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Outsourcing special education among options for Suffolk's crisis-hit service

PUBLISHED: 07:30 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:39 06 March 2019

Special educational needs provision could be outsourced as one of the options open to the DfE and NHS England. Picture: DIEGO CERVO/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

Special educational needs provision could be outsourced as one of the options open to the DfE and NHS England. Picture: DIEGO CERVO/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

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Health and education leaders at national level are to meet to decide how to turn round Suffolk's failing special needs education service, it has been revealed.

Among a raft of options being considered will be the creation of an improvement board, establishing new trusts and outsourcing provision in a bid to improve the floundering service.

On Monday, Suffolk’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision became the first service in the country to fail its re-inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

It followed a visit in January 2017 where a host of concerns were raised, with inspectors saying that their visit in January this year found three out of four areas were still not making progress quickly enough.

The report said the next steps would now have to be decided by NHS England and the Department for Education.

Now, guidance on what measures are open has been revealed, and could include statutory measures to outsource provision, establishing ‘trust’ models of children’s services or creating an improvement board, according to Local Government Association guidance,

A spokesman from the Department for Education said: “We are considering the findings of this report carefully and will respond shortly to local leaders in Suffolk about working collectively to improve their special educational needs and disability service.

“We are pleased that Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have highlighted the positive steps Suffolk has taken to improve its governance, strategic leadership and partnership working – including with parents and young people – this will help in driving forward the remaining improvements that need to be made.

“Our ambition is for Suffolk to deliver a high quality service for every child or young person with special educational needs or a disability, and will be working with them to achieve this.”

A timeline for any improvements or when a decision on what the DfE and NHS England plan to do has not yet been outlined, but a spokesman from NHS England confirmed a meeting with senior leaders would be happening “in the coming weeks”.

The spokesman added: “NHS England is aware of the latest Ofsted and Care Quality Commission report into SEND services in Suffolk. Although there are areas where progress has been made, there are still significant areas needed for improvement. We are working with the Department for Education on the next steps for the services and will be meeting with senior leaders at the local authority and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the coming weeks.”

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