Three senior Suffolk county councillors have stepped down from their roles in the cabinet and deputy cabinet in the wake of a damning report into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

Rachel Hood, the council's cabinet member for education, SEND and skills, has quit alongside James Reeder and Chris Chambers.

Mr Reeder was cabinet member for children and young people's services, while Mr Chambers was deputy cabinet member for SEND.

East Anglian Daily Times: James Reeder has stepped down from the council's cabinetJames Reeder has stepped down from the council's cabinet (Image: Contributed)

Their resignations come days after Ofsted, the education watchdog, published a report which said Suffolk County Council was failing children with SEND.

Suffolk's SEND service was visited last November and the watchdog has demanded improvements are made before officials return in 18 months' time.

It comes after a scathing report into SEND provision by the county council in 2016, with major problems still identified in 2021.

In the last week, this newspaper has spoken with families of SEND children who have shared their experience of the service in Suffolk.

One parent told us repeated apologies are "not good enough", while another said their fight to sort their son's education was a "complete mess".

Resigning from their posts, the departing councillors said: "Over the course of this week, it has become apparent that our positions have become a distraction from the vital work of this council in improving outcomes for children and families within the SEND service in Suffolk – work which we have focused on since our appointments two and a half years ago in 2021. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Chris Chambers has also quitChris Chambers has also quit (Image: AMY GIBBONS)
"The recent Ofsted report is extraordinarily disappointing, despite Ofsted and the DfE’s recognition of improvements in the service and we are determined that the council will go further and faster in providing SEND children and their families with the outcomes, and positive experience, they need and deserve. 
"We remain clear that under our leadership the service has been successfully restructured, all the reforms spelt out in the independent report have been accomplished and significant improvements have been made.

"Amongst other significant matters, staff senior leadership team is being refreshed; over £60million pounds has been invested in funding well over 1,200 new SEND places; our proposed 2024/25 budget includes £4.4million of additional investment in SEND services; and additional educational psychologists have been recruited and are being trained. 
"It has been a pleasure to serve in your administration and we now believe that to ensure the focus is where we all wish it to be – on improving the lives of children and families in Suffolk, collectively, we wish to step aside to avoid further distractions and so are tendering our resignations from our respective appointed roles.

"We are most grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the children and residents of Suffolk on behalf of the county council."

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk County Council leader Matthew HicksSuffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s leader, said: "I would like to thank Rachel, James and Chris for their personal commitment and hard work over the past two and half years. They have shown huge dedication to improving SEND services. 

"I would like to wish them well in their future work and reiterate Suffolk County Council’s absolute commitment to ensuring more young people and their families receive the support they need and deserve."

Suffolk County Council said a restructure of senior officer leadership in children’s services is underway, with the "imminent" recruitment of a new executive director of children and young people services. 

The local authority's executive director of people services and director of children and young people left late last year.