Local leaders in Blackburn and Darwen are committed to improving the lives of children and young people with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND). That’s the finding of a new report carried out and published by Ofsted and the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Inspectors for Ofsted and the CQC spoke with children and young people with SEND, parents, carers and staff from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, schools, education settings and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
During the five-day joint assessment in June, Inspectors reported that provision for SEND is a key priority for all partners and that there is a real enthusiasm, and “can do attitude”, to work closely together to make sure children and young people get the best possible support.
Cllr Maureen Bateson, Executive Member for Children’s, Young People & Education, said: “I am so proud of all the hard work and dedication that our staff and leadership team have shown which many parents tell us is making a real difference to the lives of children and their families. I’d like to thank Jayne, senior leaders and all of our wonderful staff and partners for making such a huge difference.
“We have really good education, support and services available to for our children and families. Our children go to really good schools, many of them mainstream that cater for their unique needs.”
Outstanding provision such as Newfield Specialist School for children with Autism, our Outstanding Pupil Referral Unit and our Outstanding respite and short breaks Appletrees service are recognised nationally as offering truly pioneering support for families with children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities.
“We know groups such as our Little Treasures support group are considered a lifeline for parents and carers.”
Cllr Bateson said that despite having huge pressures on budgets, a rise in the number of children with SEND and having a high proportion of younger people compared with other places, that the inspection outcome offers an “extremely positive outlook” for children and families in Blackburn and Darwen.
She added: “Some of these children are the most vulnerable and need our support to live happy and fulfilling lives.
“The report also highlights how our close partnership working has improved our services, putting the needs of children and young people first.”
Inspectors praised the Council’s recently-appointed Director of Children’s Services, Jayne Ivory, and her leadership team for providing the “impetus which has accelerated the local area’s pace of improvement” and noted that she has strengthened the leadership and governance of SEND.
Also highlighted in the report was that leaders have made considerable progress in addressing the area’s most pressing issues. Inspectors said new leaders share the director of children’s services’ “ambitious vision for the local area.
Jayne Ivory, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Director of Children’s Services, said “It is really humbling to see that all the positive work that has taken place to improve health and care services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities has been recognised by independent inspectors.
“The report includes a number of helpful recommendations. Inspectors acknowledged that we accurately know our strengths and our areas for development and as a collective partnership we have the capacity to address them.”
Mrs Ivory added: “We are already well on with reviewing all service areas to ensure continual improvements and remain committed to promoting and growing our local offer of services and the website to make sure families and professionals know where to turn to for help and guidance.”
A number of other areas have been highlighted as strengths, inspectors noted that the voice of children and young people with SEND is given a high priority in the borough. They are listened to and they are able to influence the services they receive.
Claire Richardson, lead for Children and Young People at Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The results of the inspection demonstrates the hard work and commitment of staff involved in planning and providing services to children and their families.
“The close working relationships between professionals across health, care and education and our “can do” attitude, together with our moral purpose, enthusiasm and commitment, was recognised as a strength by the inspectors.
“We are working closely with all our partners on how we can continue to improve and ensure our children, young people and their families have the best start in life possible.”
Other areas that were highlighted as key strengths include the specialist schools provision, in that the majority of children attend good or better schools.
Inspectors also recommended key areas for development, including:
Areas for development include better incorporation of leaders’ and managers’ accurate knowledge of the local area into improvement plans.
More emphasis to be placed on the positive differences the SEND provision makes to the lives of children and families, rather than processes.
Some children have long waits for neurodevelopment assessments and some mental health services due to the high demand for these services.
Better use of data, in relation to patterns and trends of need, to inform and evaluate commissioning of services and strategic planning.
Opportunities for employment and independent living are limited and need to be broadened and it was acknowledged the local area’s ambitious plans for adults’ services will help to support this.
The full report of the joint local area SEND inspection is available to read here.
Families with children that have special educational needs and/or disabilities can access help, support and services via: www.bwd-localoffer.org.uk