01 Dec

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Graham
This week’s work has been dominated by the publication of the Oldham SEND area inspection report (available to read here).

As some of you may recall, the 2014 Children and Families Bill introduced some radical changes relating to the provision for our young people. At the centre of the legislation was the movement away from the old statements to new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). These plans were seen as a better alternative to statements due to improved joint working (and written evidence) from colleagues in education, social care and health. The plans also extended the age range and are intended to support young people to the age of 25. In addition, the act ensured families and key stakeholders could be better informed by the development of a ‘Local Offer’. It also required all agencies to work more collaboratively and earlier in a child’s life.

The implementation of all of the above, and other related areas, had very prescriptive timelines and included key performance indicators of success. The focus of the SEND area inspections is to monitor the performance of councils in developing the key aspects of the legislation. The inspections are carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectors from all the relevant governmental departments.

When the inspection team visited Oldham, they were evaluating the area’s progress in implementing all these measures. Inspectors visited one of our schools, New Bridge, so that they could understand our position as key stakeholders and as ‘end users’. They were particularly interested in the question,

Have the changes outlined in the legislation made a difference to our children and young people (and their families)?

I am aware that in their meetings with children, families, governors, trustees and staff, our stakeholders offered a really balanced view of Oldham’s position. It was great to see in the inspection report that the inspectors were overwhelmed by the passion of the youngsters themselves..

The children and young people of Oldham who met with the inspectors are inspiring. They are champions in breaking down the barriers and misconceptions of what it means to be a young person who has additional needs and/or disabilities.

I was also delighted that our personalised post 16 and post 19 offer was commended..

Post-16 provision shows an effective use of personal budgets by learners over the age of 18. This enables them to access provision to support their preparation for adulthood. Attendance at post-19 provision prepares young adults well for the world of work and increases young people’s independence and employability prospects. 

Unfortunately, the majority of the report is not brilliant reading! None of it comes as a surprise – on your behalf we have been challenging ‘the system’ for years in relation to the quality of outcomes in EHCPs, the home to school transport policy and the (all too often) diminishing support from social care and health authority departments.

Significant elements of the report refer to children with SEND within mainstream schools. From a personal perspective, I am disappointed that there still appears to be a disconnect between schools (particularly MATs) and the council. School leaders are not routinely consulted about, or help to devise, strategy. We are often left bemused at decisions that directly link to our children, young people and families.

At times the council appears to view MATs with distrust. Many of our trustees and governors feel that we are often overlooked when it comes to making strategic decisions. Our experience and knowledge isn’t utilised. We are too often forced into conflict situations with the council. This has to change, as the evidence in the report clearly outlines.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice.

The council has a period of time to submit an action plan. Collectively we need to devise an improved way of working – the challenges highlighted in the report should never have been allowed to occur.

Our Oldham children get just one shot at schooling – let’s make it the best it can be.

Take care,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here