they were aware of the activity around the SEND Sufficiency Strategy. The Assistant Director detailed the various methods of communication that included newsletters, listening events and provider engagement sessions. The Assistant Director advised that there would be a wide consultation carried out to decide the name of the relocated school at Dinnington.
The Vice Chair thanked the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, the Strategic Director - Children and Young People’s Services, the Assistant Director – Education, the Head of SEND Services and Jayne Fitzgerald of the Rotherham Parents and Carers Forum for attending the meeting and answering member questions.
1) That the report be noted.
2) That a progress report on the activity surrounding the delivery of the objectives contained in the action plan relating to the Ofsted/ Care Quality Commission SEND Local Area Inspection - Written Statement of Action, be presented at the September 2022 meeting of the Improving Lives Select Commission.
3) That a progress report on the delivery of the SEND Sufficiency Strategy be presented at the March 2023 meeting of the Improving Lives Select Commission.