The report highlights areas for improvement and calls for local area partners to jointly create an action plan to deliver rapid progress and long-term change across SEND services for Bristol’s children and young people.
Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Lead for Children said for too long children and young people in the city with SEND have been let down.
She said: “The challenges highlighted in the report have built up over the past nine years and been further exacerbated by a reduction in central government funding for these services.
“We share in that responsibility and despite the deep commitment of many frontline staff, we haven't acted fast enough with our health partners and school leaders to turn SEND provision around.
“Families and carers of children and young people with SEND in Bristol feel badly let down by the service they have received. We apologise unreservedly for this and want to offer assurance that we will not rest until their children get the quality service they deserve.”
- The report noted that the implementation of the 2014 Special Education Needs (SEN) reforms in Bristol has been too slow and fragmented. However, inspectors recognised that since 2018 there have been noticeable improvements in the leadership of SEND in the local area, but that parents, carers and children will not have seen the benefits of this improvement to date
- Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) statutory processes, high numbers of fixed term exclusions and a lack of awareness of the Local Offer are key areas needing improvement. It goes on to say that the energy, enthusiasm and determination of new leaders to improve provision is palpable and that recent improvements have been made but will take time to take effect
- They also responded positively to plans for a new diagnostic pathway for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessment, the impact this will have on assessment times and the clarity this will provide to parents and carers.
Director of Transformation for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Deborah El-Sayed, said: “We recognise there is a long way to go before our SEND services are the best they can be. We welcome this report from Ofsted and the CQC, which will help us to drive the change that is needed for families across our area.
“We are grateful to the children, young people and families whose experiences have informed this report, and are committed to working in partnership with Bristol City Council and others to make real and lasting improvements.
“We have already taken action in many of the areas identified by the report, including the development of our approach to Education, Health and Care plans, to ensure they are person-centred and focussed on the wishes of children and young people.
“There are also positives to build on. Inspectors praised the identification of medical needs for children in the early years, as well as the transition between children’s and adult community health services. The support available for children and young people with social, emotional, mental health and communication needs was also highlighted as a strength.
“We are building a strong partnership with Bristol City Council and community health providers – alongside children, young people, parents and carers - and are determined to ensure seamless services for everyone.”
Alison Hurley, Director for Education and Skills said: “We remain committed to continuing to transform SEND services in Bristol. The inspection team recognised the improvements in joint-working with our partners and commitment from leaders to secure improvement in our systems. We are confident that we will achieve much improved outcomes for our children and young people with special education needs and disabilities once it embeds.
“One key area where people have been let down is the waiting time for Education Health Care Plans (EHCPs). We have addressed the staff shortages that have caused this by recruiting 24 new staff to work specifically on EHCPs, for example. We will be better able to cope with demand and improve timeliness, but it will take time for these improvements to be felt by the parents and carers of children and young people with SEND in Bristol.”
What is SEND?
Some children and young people may require more help to learn and develop than others. If their needs are not successfully met by support in their local school or education placement, they might need to access SEND services or national statutory processes. SEND services are teams across education, health and social care for children and young people aged 0-25 who are identified by the local area as having additional or complex needs.
About the inspection
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out their joint, statutory, local area inspection of SEND over five consecutive days in September and October. However, the publication of the findings was delayed due to the general election.
A team of inspectors looked at how effectively services provided by the council, education settings and health care providers identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEND, as well as how their outcomes can be improved.
Inspectors spoke with groups including children and young people with SEND and their parents and carers in early years, schools and post-16 education settings. They also spoke with the Bristol Parents and Carers Forum, NHS professionals at the Clinical Commissioning Group and health partners providing autism, mental health and speech and language services.
About the report
The final report was received on Tuesday 17 December and there is a statutory duty to publish the findings within five working days. You can view the report on our Local Offer website here.
What is happening now?
Bristol City Council, Education leaders and BNSSG health partners will now develop an action plan, called a (Written Statement of Action), in co-production with parents and carers of children with SEND in order to address the main findings of the report.
BCC is currently running monthly drop-ins across the city for parents, carers and young people to talk about how we can improve SEND. For more information about these events visit the Local Offer website here.