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Most Bristol Send Parents Have Not Experienced Service Improvements

  • Ofsted re-inspection parent carer survey contradicts comments that parents ‘more recently’ are having a positive Send experience in Bristol

The majority of Send families in Bristol say they have not experienced improvements in Send services since 2019 – despite Ofsted claiming in November 2022 that they had.

Bristol City Council and health services had a re-inspection of its Send provision – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – following a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) after initially failing its 2019 inspection.

Lead Ofsted inspector Phil Minns wrote to Bristol City Council, saying: ‘The area has made sufficient progress in addressing four of the significant weaknesses identified at the initial inspection. The area has not made sufficient progress in addressing one significant weakness.’

The area of weakness that Bristol failed on was that of ‘the fractured relationships with parents and carers, lack of co-production and variable engagement and collaboration.’

In his re-inspection findings, Minns wrote: ‘Parents and carers have a more mixed view of the quality of support available to children and young people with SEND than at the time of the last inspection. Some parents and carers continue to lack trust in the system and feel that leaders are not acting in the best interests of their children. However, the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently are positive about their experience.”

We asked Ofsted and the CQC to provide evidence backing up their statement that families ‘more recently’ have been positive about their experiences.

Eventually, we were able to get the results of the parent carer re-visit survey. Ofsted would not release the free-text comments made by parents.

Ofsted said: “The survey of parents’ and carers’ views is one part of a broad range of evidence. The survey refers to a three-year period prior to the inspection. Inspectors’ judgement of the progress made by the local area reflects parents’ views over this timescale. Inspectors considered not only the yes/no responses selected by parents, but also the free-text comments in the survey about the provision of services alongside the answer to each question. Crucially, in reaching their conclusions, they triangulated this information with views expressed by parents in other activities as described above.”

In questions, Ofsted asked if the way services for children were offered and delivered had changed since September 2019 – when Bristol City Council had several areas of weakness.

These included the lack of accountability of leaders at all levels including school leaders. There were also inconsistencies in the timeliness and effectiveness in the identification and assessment of children and young people with Send. Inspectors called the EHCP process ‘dysfunctional’ and the quality of plans ‘inadequate’. Bristol was also responsible for the ‘underachievement and lack of inclusion of children and young people with Send.’ This also included ‘high rates of persistent absenteeism and fixed-term exclusions.’

Despite Ofsted finding what they believed to be ‘sufficient progress’ on these weaknesses, families did not agree.

The responses from the parent survey showed that 40.6 per cent of families had found no changes in the way services for their child had been offered or delivered between the original inspection and re-inspection.

Only 32.6 per cent said there had been changes, with 28.9 per cent saying the question was not applicable.

A further question asked: ‘Have any of the SEND services your child receives, including the help they get at school, improved since September 2019?’

In response, a total of 48.9 per cent of parents and carers said no, against 30 per cent who said it was not applicable to their family. Just 22.9 per cent said it had.

At the time of the re-inspection result, Bristol’s education lead, Councillor Asher Craig said: “… it is welcome that they found that “the majority of parents and carers accessing services and support more recently, are positive about their experience.”

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