West Northamptonshire Council say SEND inspection was ‘too early’ for good result

WNC leader Jonathan Nunn and chief exec Anna Earnshaw say they expect to see similar results to the North but hope for positive comments
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West Northamptonshire Council’s chief executive has said that the authority’s SEND inspection came “too early” to achieve ‘good’ results, despite officers working hard to improve the service.

The council welcomed a two-week inspection into local services for children with special needs and/ or disabilities at the beginning of March.

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The result of the inspection, which was led by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC), is due to be published later this spring.

One Angel Square, Northampton, headquarters of West Northamptonshire Council. (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)One Angel Square, Northampton, headquarters of West Northamptonshire Council. (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)
One Angel Square, Northampton, headquarters of West Northamptonshire Council. (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)

Nationally, increased demand for SEND services has coincided with a shortage of educational psychologists who are integral in issuing education health and care plans (EHCPs) for children who require extra support. Recent statistics from the council indicate that just 5.6 per cent of EHCP requests were completed within the 20-week time frame in the final three months of last year.

It also comes less than a year after the publication of the Partnership’s three-year strategy to improve SEND services, which began in September 2023.

Chief executive of West Northants Council (WNC) Anna Earnshaw said: “It’s too early in our improvement journey, I think, to hope that we get a ‘good’ result and we’ve got to be honest with that.

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“I think we would all accept we went into it thinking we’d hoped we’d have a bit longer to get a bit further along on our improvement plan. We know we’ve done some good stuff and got some really good support from our new parent forum group and we’re starting to make improvements in schools, but it’s just too early.

“I think we’ve got to be realistic to expect that we won’t be far off the North, but we may hopefully have some really positive comments about the steps we have taken.”

A report outlining the outcome of North Northamptonshire Council’s (NNC) SEND inspection was published just last week (March 25). It highlighted “widespread and systemic failings” in the partnership and called the services “disjointed”, leaving some children waiting too long to receive help and putting them in “crisis”.

Both the West and the North share their responsibility for their SEND offer with the same partners, Northamptonshire Children’s Trust (NCT) and the Integrated Care Board (ICB).

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Leader of WNC Jonathan Nunn added: “We started in the same place as the North, of course, so inevitably there’ll be a lot of similarities in the journey we’ve had.

“That said, we’ve got a good grasp on what needs to be done and we’re pointing in the right direction again- and I think that’s the key thing.

“We know it’s a huge challenge with a 40 per cent increase in demand just in the last three years or so, we know it’s going to take time for Tiffied school to come into place and all the rest of it and there’s still lots to do, but I think that’s the overriding thing.

“If you’ve got a good grasp of what you’ve got to fix that is not a bad start.”

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Recently Lauren Bunting, co-founder of the West Northants SEND Action Group, addressed full council to ask for a “dramatic culture shift” to put young people with special educational needs first. The group staged a peaceful demonstration, placing two whiteboards with names of “failed” SEND children outside council offices.

She asked councillors to challenge the crisis and do more to listen to the reality of what is happening to local disabled children and properly represent them.

The result of the inspection is due to be published by Ofsted and CQC later this spring.

WNC has said it will use learning from its findings to continue to improve its services.