The new head of education is pledging to tackle problems faced by special educational needs children in Suffolk following a damning Ofsted report, promising parents: "We can't fail."

Cllr Andrew Reid took over as cabinet member for SEND and education last week after several resignations which followed Ofsted’s damning report into the council’s provision of services for children with special needs.

The report, the third of its kind since 2016, found children with SEND in Suffolk needed urgent help and revealed widespread systemic failings within the service.

One week into the new job, Cllr Reid has spoken about the scale of the problem and what the future might look like.

He said: “The pace is strong because I want to find out exactly what’s been going on as soon as possible so that we can formulate some solid plans to take us forward — clearly there’s a lot to do. I’m not daunted by this, nothing is insurmountable. It just needs a little bit of time and resolve.”

Despite three top councillors stepping down as a result of the report, nearly 500 people have signed a petition calling for the resignation of council leader, Matthew Hicks, and chief executive officer, Nicola Beach.

Cllr Reid said he understood the stakes associated with failing to rescue the service and recognised if the service didn’t improve, his resignation would not be enough.

He explained that central to solving the problems children and their families are facing was speeding up and ensuring the quality of the Education, Health, and Care Plans (ECHP) process.

These are legal documents which set out a description of a child or young person’s needs which must be implemented to help them achieve key life outcomes.

Currently, many families across the county are having to wait weeks and even months over the 20-week statutory timescale for completing new EHC needs assessments.

Cllr Reid added: “It’s important we get this right, and one of my focuses is to make sure we have the right level of resources to improve. The real test for us is the degree to which children and their families are feeling content and settled so their personal experience is very important.”

“Because this is so personal for families, we have been reinforcing around that particular issue.”

To do this, he said the council had stepped up efforts to recruit more educational psychologists who will also help in making sure EHCPs keep up with a child’s changing needs.

A new improvement board will also be set up and led independently of the council, to monitor progress and make sure the council is on the right track, including ensuring funding is allocated appropriately.

Cllr Reid said: “It’s only right and proper that we look after the most vulnerable in the county and there are very difficult choices around the compromise of other services. We need to make sure that for SEND and education, the money is there — if it isn’t enough, we’ll need to find more because we can’t fail and we won’t fail.”

Although discussions which make up board meetings will be released to the public, it is still unclear whether the public will be able to attend them.

He finished by promising to address the current failings of the SEND system and said tangible results would be visible before the next inspection, expected within 18 months, takes place.

Cllr Reid added: “I’m not interested in discussing failure at this stage because I don’t intend to fail, I want to get on with the job.

“I firmly believe my ambitions for this time next year will be met.”