Ofsted demands statement of action from Bucks Council addressing 'significant areas of weakness' in Send services

Ofsted has issued Bucks Council with a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) order for the quality of its SEND services.

By James Lowson
Friday, 29th April 2022, 10:50 am

SEND refers to children with special educational needs and/or disabilities, a particular area of concern is the extensive wait times families face in Bucks trying to discover whether their children are autistic.

The report which is based on inspections conducted at schools in the county between 28 February and 11 March 2022, states the council has a “lack of a cohesive area strategy to identify and meet the needs of those children and young people requiring speech and language, communication and occupational therapy.”

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Education in strong in the county, but SEND services need improvement, Ofsted says PA Wire/PA Images

Beyond autism diagnoses, Ofsted wants to see an improvement in the waiting times families face for assessments on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Inspectors want to see clear system-owned plans in place to address this.

While the council acknowledged a need for improvement, officials were pleased with the areas of strength listed in the report.

It lists identifying the needs of children and young people with SEND, education centre’s ability to meet the needs of these students and the capability to ensure positive outcomes as strengths.

Councillor Anita Cranmer said: “We do know that for too many children, young people and their families, we do still fall short of what they deserve and I want to reassure them that we are not shying away from the crucial areas where sometimes much improvement is still required.

“We are looking forward to working with our colleagues in Health to improve the services we provide to children with SEND.”

Councillor Cranmer identified improving annual reviews to make sure social participation needs of children and young people are integrated into Education, Health and Care Plans.

As well as becoming more effective at recruiting and retaining staff in the SEND sector, communication with families, and improving preparing SEND youngsters for adulthood, as areas the local authority is desperate to improve.

Ofsted’s findings show that the average waiting time to see a community paediatrician remain at 62 weeks.

The report states, “this is not acceptable.”

Ofsted found this issue predates the pandemic, but has worsened with officials unable to keep up with demand in the county.

Similarly damning, the average wait time for assessments on diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is 559 days.

The longest wait recorded was 811 days.

The report says: “The area’s current proposed response to reduce the waiting times, and compensate for the delay in the meantime, is not sufficient to meet the needs of children and young people currently awaiting diagnosis.”

In conclusion Ofsted found there was ‘growing momentum’ to improve “historically weak provision”.

But ultimately that, “the current realities for too many children, young people and their families still fall short of what they deserve.”

Another key conclusion in the report concludes: “Where other weaknesses currently undermine the area’s effectiveness, there are robust plans in place and early signs of demonstrable improvement.

“However, after years where parents and carers have felt they have had to push constantly to get anywhere, it is too soon to see the impact of recent efforts on many families’ confidence and trust.”