A Government inspection of special educational needs and disability provision in Bolton has found that children are ‘at the heart’ of their education, health and care plans.
A team from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out the inspection in May this year, one of the first of its kind since new reforms for disability and special educational needs services were introduced in 2014.
The new reforms, which form part of the Children and Families Act 2014, join together services for children across education, health and care providers.
Inspectors visited a number of schools and spoke with children and young people who have special educational needs; parents; carers; and representatives from Bolton Council, NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.
As part of their inspection, they found a number of strengths including that ‘the vast majority of parents felt that their views and those of their children were listened to’ and their children’s needs were ‘identified well’.
They also found that the majority of specialist provision, in both mainstream and special schools, was ‘of high quality’.
Bolton demonstrated some good examples of joined up working within health teams and other partners, and the area was adopting a ‘tell it once’ approach so that parents are listened to and don’t have to repeat their circumstances multiple times to different professionals.
Particularly pleasing was that inspectors felt there was a ‘generally high’ satisfaction amongst children and young people that their needs were being met and their outcomes were improving.
Within the areas for development, the report highlighted that the area was struggling to meet demand for referrals and diagnosis for autistic spectrum disorders (ASD); could reduce further the time children had to wait for their plan; needed to improve support for 19-25 year olds; and should do more to involve parents and carers in shaping the local offer.
Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Schools, Safeguarding and Looked After Children, Cllr Ann Cunliffe, said: “The inspection was to evaluate how we are progressing with the implementation of the new reforms, and we are delighted to be recognised for the work we have done so far.
“We are happy that the report reflects the many achievements of ours and our partners in meeting children’s needs, and it would appear that the changes we have made so far are already producing good results.
“We are passionate in Bolton about delivering the best service possible for our children and young people with special educational needs. We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to do, and partners are developing an action plan which will focus on improving the areas highlighted.”
Changes introduced by the NHS in Bolton, in response to the new reforms, include broadening the scope of services to better meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disability. The CCG has added targets to all health service contracts, which encourage providers to work in a timely way to support individuals in achieving the outcomes as defined in their education, health, and care plans.
Su Long, Chief Officer at NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group seeks to commission high quality health services that support children and young people with special educational needs and disability to reach their full potential. We welcome this report, particularly the feedback from children, young people, and families.”
“The CCG has worked closely with partners to implement these important reforms. Together with providers, we have strived to improve health service provision and ensure that children and young people have the support they need.”
Ashley Mason, Lead for Special Educational Needs at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said: “We’re pleased with the findings of the recent OFSTED inspection. The report highlights the strength of our partnership working across Bolton, which is so important in providing the best care for our patients and their families.”