‘Not enough progress’ over Birmingham SEND pupils

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As reported by BBC news, Birmingham has not made sufficient progress in addressing 12 out of 13 “significant weaknesses” over special educational needs, watchdogs say

Pupils make “weak” academic progress, attend school less often and are excluded more frequently than other pupils, a report in 2018 said. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revisited in May. The city council and Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group said they “fully” accepted findings.

The significant weakness areas included “a lack of an overarching approach or joined-up strategy” for improving provision, the watchdogs said. After it was found pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) “make weak academic progress” compared with all pupils nationally, the latest report said there were “several areas of concern where outcomes show little sign of improvement”. Overall absence for those with an education, health and care plan was “above national figures and persistent absence is significantly above national average”. Children and young people with SEND still waited “too long” to access speech and language therapy.

Joint commissioning had previously been described as “significantly underdeveloped across the local area”, but this was the one area where sufficient improvement has been made. In a statement, the Labour-run council and CCG said they acknowledged the service had “not been good enough”, they had “let our children and families down” and for that they were “genuinely sorry”. The organisations said they “must get better at listening to and acting upon feedback”.

Council cabinet member for children’s wellbeing Kate Booth and CCG chief executive Paul Jennings said they intended to address “the fundamental weaknesses in the system” whilst building upon those “showing promise”. Shadow cabinet member for children’s wellbeing Alex Yip said Ofsted found even before the COVID-19 pandemic, “little improvement had been made”.

The watchdogs also stated it was for the Department for Education and NHS England to “determine the next steps”. A government spokesperson said it had increased its high needs funding by nearly a quarter to £8bn in 2021-22. The Local Government Association, which represents councils’ interests, has previously said pressures had been recognised by the government which has increased funding, but has called on it “to publish its review of the SEND system as soon as possible”.

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