The DfE and NHS England conducted their first progress monitoring visit last November with representatives from KCC, NHS Kent and Medway, schools and parents, and reviewed a wealth of documentary evidence. The review team have now written to the two partners with their findings.
The review praised the “collective determination [of KCC and NHS Kent and Medway] to making sustainable improvements to SEND services and to the lives of children and young people.”
While progress has been made in all nine areas identified for improvement by Ofsted in November 2022, the review conducted in November 2023 highlighted that the pace of the improvements must be maintained.
Ahead of the next 6-monthly review, Kent County Council (KCC) and its health partner, NHS Kent and Medway, will focus on how the changes already made will start to benefit both children and young people with SEND, and their families.
“We can have confidence that we are heading in the right direction to make long-term, sustainable changes for the benefit of all children and young people with SEND.”
KCC’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Rory Love, said: “The letter from the DfE and NHS England recognises the considerable work of our staff and partners over the past year to make progress towards the improvements we said we would make. I believe this will start to provide reassurance to families across Kent.
“We have received external confirmation that we have met our commitment to provide a clear plan for improvement, backed up with ‘a permanent, suitably trained, SEND case work team’ of sufficient capacity to deliver our service.
“The review team noted that there is increasing evidence of much stronger governance and strategic oversight in place. Our stronger relationship with schools is starting to have a positive impact, with pupils on SEN support having better educational outcomes than the national average.
“There is still much more work to be done and we are continuing to keep up the pace of improvements. But we can have confidence that we are heading in the right direction to make long-term, sustainable changes for the benefit of all children and young people with SEND.”
Chief Delivery Officer at NHS Kent and Medway, Lee Martin, said: “SEND continues to be a priority for NHS Kent and Medway, with a focus on early access to information and support to assist families.
“We were encouraged to see the acknowledgement by the Department of Education and NHS England for the work and progress we are making, particularly in access to wheelchairs and reducing waiting times for speech and language therapy. We are focused on continuing to improve waiting times, access to NHS SEND support services and widening our communication with families.”