Steps to improve services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Oxfordshire must be delivered by the end of February 2025 or sooner, said the Government.

The Department for Education has published the improvement notice it issued to Oxfordshire County Council following the Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission’s local area partnership inspection in July.

The report judged that there are widespread and systemic failings in SEND services, including five areas for priority action and four areas for improvement.

Herald Series: SEND provision

The fallout led to the collapse of the council’s ruling coalition after Labour councillors quit.

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The partnership submitted a draft priority action plan to the DfE on October 24.

Ofsted will provide feedback on the draft plan within 70 days of the report submission date. After this point, the report will be finalised.

However, action to deliver and implement improvements has already begun, the partnership said.

It said it has committed to continual dialogue with families, children and young people and professionals, and will hold a variety of mid-term information gathering and sharing sessions (online and in-person), including in educational settings, to gather feedback.

This will be supported by existing meetings with the parent carer forum and other parent and carer support groups.

The local area partnership members include Oxfordshire County Council, NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB), Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. They have been working together with the county’s parent carer forum (PCF), as the official body for the voice of parent carers, and professional subject matter leads, to develop the priority action plan detailing clear and measurable service improvements.

A major restructuring of children's services has been carried out at the county council.

Liz Brighouse has been replaced by John Howson as the new cabinet member for children's services.

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And Councillor Kate Gregory has taken on a new role solely focussing on SEND improvement.

Last month the county council was ordered to pay more than £35,000 to 14 families of children with SEND after the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) found failures with the authority’s school arrangements.

The LGO found some children had suffered months out of appropriate education and noted delays in Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

In one case, a woman suffered a mental health breakdown after her autistic son missed almost a year of appropriate schooling, the ombudsman reported.