Inspectors demand action after critical SEND inspection Image By alexlmx AdobeStock_106157843

A further full review of progress around children’s education health and care plans (EHCP) in Central Bedfordshire will be made in 12 month’s time, a meeting heard.

A £130,000 audit of these plans across the area revealed more than half require improvement, while 80 were judged inadequate.

Of 1,797 EHCPs checked, 1,039 or 58 per cent were categorised as requiring improvement. Just over a third were rated good, and 14 outstanding.

The review was commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council as part of an improvement programme with Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, after a critical Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) report in November 2019.

Their findings called for a written statement of action from the local authority and the CCG, which was submitted last September.

A report about the audit was presented to CBC’s children’s services overview and scrutiny committee.

Director of children’s services Sue Harrison told the meeting: “We’re talking about improving around  2,000 plans to get them to outstanding.

This will take some time,” she said. “It can’t take forever. We’ll have another external review this time next year which will show improvement across all the categories of EHCP plans.”

The quality and the content of the plans was the subject of the audit, according to lead auditor James Narine.

We managed to audit just under 1,800 up to the start of last September,” he said.

Plans issued subsequently weren’t part of it. Around one per cent were graded outstanding receiving a score of nine or ten, with four per cent inadequate.

Given the volume of plans, around 90 per cent of the total in Central Bedfordshire, the average score was 5.2 on that border of requires improvement and good.

One of the issues is around the updating and maintenance of plans. Some information had been placed in the wrong section.

The change needs to be widespread across all services involved with young people, the special educational needs and disability (SEND) team as well as schools and health and social care.”

Training in EHC plan writing and preparation for adulthood are two areas which need attention, he added.

There are significant concerns in some areas, but there are many elements of good practice.

The older plans haven’t been amended particularly well and in a meaningful way for those going on to adulthood.

We could see a lot of those plans which sit on the border between ‘requires improvement and good’ move up into the ‘good and outstanding’ categories.”

The review was “designed not to consider process, but to address weakness“, according to Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark.

We committed ourselves to an audit of the quality of plans,” explained councillor Clark, who’s the executive member for families, education and children.

This gives a baseline on the quality and content. By looking at the quality we’re providing transparency.”

Councillor Clark, who’s also CBC’s deputy leader, referred to criticism of the £130,000 cost of the review.

It took 480 days to complete,” she said. “That’s about £270 per person per day.

We have a vast bank of data. This will allow for deep dives into specific areas and targeted interventions.”

But she admitted there should have been more co-production with parents carer forum SNAP (Special Needs Action Panel).