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Stalker Walk
Sheffield, England, S11 8JF
United Kingdom


Helping parents, schools, and professionals to navigate the complex legal system of special educational needs and Education, Health & Care Plans.

Talking about Education, Health and Care Plans

Talking about Education, Health and Care Plans, and how to support parents and professionals through the complex process.

Are you living the nightmare?

Bright Futures

Sheffield Council Ofsted Inspection

Sheffield Council were inspected by Ofsted in November 2018. On Friday 25th January 2019. The outcomes reflect the realities of the problems experienced across the city. The Ofsted inspectors identify significant issues with EHCP assessments, timeframes, quality assurance, understanding of EHC needs by leaders/decision makers, co-production, transitions, waiting lists, joint commissioning and CCG.

It is very clear that the LA is failing the children and young people of Sheffield, and many of our Bright Futures’ families are experiencing the real impact this has on their children, first-hand. This reality is more than any inspection can possible illuminate. The struggle and nightmare is real. It leaves some families in absolute disarray; shattered emotionally and financially by a fragmented system.

Of course, some of these problems identified in Sheffield, are not isolated to Sheffield alone. The EHC process has left many families affected in similar ways nationwide.

The inspectors have directed Sheffield leaders in Education and CCG to co-produce actions to focus upon the areas of weakness.

So what were the weaknesses that Ofsted identified?

  1. SEN Reforms have not been implemented consistently or swiftly enough

    Plans vary in quality across the city. From Bright Future’s perspective, we see very low quality EHCPs being issued by Sheffield Council, normally following a very poor ‘assessment’ of need This included the transfer from SEN statement to EHCP. Rarely do we speak to any family in Sheffield that has received their plan on time. If they have, the assessment/ production has been rushed and without consultation

  2. Too many children do not have their needs assessed accurately or in a timely way

    We regularly see plans being issued without proper consultation with health and social care professionals; even at key transition points. An Educational Psychologist is occasionally consulted. There are some excellent Educational Psychologists commissioned by Sheffield Council, but the specificity stated in their reports for the purpose of an EHCP varies from professional to professional, adding to the inconsistency noted above.

  3. Not meeting timeframes for completing EHCPs

    As above

  4. Poor quality assurance of the plans

    Again, adding to the inconsistency noted above. There appears to be no formal quality assurance and one plan can vary substantially from another. Some plans are not even updated after annual review (a perfect point to make sure the information in the EHCP is up-to-date and clearly reflective of the child/young person’s needs).

  5. High level of exclusions of SEN children

    This is happening more and more regularly, and unnecessarily (in some cases illegally). These children are then left out of education, with their needs not being met. We tend to find it more where a child that needs additional support has not been properly assessed, and needs potentially more specialist education, but this has been denied.

  6. Poor multi-agency transition arrangements resulting in children not being supported at crucial times of their lives

    This is so so crucial and can have an effect on so many young people about to move in to adulthood. The young person can end up being absolutely lost in a system that is simply not able to support them, never mind provide an accessible and well-planned preparation for the next stage of their life.

  7. No overarching co-produced SEND strategy

    The crazy thing is, so may families, young people and professionals could make this work; together. Yes there is a lack of funds, but without using the information that is at their fingertips, the council is missing out on some streamlined and successful planning for a workable SEND strategy.

  8. Joint commissioning is underdeveloped and not informed by a full understanding of children and young people’s education, health and care needs.

    To plan, you need to understand. To make decisions you need to be at the centre of it; listening; working together; assessing, informing. This does not happen between commissioners in Sheffield. What is the phrase we are constantly told about? ‘ASSESS, PLAN, DO, REVIEW?’ Ok, so how is this being modelled in the council exactly?

  9. Decision makers (on how money is spent) do not use the information they have to prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference to children and young people with SEND.

    Consequently, leaders do not have a shared understanding of the demands on current provision which, in turn, is a barrier to effective planning and commissioning.

  10. CCG has poor strategic oversight of arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting the health needs of children and young people with SEND.

    Ofsted explains that this has resulted in unacceptable delays in assessing and meeting some children and young people’s health needs.

  11. For the vast majority of parents and carers, children and young people, ‘tell it once’ is not working and they are constantly asked to provide the same information.

    A parent summed up the frustrations thus, ‘I feel like a broken record’.

  12. Training for education, health and care staff regarding special educational needs and the EHC planning process is not well established.

    How can quality be delivered, without investment in training?

  13. Children and young people aged zero to 25 experience long waits to have their needs assessed and met by some services.

    For example, Ofsted state that ‘waiting times for assessments at the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) and the neurodisability team at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust exceed National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance. Some children with existing needs experience unacceptable waits of three years to see a clinical psychologist. Although checks of the waiting lists are undertaken, there is a risk that children’s changing needs may be missed and the delays hinder their achievement of better outcomes’.

  14. Post-16 annual reviews are managed by colleges and other providers and are predominantly education focused.

    This is a massive risk, for children that have health and social care needs. Ofsted explain that health and care services do not make a strong enough contribution to preparing young people with SEND for adulthood.

  15. Currently, more than 40 children and young people with an EHC plan are not achieving as they should because they do not have a place in school.

    We believe this figure could indeed be higher - we regularly see maladministrative errors with data collection in Sheffield council - some children are noted to still be on school roll even if they have not attended in months and months on end.

  16. Good outcomes for children and young people with SEND are compromised by the widespread use of partial timetables for lengthy periods.

    Ofsted explain that ‘at the time of this inspection, 70 pupils with an EHC plan and 118 with special educational needs support were on these partial timetables’

  17. The take-up of personal budgets, including personal health budgets, in Sheffield is low and limits opportunities for greater personalisation of provision.

    In our experience, it is obscenely difficult to obtain a personal budget in Sheffield, for reasons unknown. It is rarely discussed as an option and reduces the ability to be creative, unnecessarily.

So what next?

The local area is now required to produce and submit a written statement of action to Ofsted that explains how the local area will tackle the following areas of significant weakness:

 the lack of a co-produced, coherent vision and strategy for SEND in Sheffield  communication, clarity and consistency in the relationship between the local area leaders, parents, carers, children and young people

 poor strategic oversight of SEND arrangements by the CCG, which results in unacceptable waiting times for access to specialist equipment and appropriate pre- and post-diagnosis support and children and young people’s needs not being met

 weaknesses in commissioning arrangements to remove variability and improve consistency in meeting the education, health and care needs of children and young people aged zero to 25 with SEND

 the quality and timeliness of EHC plans

 inconsistencies in identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND in mainstream primary and secondary schools

 weaknesses in securing effective multi-agency transition arrangements for children and young people with SEND

Read the full report here

Supporting families and professionals to navigate the EHCP process, nationwide

Ombudsman Decision: Compensation for Oxfordshire family

Bright Futures


An Oxfordshire parent has had their complaint upheld by The Ombudsman. The parent complained on behalf of his son that Oxfordshire County Council took too long to issue their child’s Education, Health and Care plan.

The council took 38 weeks (18 weeks over the statutory limit) to complete the EHC plan and did not put in place suitable alternative education while the child was unable to attend college, meaning that the pupil missed out on appropriate education as a result.

This also led to distress and uncertainty for the parent. As a result, the council has agreed to payments for the student and the parent for these injustices.

Within one month of the decision, Oxfordshire County Council has agreed to:

  • Pay £1,000 as remedy for avoidable loss of education for at least one term caused by its fault in delayed completion of the EHC plan, and failing to provide alternative education. This could be used to benefit education in pursuit of his employment aspirations.

  • Pay the parent £500 as remedy for the avoidable distress caused to him by the delay finalising the EHCP

Within three months of the decision, Oxfordshire County Council has agreed to:

  • Review its corporate complaint policy to explain how it will consider remedy for injustice identified by its investigations.

Common Themes in the SEN Inquiry.... wait for it ....Funding Issues

Bright Futures

Funding EHCP

We have collected some of the written responses to the Education Committee’s SEN Inquiry to exemplify some of the common issues faced in the sector, by parents, schools and local authorities:

Written Evidence from the British Dyslexia Association (BDA)

  1. With the pressure on funding especially for children with complex needs, local authorities and schools have not been buying in the assessment service and have reduced and removed specialist teaching for those with SpLD.  The removal of School Action and School Action Plus and the emphasis on EHCPs, has contributed to this.

  1. There has been little evidence of funding directed towards equipment, assistive technology or training for this to encourage independent learning.

Written evidence from Parents In Need

Parents In Need believes that vast amounts of funding for SEND is being tragically wasted on taking parents to tribunal when, if budgets were spent on appropriate assessments early on and then throughout the child’s educational career, we would see far more children with SEND thrive in the appropriate placement with the right provision.

Written evidence from the National Autistic Society

The Government needs to ensure that local authorities have the funding required to meet their obligations under the Children and Families Act 2014. We believe that a lack of resources is not a sufficient reason for local authorities to fail children.

Written evidence from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists

  1. Uncertainty about the responsibility for funding and provision of specialist seating and equipment in schools/settings means that some young people with SEND, experience unacceptable delays in receiving the equipment they need to enable their performance and reduce the risk of long term health complications. This is a particular problem for children in early year’s settings when the local authority will not fund specialist equipment and small organisations are unable to afford specialist equipment.

Written evidence from Cheshire West and Chester Council

Our Local Authority is not a well-funded Local Authority so schools will usually commit their budget, including delegated SEND funding, to basic provision.

The real terms cuts to education funding since April 2015 have had significant impact on the education of pupils with high needs, meaning that funding has to be stretched much further.

Written evidence from Cornwall Council

  1. The variation in funding between LAs is inequitable and indefensible.

  2. There is no justifiable reason for per pupil funding in the High Needs Block to vary so much, it has been acknowledged that some LAs have a lot less resource but the expectations are the same.

    Written evidence from Nottinghamshire County Council

  1. Nottinghamshire County Council remains extremely concerned about the lack of funding for SEND education provision through its allocation of High Needs Block (HNB) Funding.

Written evidence from Parental Submission 139

  1. Until recently I worked as a Specialist teaching assistant in a mainstream primary school.  My contract was attached to a child’s high needs funding. I was recently notified that as I was employed on a higher level rate I would have to accept a new contract come the new school year, this involved a vastly reduced salary for less comparable hours.  I was told that this is because our area no longer had the high needs funds to be able to pay my previous salary.

  1. This action has now resulted in some very experienced and knowledgeable staff leaving support roles to pursue other careers and vulnerable children being left with less than preferable provision for their needs. General TA’s with very little SEN experience are then often placed with children.

Written evidence from Parental Submission 47

  1. We are not privvy to Local Authority and schools' funding arrangements but we do know that one of the reason our daughter is not offered adequate support to help her reach 'best possible educational and other outcomes' (Child and Family Act, 2014) is because of funding issues at her school. In fact, in the most recent meeting, a significant request for support was turned down because of funding issues.

Written evidence from St Barnabas CE VC Primary School

  1. The greatest factor in limiting the effectiveness of assessment and support for CYP with SEND is the reducing budget within schools. This impacts time, resources and training of staff. This all limits the effectiveness of support schools can offer.

  1. The complication in Bristol is that Higher Needs funding is not currently assessed in connection with EHCPs. As a result some schools can be in a position where they have a statutory obligation to provide a high level of support for a child without receiving any additional funding above the £10000 allocated to all SEN children.

  1. Funding for SEND provision in Bristol has reduced significantly in recent years. As a result schools are receiving a fraction of the actual costs they are spending.

  2. Many children who need additional funding to enable increased support do not receive it due to the complicated and time-consuming process of applying for the funding. The costs spent on the application process in terms of SENCO time and local authority time are disproportionate to the funding schools receive. Additionally funding is only given after schools have put the support in place and it is not back-dated. Further if funding is applied for in May, it does not begin until September; if it is applied for in November, it does not begin until January.

 Where funding has been reduced to all sectors, an increasing responsibility of care has fallen to schools who are now doing roles previously held by social care.

Written evidence from Foreland Fields School

  1. Kent Special Educational Needs Trust (KsENT) partners and members are increasingly concerned about the lack of clinical school nursing provision on-site within Kent special schools, particularly those schools designated to admit pupils with Profound, Severe and Complex Needs (PSCN). The current situation appears to be a postcode lottery, where some schools have NHS funded clinical nursing on-site, and others with similar cohorts having no on-site support. In the past year, this situation has worsened with several schools having clinical and non-clinical nursing support withdrawn, often with very little notice.

  2. Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are struggling to provide adequate, or in many cases even the most basic, support for pupils with high care needs citing cuts to their service, funding issues or lack of resources.

Written evidence from St. Josephs Specialist School College

5. The project of transition has been under resourced, leading to delays in issuing EHCPs, and to much of the content of individual EHCPs being ‘cut and pasted’ from statements of special educational need.

If professionals and families are struggling in a similar way, why is there such anguish and conflict between the different parties?

Find out more about Bright Futures here.

Hi! My name is Ruth Bright and I am Founder and Managing Director of Bright Futures. Does your child or young person have a disability, and do you think they need more support in education_ Perhaps they already have .png