Today we published the findings of the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) local area inspection of Special Educational Needs and/or Disability (SEND) services across Bristol.
We made the decision to publish before Ofsted and the CQC because we feel it’s important that the inspectors’ findings are known and discussed before the Christmas break. Families and practitioners have been through enough and should have the chance to see their concerns confirmed by Ofsted and know what we intend to do to respond.
The findings are there for everyone to see and they confirm what we already know about the state of SEND services in Bristol. Over nine years of government and local failings building up have shaped a system that, for too long, has let down children, young people and families. I apologise for the part we have played and for responding too slowly to the concerns of those affected.
These challenges are well known and I won’t take up this blog going over them again – Ofsted’s report does that in detail. What I will do is make a commitment that the green shoots of recovery inspectors found to be taking root will be supported to deliver real change for children and families. It is encouraging that our city’s children centres, and the support we offer to young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities into employment through the ‘Bristol Works for Everyone’ initiative, were identified as particular strengths by inspectors. We will continue to support these vital services which make such a difference to children, young people and their families across Bristol.
This has already begun with additional investment in SEND services, with a particular focus on Education Health and Care Plans. Twenty four new staff have being recruited to work in SEND, with 23 specifically working on these plans to help tackle both the backlog of overdue assessments that need to be completed, as well as the new plans coming in. This additional resource will help us better cope with demand but the effects won’t be felt immediately by families, parents and carers.
We share this responsibility for improvement with our partners in the health and education sectors. It’s only through working together, and in co-production with parents and carers, will we fix the system locally and continue to challenge government to fix the system nationally.
Children are at the heart of this administration. We were the first city in the UK to launch a Children’s Charter and make bold commitments to develop a city where children can fulfil their potential. Across the board we are delivering for children and young people – the number of apprenticeships on offer is up, we’ve saved children’s centres, there’s more school places, fewer children are going hungry during school holidays – these are all contributing to a brighter future for most.
Whilst we hold our hands up and agree that the delivery of SEND services has been far from acceptable let’s acknowledge the positive work Cllr Godwin and Cllr Keen have undertaken along with their Cabinet colleagues, council officers, partners and communities.
We have a dedicated and committed SEND team and I am confident we have the right people in place to move forward with our plans for improvement. We will not rest until children young people, parents, carers and practitioners all have a service and the tools they need to flourish.