“SIGNIFICANT weaknesses” have been identified in Dudley’s provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities, following an inspection by Ofsted.

A report published this week (July 16) says leaders are beginning to address problems “but many actions are not yet embedded, and are yet to have an impact”.

The report, which follows an inspection of Dudley education providers and health teams in May, says there had been insufficient focus on SEND until recently and over time there has been “a lack of a strategic approach to identification, assessment and provision mapping” which has led to poor outcomes for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

Her Majesty’s Inspector Simon Mosley found:

-The needs of children and young people with SEND had not been accurately identified over time and were therefore not met as appropriate provision was not put in place.

-There is a lack of understanding about inclusion although the report acknowledges leaders are beginning to change the culture.

-There is a great deal of parental dissatisfaction in Dudley, with the report saying “parents have correctly highlighted many weaknesses in the local area” including poor communication; their voices not being heard, their experiences not being respected, having to tell their stories repeatedly, young people’s needs not being assessed or met well, a lack of suitable local settings, and too many young people not attending schools on a full-time basis.

-There has been limited opportunity to ensure the workforce is adequately skilled and knowledgeable and the joint commissioning of services to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND is underdeveloped.

-The commissioning of health visiting services and school nursing in Dudley is fragmented as teams are provided by two different trusts.

-The school nursing service is not commissioned to provide support for under fives so there are young children in educational settings and not benefitting from the input of a school nurse until they turn five - which leads to delays in additional needs being identified and met.

-Education, health and care (EHC) plans and processes are poor and do not focus on outcomes and rarely help to prepare young people for adult life.

-Over time, outcomes for pupils with SEND have been poor. The attainment and progress of pupils with SEND is below that of all pupils nationally and absence and exclusions rates are too high.

-There is a lack of local post-19 provision for young people with more complex needs.

-Too few young people are entering the world of work. Not enough young people with SEND are benefitting from employment or supported employment opportunities.

The report acknowledges leaders now have a clear understanding of the local area’s strengths and weaknesses and they have identified the priorities requiring immediate and urgent improvement and developed appropriate action plans. They also recognise services for children were poor in the past.

Dudley Council and Dudley CCG must now provide a Written Statement of Action to Ofsted.

Representatives from both organisations have said they are now working on an action plan that will see rapid improvement in areas identified as inadequate in the report.

This includes better identifying and assessing needs, creating a better understanding of inclusion, improved communication with parents, developing joint commissioning plans, and improving post-19 provision for young adults with additional needs as well as helping young people with SEND into work.

Dudley Council has also pledged an additional £330,000 to recruit extra staff to the SEND team who are assigned to specific families to ensure continuity and bespoke support for individual families.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, Dudley’s cabinet member for children and young people, said the Ofsted report "confirms much of what we already knew" and she added: "It is vital that our action plan takes account of all the feedback in the report and we will work openly, honestly and closely with parents, carers and partners to ensure good provision of services for all children and young people with SEND.”

Paul Maubach, chief executive officer for Dudley CCG, said: “We know every child or young person deserves the very best, but we also recognise that we do not yet deliver this on a consistent basis in Dudley.

“The inspectors have indicated to us that they have identified some areas of strong practice, but they have also found a number of areas for development.

“We are now committed to working with our partners across health and care to make provision for the children of our borough the best it can possibly be.”

The report can be viewed in full online at https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50093279.

Positives highlighted by the inspector included: early support for families that they receive from a range of services and specifically aspects of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS); the SEND information advice support service; sensory support services; and the emotional health of children who are looked after.

The action plan will be discussed with the Department for Education before being published this autumn.