Shropshire Star

Progress being made in Shropshire's SEND services

A visit by the Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to special education needs and disabilities (SEND) services in Shropshire has found sufficient progress has been made in three out of six areas of significant weakness.

SEND services have improved across Shropshire

The CQC and educational watchdog revisited SEND services provided by Shropshire Council; NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin; schools, and other organisations following an initial visit between January 27 and January 31, 2020.

During the 2020 visit, a number of concerns were identified by the inspectors.

Points raised included "weak" strategic leadership across the area, no effective pathway for specialist assessment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for children over the age of five, significant waits for speech and language assessment and treatment, as well as higher than the national average rates of exclusion of children and young people with an EHC (Education, Health and Care) plan.

Following the revisit in November 2022, Oftsed and the CQC have now published their findings in a report that has found that Shropshire has made sufficient progress in three key areas.

The report said strategic leadership and planning across the area had been "strengthened considerably" and that there was now a "greater clarity of roles and responsibilities across education, health and social care".

The report also said that the rate of exclusions for children and young people with an EHC plan has fallen, with a "significant number" of exclusions being prevented since the last inspection.

But the report did say Shropshire is still required to address three outstanding areas.

These areas include the waiting times for children and young people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnostic pathways, and waiting times for those needing assessment and treatment from the speech and language therapy services.

The quality of input from education, health and care into Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment and planning has also been highlighted as requiring improvement.

Kirstie Hurst-Knight, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for children and education, said: “We have continued to work on our SEND priorities and have made a good start addressing the concerns identified by Ofsted and CQC in 2020.

“I was particularly pleased that the significant changes we’ve made with regards to our strategic leadership have been recognised. We have made huge steps to ensure that we are working better together, within the council and with our partners, ensuring that SEND is the golden thread through everything we do.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for the work and effort that has gone into improving these services this far. It’s good to hear that what we’re doing is making a real difference.

“However, to realise our vision, we know that we have more to do. We fully accept the findings in the report, and we will use it to drive the changes that we need to see.

“We have an action plan to address the three outstanding areas of concern and we will continue to work hard with partners, parents and children to ensure that those who rely on our support get a better experience.”

Gareth Robinson, director of delivery and transformation for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, added: “We agree that we have not made sufficient progress in the three outstanding areas of concern, and we are very sorry for the long waits being experienced by children, young people, and their families and carers.

“We continue to invest more in SEND provision and better services: this has included investing in capacity to improve EHC as well as strengthening our leadership which, as recognised by the report, is successfully beginning to improve the SEND provision, across education, health and social care.

“However, we know there is much more we need to do. The progress we have made, and the changes we have made embedding SEND within leadership roles, means we can now focus our efforts on the delivery of services and the wider SEND programme.”