Rutland has become one of only four areas in the country to receive the highest possible inspection outcome for local services that support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families.
Rutland County Council and Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Integrated Care Board (ICB) are jointly responsible for the planning and commissioning of services for children and young people with SEND. This Local Area Partnership was inspected by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in May 2023. The purpose of the inspection was to evaluate the effectiveness of arrangements for children and young people with SEND and recommend where any improvements could be made across all education, social care and health services working in the Rutland area.
The inspection looked closely at what it’s like to be a child or young person with SEND in Rutland. Inspectors spoke directly to children and families, as well as professionals who are responsible for leading and delivering local services, including Rutland County Council, schools and providers of health services, such as Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. The inspectors determined that: “The local area partnership’s arrangements typically lead to positive experiences and outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).”
Among the many strengths highlighted by inspectors in their final report, it was noted that the voices of children and young people with SEND in Rutland are listened to and acted on by professionals. Groups such as the Rutland Disabled Youth Forum have contributed significantly to a review of the county’s Local Offer, while Rutland County Council’s written pledge to parents and carers to improve communication has led to more families feeling that their voice is heard.
As well as praising the care given to children and families, inspectors found that frontline staff who deliver local SEND services are also well supported – giving them the confidence needed to identify and assess children’s needs. Families who require assistance through Rutland’s Early Help services are identified in a timely way, while children and young people are benefitting from an effective school support programme.
Inspectors recorded a significant improvement in processes that identify and assess the needs of children and young people in mainstream schools. Pupils who need it benefit from access to speech and language therapy within a few weeks, which is an additional service bought in by the council and provided by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, while children and young people who struggle with school attendance due to anxiety have benefitted from targeted mental health support.
Young people with SEND who are getting ready to leave school or move into post-16 settings are well supported, making sure they have the knowledge and skills they need for their next steps in education or employment. Where young people with SEND need support from Rutland’s adult social care services, teams work closely together to provide a smooth transition. This was highlighted by parents who told inspectors that their children are “thriving” and “living their best possible life” due to the support they receive.
Inspectors found that children and young people with SEND typically achieve positive outcomes across education, health and care in Rutland. Many achieve excellent educational results through placements that are ambitious and meet their needs, with high numbers progressing into further education or employment. School leaders have a shared ambition for an inclusive approach to SEND provision across Rutland, which allows more pupils to access education close to where they live, which allows them to participate in their community. Young people with SEND can enjoy activities with their friends thanks to the support they receive from Aiming High programmes and personal assistants.
When examining the senior leadership within Rutland’s Local Area Partnership, inspectors found that those in charge of local SEND services have a clear vision to remove barriers, improve equality of access and enable children and young people to achieve their maximum potential. All partners are committed to improving local services to meet individual needs – listening and making changes based on people’s feedback.
Education and social care leaders know the families they support and understand the issues they face. As a result, they respond quickly to the changing needs of families. Leaders have improved their response to parents’ requests for Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan assessments and all assessments are completed within statutory timescales. Leaders have ensured that additional training for staff on the SEND panel has led to more accurate assessments and to fewer parents deciding to challenge the decisions they make.
Responding to the inspection findings, Councillor Tim Smith, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Rutland County Council, said: “To say this is a good report would be a huge understatement. The support that Rutland County Council, the ICB and other partners have put in place for children and young people with SEND and their families has been rigorously assessed by independent experts and found to be among the very best anywhere in the country. This is a credit to the hard work of frontline staff and senior leaders within the Local Area Partnership. Most importantly of all, it gives us confidence that we can go on delivering outstanding care and support for children and young people with SEND – building on our strengths and focusing in on the small number of areas where we could improve further still.”
Dr Caroline Trevithick, Chief Nursing Officer and Deputy Chief Executive of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Integrated Care Board, said: “We really welcome this positive report which reflects our health commitment to children and young people in Rutland and their families. We have forged excellent working relationships across health, care and education, which has been key to the effectiveness of arrangements for this group of young people, and we have an ongoing work programme to strengthen and improve our joint partnerships and further improve our services.”
Helen Thompson, director of families, young people, children’s and learning disability and autism services at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, said: “We are incredibly proud of our staff who deliver support to the children and young people with SEND in Rutland. The report notes the early and effective identification of children’s additional needs, with health visitors consistently delivering developmental checks. We are particularly pleased that inspectors recognised the close working between professionals and children and young people, including those who do not use words to communicate, to ensure that plans reflect their needs and wishes. We know there are improvements to be made and we will build on our existing partnership initiatives, which are having a positive impact on outcomes for children and young people.’
As well as highlighting where Rutland’s Local Area Partnership is working well, the joint Ofsted and CQC inspection noted that SEND practice could be further improved by more effective use of data to establish, advance and monitor priorities and outcomes for children and young people. Inspectors found that practice could also be improved by reducing the time taken to complete neuro-developmental and mental health assessments, as well as closing gaps in the support available for families of children with SEND who live on military bases and outside the county.
The full report detailing the findings from Rutland’s Local Area Partnership inspection can be read online at: reports.ofsted.gov.uk. The Partnership will be inspected again in 2028.