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Plan to improve services for children with special educational needs revealed

PUBLISHED: 13:48 09 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:48 09 October 2020

An action plan aims to radically improve the support offered in Norfolk to children with special educational needs and disabilities. Picture: PA Images

An action plan aims to radically improve the support offered in Norfolk to children with special educational needs and disabilities. Picture: PA Images

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An action plan has been unveiled to radically improve the support offered in Norfolk to children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Norfolk County Council is promising to speed up the time it takes to process individual education, health and care plans (ECHP), with a dedicated phone line for parents and a new youth forum to give young people a greater say.

The detailed plan, drawn up with Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, seeks to address areas of weakness identified by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission following an inspection earlier this year.

MORE: ‘Not what I want for Norfolk’s children’ - council admit SEND weaknesses

Inspectors raised “significant concerns” about the effectiveness of the county’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for childrens services. Pic: Norfolk County Council.John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for childrens services. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Issues highlighted included long waiting times for diagnoses, poor access to services and a lack of confidence in some schools, whole young people aged 18-25 were left facing a “cliff edge” in support with “poorly planned and uncoordinated” provision.

The report also identified “chronic weaknesses” in meeting deadlines for completing ECHPs.

The new action plan, produced jointly with the four parent carer groups, pledges to improve the proportion of EHCPs completed in timescale from eight per cent to at least 60pc in the next 18 months.

The new therapy centre at Sheringham Woodfields School, part of additional Norfolk County Council investment in SEND services. Picture: Chris Taylor PhotographyThe new therapy centre at Sheringham Woodfields School, part of additional Norfolk County Council investment in SEND services. Picture: Chris Taylor Photography

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It also promises extra staff to increase capacity in special education needs teams and new technology systems that will include self-serve options, so families can track their cases.

The plan has been shared with inspectors, and progress will be monitored by the Department for Education, ahead of a further inspection in 2022.

Nicki Price, founder of SENsational Families. Picture: Nicki PriceNicki Price, founder of SENsational Families. Picture: Nicki Price

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We want the best education for every child, which is why we’re investing millions of pounds in transforming special educational needs services.

“We’re building new special schools and working with our mainstream schools so that they have the support they need to provide the best education for children with special educational needs.

MORE: Schools to open 40 new places for children with complex needs from January

“There is no doubt that the big increase in demand we’ve faced in recent years has had an impact on frontline teams and children and their families. That’s why this plan also recognises the need to recruit more staff and improve the support and advice we give to parents.”

Nicki Price, chief executive of SENsational Families, which was involved in producing the plan, said: “A great deal of work has been put into this plan and included positive participation from both professionals and parent carers.

“We feel that as a charity working directly with parent carers, we provide a powerful insight into the day to day difficulties faced by SEND families and are providing these families with a voice.”

Chair of Family Voice Norfolk, Tracey Sismey, said: “The real work starts now – putting into action the written plan. We look forward to continuing to represent families who too often find it hard to access the support they and their children need.”


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