Ofsted recognises improvements in Medway’s SEND services

Published: Tuesday, 2nd April 2024

Ofsted has today (2 April) published a report following its recent Joint Area SEND (special educational needs and disability) inspection in Medway. 

The inspectors recognised the progress the partnership has made in its improvement journey since its last inspection in 2017, noting that leaders have an accurate understanding of the needs of children and young people with SEND. They know the areas for future development and improvement, and have made progress with some of the ambitious actions in their strategic plan. 

The SEND inspection provides an independent, external evaluation of the effectiveness of the local area partnership’s arrangements for children and young people with SEND and, where appropriate, recommends what the local area partnership should do to improve the arrangements. 

The inspection found that leaders have reviewed the majority of services, processes and provisions and made changes that are firmly focused on the needs of the children, young people and their families. Where this has happened, more children and young people get the right help and support in an increasingly timely fashion. 

‘Passionate, confident and experienced Medway Parents and Carers Forum’

The inspectors recognised that the partnership, which includes Education, Health and Social Care, is supported by the passionate, confident and experienced Medway Parents and Carers Forum (PCF). The forum is involved in co-production and commissioning at all levels of service development. They represent parents and carers through gathering views in a range of accessible ways. 

The inspectors went on to note improvements including; the commissioning of Alternative Provision and an increase in suitable mental health support within schools; effective oversight of experiences and outcomes for children and young people in care who live at a distance from the local area, and; fewer children and young people reaching crisis point and needing admission to hospital. 

The report also recognised that when professionals work with families whose children or young people do not attend full time school or are not in education, employment or training, they provide well-considered support. Most of these children and young people successfully return to education or find employment opportunities if it is appropriate for them.

Although the inspection concluded that overall, the local area partnership’s arrangements lead to inconsistent experiences and outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) this is an overall improvement on the previous inspection in 2017. 

Over the last two years, £17m capital investment has been made into the development of an additional 260 specialist places. Investment in project teams has removed the annual review backlog and is continuing to reduce assessment pathways. The council is investing £1.1m a year into supporting inclusion in schools, including providing outreach support, reintegration placements and assessment centres, which are having positive and prompt impact for children and young people.

Cllr Adam Price, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services welcomed today’s report saying: “We are pleased with the outcome of the inspection, which gives an accurate assessment of where we are on our journey. Whilst we have made significant improvements we know we have further work to do to improve the experience for all families. We have a clear plan in place to help us achieve this and will continue the close partnership working to prioritise the areas identified by Ofsted for improvement particularly around communication, timeliness of assessment and transition pathways. I would like to thank everyone involved in our SEND community services for their commitment to improving the lives of our young children with special educational needs giving them better opportunities in life.”

NHS Kent and Medway Chief Executive Paul Bentley said: “I would like to thank everyone, particularly parents, children, and young people, for their support and contribution to the recent inspection. While it is important and encouraging that the inspectors identified areas of strong service provision in Medway, the report rightly and accurately reflects our position and the need to do more and to do more consistently to further improve the service we provide to families and children. On behalf of the integrated care board, I commit to going further and faster to deliver the improvements required.’’

Shenda Smith, Chair of Trustees at Medway Parents & Carers Forum, said: “Medway Parents and Carers Forum have over the last 18months-2years seen an improvement in coproduction and communication with the Forum by Senior leaders Partnership Board(of the Council and ICB). We are pleased that Inspectors supported our comments regarding improvements that need to be made and at greater pace.  We are proud that it was clear to Inspectors that the Forum understand their families and represent their views as this is what we strive to achieve. Senior leaders are aware that the Forum will challenge and work together with their services across Medway to achieve better outcomes for Children and Young People.”

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