Warwickshire County Council takes steps to overhaul parts of the education system criticised by Ofsted

The manager tasked with the job says mainstream schools need support to meet the needs of children with special educational needs

The manager tasked with the job says mainstream schools need support to meet the needs of children with special educational needs

Mainstream schools across Warwickshire have to be given the skills and support to meet the needs of children with special educational needs.

That is the message with the person tasked with overhauling parts of the system criticised in an Ofsted report published in September.

Duanne Chappell, a strategy and commissioning manager with Warwickshire County Council, explained to this week’s meeting of the children and young people’s overview and scrutiny committee that there were five key areas highlighted by the report which has led to the service being monitored by the Department for Education and NHS England for the next 18 months.

One of these areas was the number of children learning in special needs schools rather than mainstream establishments and Ms Chappell explained that work needed to be done in this particular area.

She said: “Staff were saying they hadn’t got the skills to do it. It’s the chicken and the egg - you have to give them the skills, knowledge and understanding to meet our children’s needs.

“Ofsted said that there are children in our special schools who could have, and should have, had their needs met in mainstream. If we get the balance right then children will be in the right place. It is not an easy journey and it is not going to happen overnight.”

Ms Chappell added that it was also important that school leaders also worked together.

She said: “It is about schools having that peer-to-peer leadership support. I hear from some school leaders say they are inclusive and take all the children because they are good at what they do. What then happens is that others schools who are not as inclusive signpost to those schools.

“There have to be challenging conversations about what is fair - if we are equitable across the county then we will build up the workforce and not have certain hotspots. It is about us all working together.”

Ofsted inspectors acknowledged that work was being done by officers and they stated that whenever a new education, health and care [EHC] plan was issued, a wide range of settings were considered to establish which one best met the child’s needs.

But their report added: “However, leaders have not consulted stakeholders widely enough about the reasons for the changes and the actions needed.

“Communication about why changes need to be made has not been clear enough, particularly with schools and parents and carers. As a result, some parents and school leaders do not understand why so many changes are being made, such as reducing the number of children and young people in special schools and changes to the EHC assessment process. This has led to some parents, carers and school leaders not supporting the changes fully.”