Councillor demands proof that special needs services are improving

A senior councillor says he wants proof that officers are helping children with special needs.

Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 11:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 6:36 pm
Coun Mick Rooney

Tim Armstrong, head of special educational needs and disabilities at Sheffield Council, said there was a perception that SEND services were “in a mess” and that the department was “rubbish”.

An inspection last November found seven areas of significant weakness and parents have highlighted a number of problems.

Mr Armstrong told a scrutiny meeting that progress was being made – but chairman Coun Mick Rooney said he wanted evidence.

Coun Rooney said: “There are various complaints about SEND at different points in the system starting with special educational needs coordinators in schools and going all the way up.

“We want to see some proof that progress is being made because all we have is your word for it. I have nothing in front of me I can put my hat on.

“I may seem harsh but this is one of the most contentious issues in the school system at this time and it’s certainly the one thing I get the most angry complaints about.”

Coun Rooney also said he wanted all the reports about SEND provision collating. He added: “I have not seen the Ofsted report, the written statement of action and what we are going to do, all in one place.

“I want to see all the documents in one place so we can have a proper look at it. Please do not do weblinks, I want paperwork, as personally weblinks annoy me.”

Mr Armstrong said the council was putting together a new five-year strategy on SEND services.

“We have been taking all the information we already know, plus the Parent Carer Forum’s State of Sheffield report. We have analysed and worked with stakeholders to ensure we have all the information we need.

“There is a public questionnaire running until the end of September and we will then work with Sheffield University to produce our strategy in early October. There will be consultation in November and we will report to Cabinet next February.

“In Sheffield we have a perception that SEND has been a mess for quite a long time and that it’s always going to be a mess and is unfixable.

“We have a lot of people going through very difficult journeys as families or organisations and it’s very difficult to let go of the history when we have to move a massive tanker at a rapid pace.

“It’s about how we work together to look at the positive progress being made rather than negative side.

“We regularly get told the SEND department is rubbish and have not done what they are supposed to do.

“There is absolutely improvement to be made but it’s not all about one service, it’s a system wide challenge and a national system struggling with resources.

“The action plan will be delivered. We will be monitored and are putting our feet to the fire to make sure we are on top of it.”