Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) returned to Bristol last month to assess whether special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services have improved since their last visit in 2019. We are pleased that their report recognises that our Local Area has made sufficient progress in addressing four of the five key areas of weakness highlighted in the initial Ofsted/CQC inspection in 2019, improving outcomes for children and young people (CYP) with SEND.
This reflects the dedication of staff to implement service improvements at pace over the last three years, despite the additional challenges of the pandemic. The full report has been published on Bristol’s Local Offer website, before Ofsted and the CQC publish it themselves on Friday.
While inspectors found that we had not made sufficient progress in addressing the difficult relationships with parents and carers identified in 2019, it is welcome that they found that “the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience”. We will continue to work hard to deliver further progress, as we build on ongoing work to improve relationships through a community of groups approach.
The report also notes that inclusion is central to Bristol’s Belonging Strategy, which was co-produced with children and young people from across our city: putting their voices, needs and ambitions for the future at the heart of Bristol’s recovery from the pandemic. Launched in October last year, the strategy supports the One City aim that everyone in Bristol will have the best start in life, gaining the support and skills they need as they grow up to thrive and prosper in adulthood.
Ofsted/CQC’s observations and comments on our progress
- Improvements in accountability are leading to better support for children and young people (CYP) with SEND and school leaders value the transformation of systems and processes that has taken place since the previous inspection.
- The identification and assessment of CYP with SEND in Bristol is improving, with the Ordinarily Available Provision document detailing interventions to meet needs, within typical school assessment and support processes. There has been a cultural shift in the way that professionals and schools, work together which is improving the way that they work together to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND.
- Effective joint working between professionals has resulted in real improvements to the timeliness and quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans. There is a stronger focus on improving outcomes and ensuring the child or young person and their family’s voice has been captured. This work is resulting in children and young people being placed at the centre of the EHC assessment process.
- The support in Bristol for children and young people with SEND is getting better. Even so, leaders know there is more to do to ensure that all children and young people attend school regularly. The proportion of children and young people with an EHC plan who have been excluded from school has fallen. A range of strategies have been introduced to ensure that pupils who are at risk of exclusion get the help they need from schools and professionals.
- Parents and carers have a more mixed view of the quality of support available to children and young people with SEND than at the time of the last inspection. Some parents and carers continue to lack trust in the system and feel that leaders are not acting in the best interests of their children. However, the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience. Plans are progressing to re-establish a formal body to represent parents and carers.
Improving SEND services remains a priority for Bristol City Council, with dedicated council staff and SEND leaders working alongside our partners in health, education, parents/carers and CYP with a deeply held, shared commitment to improving outcomes for CYP and their families. Our work is underpinned by our strategic approach outlined in the Bristol Children’s Charter and the Bristol Equality Charter, as well as the Mayor’s pledge to provide 450 new specialist school places, which is on track to be delivered in 2023.
The Council and local area partners including health will now work with the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England to determine next steps and look to build on this progress. Our focus will be on how we can better communicate and work with all our parents and carers, ensuring that the parent, carer and young person’s voice – in all its diversity – is at the heart of our co-production work in SEND.
Please follow the Bristol Local Offer Facebook page for more updates on our Ofsted/CQC progress.