Agenda item

Written Statement of Action Update

The consider an update on the progress against the Written Statement of Action following on from the support and challenge meeting 5, with the Department for Education and the National Health Service England.



This item provided an update to members on the progress against the Written Statement of Action, following on from support and challenge meeting five, with the Department for Education and the National Health Service England.


The Chair welcomed the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People to the meeting. The Cabinet Member advised there had been many capital investments and improvements which were shared with the Commission at previous meetings. The Written Statement of Action judgement received in July 2021, had provided an opportunity for the service to be held to account and make improvements on the four areas of identified weaknesses. Re-assurance was provided that the service was in a much better place because of the improvements.


The Chair welcomed Nathan Heath, Assistant Director of Education and Inclusion, Tracey Jubb, Interim Head of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Mark Cummins, SEND Project Lead and Jayne Fitzgerald, Strategic Manager for Rotherham Parent Carers Forum.


The Chair invited Nathan Heath and Mark Cummins to introduce the report and give the presentation.


The Assistant Director of Education and Inclusion advised that the accountability, challenge, and support provided to the service by the Improving Lives Select Commission, had directly impacted the Written Statement of Action. There had been a clear commitment by the service to ensure regular updates were provided to the Commission after every Department for Education meeting. The presentation would cover an update from the most recent meeting, meeting five. Meeting five was important as it included the sign off for the Written Statement of Action and the transition from improvement to business as usual. The importance of lived experience was highlighted, with a commitment provided that the service would continue to check and measure with lived experience at all appropriate points in the future.


The presentation gave an overview of the following content:


·       After the July 2021 inspection, it was identified that there were four main areas of weakness and as a result it was decided that Rotherham should have a Written Statement of Action.

·       The four main areas of weakness identified were as follows:

o   The variability in the quality of Education and Health Care Plans, including the contribution of health and social care partners.

o   The effectiveness of the graduated response to identify and meet children and young people’s needs, especially in key stages one and two.

o   The quality of provision for children and young people’s preparation for, and transition to, adulthood.

o   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.

·       A comprehensive governance structure was in place and each area of identified weakness was led by a sub-group with its own membership, action plan and key performance measures. Monthly highlight reports were produced and presented to the SEND Executive Group, who ensured sufficient progress against the Written Statement of Action. Regular updates were provided to the CYPS Performance Board and SEND Partnership Board. The Department for Education and National Health Service England held five support and challenge meetings, to measure progress against the Written Statement of Action. Each meeting was supported by a note of visit, with feedback on progress and recommendations for the next period.

·       The most recent support and challenge meeting, meeting five, was held on the 5th of June 2023 and it provided an emphasis on demonstrating evidence of impact and outcomes, moving on from the implementation phase of the Written Statement of Action. Comments from the draft note of visit following on from the meeting, suggested that Rotherham had made considerable progress in its focus on ‘impact’, which related primarily to the day-to-day lived experiences of children and young people with SEND and their families. Following support and challenge meeting five, it was confirmed that Rotherham would not be subject to a re-visit based on progress against the Written Statement of Action, instead any re-inspection would form part of the timetable under the new framework. It was also confirmed that the support and challenge process would be reduced, with further actions and activity being aligned to business-as-usual monitoring.

·       Throughout the Written Statement of Action journey, the service collected evidence of impact through a centralised evidence bank, this would be continued to support with inspection readiness. All Written Statement of Actions were formally signed off through the Evidence Challenge Panel process. The performance monitoring pack submitted as part of Rotherham’s Written Statement of Action was shared by the Department for Education, with other local authorities as best practice. At regular points the service captured the voice of parents and/or carers and young people, through the delivery of listening events and working closely with Rotherham Parent Carer’s Forum, who are key members of the Written Statement of Action sub-groups and governance structure.

·       The current position of the Written Statement of Action had been presented as part of the Children and Young People’s Service Performance Board, with actions continuing to be formally signed off as part of the Evidence Challenge Panel process. Sub-groups were reviewing their terms of reference, membership, and action plans, in line with the SEND Development Plan for Rotherham. This ensured that progress against each area would be maintained, with work continuing to be overseen by the SEND Executive Group. A SEND Inspection Planning Group had been established to identify key activity and planning to support inspection readiness, this included development of the SEND Self Evaluation Framework. On-going learning from the process of the Written Statement of Action would continue to influence the SEND Development work, with an increased focus on capturing evidence of impact and outcomes.

·       The service would continue to strive towards continuous improvement, to ensure every child in Rotherham with additional needs would get the best possible education to reach their full potential.


The Chair thanked the officers for the presentation and invited questions, this led to the following points being raised during discussions:


·       The monthly meetings were internal meetings that were separate to the support and challenge meetings. The support and challenge meetings were where The Department for Education challenged the service on their progress.

·       The governance arrangements established during the process of the Written Statement of Action would continue.

·       The inspection in 2021 judged the service on how far they had progressed on SEND between 2014 and 2021 and it was acknowledged that during this timeframe, the service had not progressed to the required level. The judgement in 2021 helped the service provide the right improvements in the right areas of weaknesses. Reassurance was provided that the service was aware of where further improvements were still required and the strategies being developed were not in isolation.

·       As the service would move into the next part of the sustainable improvement journey, there would be challenges that sat against the national context. There was a challenge regarding inclusion in mainstream education, both for children with EHCP’s and those on SEND support, this was a national, regional and Rotherham central challenge. This challenge required further improvements to embed a graduated approach and to hold accountability to a good provisional map, to ensure children received the best offer.

·       Sufficiency of provision was a huge challenge, any funding provided to the local authority in relation to SEND, was based on growing provision and not the material quality of provision. The complexity of needs and best practise had changed distinctly within the last five years, significant investment was required to have the best quality provision within Rotherham.

·       Another challenge was a wider level of needs, as social, emotional, and mental health had grown post-pandemic. Previously the service was in a position where the most complex needs were educated outside of Rotherham, there was now a social, emotional, and mental health school in Rotherham.

·       Over the next twelve months a SEND Strategy would be developed, and the Improving Lives Select Commission would be involved in the process. There was still a large amount of work to do, but the service was in a much better position, and it now had the ability to be able to self-evaluate any weaknesses in a measured way.

·       A lack of provision was challenging to the service, the service adopted a considered approach and there was a strong operational process for the SEND Panel, who ensure the approach was always child centred.

·       There were some areas where provision mapping was accelerating, for example over the summer period the service had worked with Nexus Academy Trust to re-purpose a council building, which was previously the Rowan Centre, to create additional provision within the Borough.

·       The Council’s Cabinet had taken forward proposals discussed in June, to develop a new line of accessibility funding, which had not been available before in Rotherham. The funding would be available for schools that had an identified level of SEND need for small scale investment. This would be match funded by the local authority, to create provision that would enhance the SEND offer within the school. This was a different approach to other local authorities and was seen as very innovative, it would provide schools with the appropriate support, capacity, and tools to provide the right level of SEND support. The application process for the accessibility funding was being cascaded to all schools within Rotherham.

·       The Written Statement of Action was based on quality, although the timeliness of EHCP’s was considered as an area requiring significant improvement. The sub-group had developed an audit process to ensure a rigid oversight was in place, ensuring that there was a strong level of compliance within the EHCP and that the targets were SMART and tangibly linked to lived experience. There had been a huge level of investment within the timeliness of EHCP’s such as, continuous professional development, a distinct change of staffing model to work in localities and building personal relationships with schools. The timeliness for compliance with EHCP’s had improved drastically and the service had moved significantly above national averages in the most recent performance period. There were further improvements required around reviews to ensure key points of transition had a focus on supporting children with the next step, although the metrics were stronger than they have been previously.

·       Regarding pupil premiums, the service had significant confidence that the pupil premium funding would be utilised in a defined way. The OFSTED inspection process asked schools how they had utilised the funding and what impact that had.


Resolved: That

1)     The Improving Lives Select Commission accept the report and note the progress made following the final support and challenge meeting as part of the Joint Written Statement of Action.

2)     The Improving Lives Select Commission note the planned activity and progress as part of preparation for inspection under the new framework and SEND Development plan for Rotherham.

3)     Members of the Improving Lives Select Commission welcome the opportunity to visit Kimberworth Place, date to be confirmed.


Supporting documents: