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Calls made for wholesale review of special educational needs amid damning report

PUBLISHED: 19:00 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:58 05 March 2019

A review of Suffolk's SEND services have been called for by the county council's opposition groups. Picture: THINKSTOCK

A review of Suffolk's SEND services have been called for by the county council's opposition groups. Picture: THINKSTOCK

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Calls for an independent review into failing special educational needs provision in Suffolk is growing today following renewed criticism by inspectors.

Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman said those responsible needed to Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman said those responsible needed to "do the right thing" and "review their position". Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL/SIMON LEE PHOTOGRAPHY

The Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups at Suffolk County Council have united in calling for a review to be carried out by an independent organisation, following the damning Ofsted and Care Quality Commission report published today.

The two watchdogs visited the county council and NHS to re-inspect special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision following a host of concerns raised two years ago.

The latest findings said that in three out of the four areas needed for improvements not enough progress had been made.

Jack Abbott, education spokesman for the Labour group, said: “This report is a devastating indictment on the state of SEN services in Suffolk, but will come as little surprise to the hundreds of families across Suffolk who have paid the price for the council’s inertia and disinterest.

Penny Otton from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group said not enough was being done for SEND students who needed support now. Picture: GREGG BROWNPenny Otton from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group said not enough was being done for SEND students who needed support now. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“The watershed moment should have been two years ago, but this report underlines how little has changed.

“Warning after warning has been ignored – this is no longer incompetent but negligent too.

“There is no reflection on why the recommendations in the last report were not implemented immediately or what actions will now be taken to rapidly turn this situation around.

“Without organisations like SPCN fighting on their behalf, the voices of families would simply not have been heard.

“It is clear from this report and SPCN’s survey that there is a culture within the council that is resistant to change.

“Enough is enough – it is now incumbent on councillor Matthew Hicks [council leader] and Nicola Beach [chief executive] to not only commission an independent review of the service, but to make the changes necessary to ensure that the right personnel are in place to drive through major reforms.”

He added that those responsible “should do the decent thing and review their position”.

Gordon Jones, SCC’s cabinet member for education, said that he recognised major improvements were still needed, and that the report helped steer areas for further development.

Liberal Democrat councillor Penny Otton, spokeswoman for education with the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, at last month’s cabinet meeting said while the additional £45m being planned for creating new specialist places was welcome, more was needed for students here and now.

“Children with SEND and their families deserve proper support from Suffolk County Council, and quite frankly it is shameful that they are still failing to provide it,” she said.

“Although the council has finally agreed future investment for SEND provision, the question remains: what are we doing right now to help families and children? Clearly, we are not doing enough.

“Ofsted’s damning report needs to be the catalyst for some really radical changes to the way SEND services are provided in Suffolk.

“Whilst it is good to hear that leaders at the council recognise they need to be doing more, we must remember that they have already had three whole years to make changes – and the service is still inadequate.

“It’s clear the current system just isn’t working, and I would wholeheartedly support an independent review to determine exactly why our services are still failing these children.”

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