Open letter from Jacky Forster, chair of the Cheshire East 0-25 SEND Partnership
7 September 2021
It has been nine weeks now since the publication of the Ofsted/Care Quality Commission ( CQC ) inspection into services for children and young people with SEND in Cheshire East. During this time, I have spoken with representatives from the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum, staff, schools and councillors and listened to their feedback on the inspection outcome and our improvement journey since 2018.
Through these discussions, I recognise that some parents and carers are not happy with the published letter, feel that they have not been heard and that we are not listening to their concerns.
I’d like to reassure you that we very much take parent/carer views into consideration when shaping services and we value the important relationship that we have with the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum. We recognise that with over 8,500 children and young people in Cheshire East with a special educational need and/or disability that we need to work harder communicating and engaging with you, their parents and carers.
As you may know, the visit by Ofsted and CQC was focussed solely on the two areas of weakness identified back in 2018 and not all services for children and young people with SEND . Over 700 parents and carers completed Ofsted’s online survey, and their views were taken into account alongside other evidence, including data from randomly selected cases as well as meeting with young people, parents/carers, education, health and care professionals.
The inspection letter refers to services having been transformed. This reflects the significant improvement in timeliness and quality of new plans and improvements in the quality of existing plans. We know that by early 2020, ‘almost every needs assessment was completed within 20 weeks, compared to less than one in six in 2018’ which was also highlighted in the inspection letter. In our parent carer survey from January 2021, 70% were satisfied with how their education health and care plan described their child’s needs and how they should be met, compared with a 56% satisfaction rate in 2020.
Importantly, Ofsted and CQC ’s report states that ‘the local area is not resting on its laurels’ and is very clear that ‘addressing this significant weakness has been, and still is, a journey’.
We do recognise that the outcome presented in Ofsted and CQC ’s letter is not the experience of everyone, but it is an indicator that we are heading in the right direction and making significant progress in a number of areas. I’d like to assure you that we are committed to continuing to work with parents to make ongoing improvements with the ambition that all children and families experience a good service and benefit from the changes.
We know that we have more work to do, and we are not complacent. The inspection has been a key milestone in our improvement journey, and we must recognise all the hard work and effort of staff across all services and partners including the Parent Carer Forum in getting us this far.
Looking forward, we can now concentrate our attention on our key priorities which we have set out in our draft SEND strategy. These priorities, set out below, have been co-produced by the SEND Partnership including representatives from the Parent Carer Forum.
- Improving communication and coproduction with families
- Improving access to provision and support
- Improving timeliness and quality of annual reviews of education, health and care plans
- Further developing an effective and supported workforce
- Ensuring an effective COVID-19 recovery response
We will be in touch again shortly to seek your views on this draft strategy and a draft communication and engagement strategy as we want your views on how we can improve our engagement with you. We want to know what works best for you.
In the meantime, you can keep up to date with news from across the SEND Partnership by signing up for regular emails. Parents and carers may also be interested in joining the Cheshire East Parent Carer Forum at Join us - Cheshire East (cepcf.org). Becoming a member gives you access to free training, a chance to meet and chat to other parents and help co-design future health, education and social care policy and delivery.
We currently hold termly coffee sessions for parents with staff from across the partnership (these are organised together with the Parent Carer Forum). We are keen to hear your views on themes for these sessions an ask you to let the Parent Carer Forum know which areas where you would like to discuss. In listening to parents, we will offer an evening session for those parents who are unable to attend in the day.
Our vision remains that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities achieve well in their early years, at school and in college, and lead happy and fulfilled lives. I remain committed to providing the best quality education and support for children and young people, ensuring they are happy, healthy and achieving their potential. We need your support to help us prioritise what matters most.
Finally, I want to thank all our parents and carers for sharing their feedback on our services and helping us to change the lives of children and young people with SEND across the borough. We are listening and continue to listen to the views of children, young people and their families, aiming to work together to make Cheshire East a great place to be young.
Chair of the Cheshire East 0-25 SEND Partnership