OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found the local authority and Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to have made significant improvements to their Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision since April 2018.
“Sufficient progress” was deemed to be the outcome of their recent re-visit in November, resulting in all formal ‘support and challenge’ visits ceasing.
The educational and health watchdogs returned to Redcar and Cleveland to look for progress made in four areas of weakness previously identified in the 2018 report.
These included room for improvement in better understanding the needs of children and young people with SEND and their educational, health and care outcomes; developing a more effective approach to joint planning and commissioning of SEND services; a need for better evaluation of the arrangements for improving outcomes, and more involvement of children and families in producing the services they need.
The local authority and Tees Valley CCG were responsible for producing an improvement plan after the 2018 report was published; and have been praised by Ofsted and CQC for progress made in the face of the pandemic.
The visit involved discussions with children and young people with SEND and their parents or carers; discussions with local authority and NHS officers and schools, along with considering a range of information such as the improvement plan and 93 parent survey responses.
Highlights from the findings of the visit included the tenacity of an almost wholly brand-new senior leadership team, whose efforts – in spite of the pandemic and their newness to the role – have driven positive change. Leaders were described as having “a strong understanding of what actions are working” and were commended for developing an “effective quality assurance process at a senior strategic level.”
Training has been implemented across the workforce, with a focus on developing improved Education and Health Care plans (ECHPs). School SEN coordinators (SENCOs) commented that they feel better supported by the area now and that they are delivering ECHPs “with more confidence”.
An increase in the dedicated SEND health team has also been noted, which has allowed for better communication with families, for example, the establishment of six-weekly parent/carer drop-in sessions.
The new neurodevelopmental pathway (a support and diagnostic pathway for children and young people with neurodevelopment traits) is now in place and families can choose the professional they deal with during the completion of the initial screening form. There is also access to the new jointly commissioned family support service through Daisy Chain, offering families face-to-face support and advice, with or without a diagnosis.
Speech and language therapy is now jointly commissioned too, offering earlier access and support up to the age of 25 for those with identified needs. Children’s equipment services are also now jointly commissioned.
Establishment of a centralised database of agreed information has led to an “improvement in information-led, strategic commissioning of school places for SEND children, including a new free school.”
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) staff now regularly attend multi-agency panel meetings too, allowing emotional health and wellbeing and mental health services to form a fundamental part of the area’s SEND improvements.
Whilst the revisit report also highlights areas where there is still work to be done, the overall result is positive, with Ofsted and CQC stating that the “intent, passion and structures are all in place to continue the journey.”
Councillor Alison Barnes, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said:
“We are pleased with the findings of Ofsted and the CQC following their latest visit. It has been a very encouraging result, which the relevant teams will continue to improve upon. There have been a number of challenges along the way, not least of which was the restrictive nature of the pandemic. However, the various actions that have been implemented have put us in a much better position to deliver the quality of provision these children and young people require and deserve.”
David Gallagher, Chief Officer, Tees Valley CCG said:
“It is positive to see that the progress made by colleagues at the CCG and local authority is recognised by CQC and Ofsted in their findings.
“Despite working within challenging circumstances, we have collectively been able to address issues highlighted in the previous report, continuing to improve and offer the best quality services possible for children and young people with SEND.
”We will continue to work together with the Parent Carer Forum (SEND Family Voice – Redcar and Cleveland) and local families to further develop co-production, whilst simultaneously pursuing opportunities to hear from more parents and carers.”
All formal visits from the Department for Education and NHS England have now ceased.