Parents, carers and schools are “facing a constant battle to get the most basic support”
At the recent Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee (10 March 2020), Amy Irvins, speaking for parents, told Central Bedfordshire Council that “the extensive failures outlined in the recent Ofsted report have been catastrophic for countless families.”
Amy was representing the Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group, which although was less than six weeks old, already had over 550 members.
She added that parents, carers and schools are facing a constant battle to get the most basic support. She said:
“Parents are having to give up their careers, marriages are breaking down, parents and children are having mental health breakdowns and dozens of children are out of school.
“Children are missing out on education due to part-time timetables that are not monitored effectively by CBC and there are repeat exclusions because children have not had adequate support.”
She continued by saying that CBC’s additional barriers are preventing assessments of children in need.
“At the root of all this is a massive shortage of spaces in SEND schools ASD units and specialist provisions.
“Children are being forced off-roll, forced to home educate and forced to give up on an endlessly destructive system.”
She said that when she addressed the meeting in January that CBC seemed to say that there isn’t a crisis or even a significant problem.
“The information they gave did not reflect the experience of schools or parents at all.”
Cllr Amanda Dodwell (Con, Leighton Buzzard South) is the deputy executive member for families, education and children. She was standing in for the executive member for families and children, Cllr Sue Clark, who was unable to attend the meeting due to a family medical emergency. She said:
“As a council, we desperately what to know what people in the community think about the services we provide. Nothing disappoints me more than the fact that the Ofsted was not a glowing report.
“I understand some of the frustrations you as parents experience every day. I desperately want to be able to change that for you. I know that as a council things have improved from 2018 onwards, but this hasn’t happened fast enough.
“I know that that isn’t the answer you want to hear from me, you want to hear what action we are going to take.
“We are working with the NHS and we are going to come forward with an action plan, which we’ve got to present to Ofsted within 90 days.
“There are no excuses from me or the officers here today, I will promise that things will improve.”
Sue Harrison, director of Children’s Services, said:
“I apologise if anything I said at the last scrutiny meeting appeared to be defending an indefensible position.
“We have always acknowledged that we are on a journey with Special Education Needs and that the system needs to work much better.
“We have some successes in the Ofsted letter that we need to build on. We were told what good looks like and clearly we are not delivering it consistently.
“We have limited resource and we need to make the best of that resource.
“I will be held accountable to the progress we make.”
After the meeting, CBC announced a series of dates for ‘the start of a big conversation’ about Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) services.
Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Central Bedfordshire Council are jointly responsible for submitting an action plan in response to the Ofsted/CQC letter. A draft will be ready for discussion at the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee in May.