Lancashire's special educational needs service to be inspected again next year

Lancashire's special educational needs service was the subject of a critical report by regulators earlier this year.
Lancashire's special educational needs service was the subject of a critical report by regulators earlier this year.

Services for young people in Lancashire who have special educational needs are likely to face a fresh inspection from regulators next year.

OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission issued a damning assessment after inspectors last visited the county just over twelve months ago.

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Since then, the county and health bosses have carried out an action plan.

Lancashire has received quarterly monitoring visits to judge its progress and following the next one, due just before Christmas, officials will decide whether that requirement will be relaxed.

But whatever the outcome, a full reinspection can be expected in June 2019, the county has been advised.

John Readman, interim director of children’s services at county hall, said it was an opportunity for Lancashire to reset its reputation.

“There is understandably a lot of emotion out there around this issue. Lots of improvements are being made, but there is much more to do.

“If we have that rigorous check of a full inspection, we can hopefully get confirmation that improvement has happened.

“So although the process is tough, it will be good to go through it - otherwise a lot of people will be hanging onto that negative report from last year,” Mr. Readman told a meeting of Lancashire’s health and wellbeing board..

Criticisms made of the service after the last inspection included the sense of “bewilderment” amongst families about how decisions about their children were made and the slow implementation of national reforms dating back to 2014.

Concern was also raised about the number of children with special educational needs who are excluded from mainstream schools. Although exclusion rates had fallen for primary schools, they were four times the national average in Lancashire’s secondary schools.

Sian Rees, improvement partner for the county’s special educational needs service, said support mechanisms and alternative school provision were being redesigned.

“Our high level of exclusion is partly illustrative of the fact that things are not working well in the support system. We do know that the mental health of young people is of concern in schools,” she said.

The meeting also heard that a priority for the service was to ensure consistency, particularly in the drafting of education, health and care plans, which outline a young person’s needs.