York’s chief nurse has praised the “unwavering commitment” of staff and children after independent inspectors noted key improvements in the city’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission said in 2019 that there were “significant weaknesses” in the services provided for children with additional needs.
In York, 13 per cent of school pupils have SEND.
A team from Ofsted re-assessed the support provided by City of York Council and York Health and Care Partnership in November 2022, speaking to children and young people with SEND, parents and carers, and local authority and NHS officers.
Inspectors found that “sufficient progress” had been made in the four significant weaknesses identified, which included poor oversight of health services and the variable quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans.
It means the formal quarterly “support and challenge” visits from the Department for Education (DfE) and NHS England will cease.
Inspectors particularly highlighted the strength of York’s co-production – how services are developed working with children, young people, parents and professionals – and the work to support local needs via the Early Talk for York communication and language programme
“The vast majority of these children, including those who are disadvantaged, have made progress and caught up with their peers,” inspectors said in their report.
Parents and carers have also reported “great satisfaction” with a new autism hub.
Cllr Andrew Waller, executive member for children, young people and education, said the re-inspection recognised the work done during Covid pandemic.
He added: “We are committed to work with partners to improve the support and provision available for children and young people and their families in the city, and making the case for improved funding for these services along with other councils nationally.”
Director of nursing at York Hospital Michelle Carrington said: “It is a testament to the unwavering commitment of everyone including the children themselves and their families that we mark this milestone and this does not diminish in any way our continued drive to make even further progress.”
The council’s corporate director of children and education Martin Kelly added: “Our priority now is to continue the improvements of the last two years to ensure that York is a great place for all children and young people to grow up.”
The council agreed a new SEND plan in 2021 and in November senior councillors approved £8 million for dedicated SEND facilities in the city.
However, at the beginning of last year, the council agreed to cut the cost of home to school transport for SEND pupils and to increase the number of pupils who are integrated into mainstream schools as part of a deal struck with the DfE in exchange for £17m to fill a budget black hole.
The 2019 report also noted that parents had told inspectors they had to be “pushy” and “dogged” to ensure their child’s needs were identified and supported.
They also said access to child and adolescent mental health services was an “ongoing concern” – with waiting times being too long.