A new director has been appointed at Suffolk County Council to help improve the struggling special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services in the county.

Sarah-Jane Smedmor has been named as the new Suffolk County Council executive director for children and young people, a position she will be starting in July.

The appointment comes after a damaging Ofsted report into Suffolk's services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in January criticised "widespread and/or systemic failings" in the local area partnership.

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One of the priorities of the position will involve overseeing the improvement of SEND services by delivering the Priority Action Plan agreed by education watchdog Ofsted following an inspection in November 2023, along with a new SEND strategy.

There are also challenges addressing the budget within children and young people’s services.

Ms Smedmor is currently director of children’s services at Central Bedfordshire Council and has managed improvement within SEND services in Central Bedfordshire under its Accelerated Progress Plan.

East Anglian Daily Times: Sarah-Jane Smedmor has been appointed to improve SEND services in Suffolk.Sarah-Jane Smedmor has been appointed to improve SEND services in Suffolk. (Image: Suffolk County Council)

Ms Smedmor started her career as a social worker and worked her way to head of safeguarding and standards at Cambridgeshire County Council and then corporate director care and protection for children’s services at Dorset Council before her move to Central Bedfordshire.

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “This role carries huge responsibility, including the safeguarding of our most vulnerable children and young people, and demands exceptional skill and expertise, leadership and compassion.

“For a post of such significance, it is right that we went through a thorough and exhaustive national recruitment process to find the right person.

“Sarah-Jane has had an impressive career with children and young people and has a wealth of experience which will hugely benefit the services we deliver to families in Suffolk, including the effective engagement of families and partner organisations.”