New York State In-depth

Suffolk SEND Crisis: Suffolk County Council Response

I want to dedicate this column today to the situation with Suffolk’s special educational needs and disabilities (known as SEND). I was newly elected to this cabinet post in May and SEND became my first priority.

You will have had an independent report on our services in today’s newspaper. This report follows a review conducted by a team based in Lincolnshire, including Lincolnshire County Council and a parent-carer network, and was commissioned by us after a significant increase in correspondents from concerned parents and carers earlier this year was recorded.

This wasn’t a look back at everything we do, but rather focused on the processes, communication protocols, and family-oriented elements of our SEND services. I would like to share with you the results and actions we are taking following the publication of yesterday’s review. The review shows that we need to change the way we act in a number of areas.

I apologize for the difficulties some families have experienced as a result of our approach. We recognize that we have let down some children and teenagers because certain aspects of our services just weren’t good enough.

Our priority now is to make major improvements, with speed, impact and efficiency. We have already started improving the way we work, and while large-scale improvements take time, we are determined to do better.

There have been many positive changes in the way we offer SEND services over the past 18 months and we are proud of them, but it is clear that there is still a way to go.

The review made nine recommendations and we turned them into an action plan that can be read online.

One of the recommendations of the review was to work with a third party organization to make improvements. Since then, the council has gained Impower as a strategic partner who will bring capacity and extensive experience working on SEND systems across the country.

This partnership work started yesterday. Other recommendations include training staff, reviewing the process for awarding specialist internships, and working with educational leaders and parents and caregivers to meet the demand for specialist staff and use data and local information for adequate planning.

Within SEND, we have already made significant, long-term improvements on which we will continue to build.

We have agreed on a £ 45.1 million capital program to create an additional 870 specialist apprenticeship positions over a 5 year period through 2024.

Two hundred and ten places opened last year, and another 310 this academic year, including new technical schools in Bungay, Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds. We have also cut the time it takes to create health and care plans for education from 18% in 2016 to 95% in 2021. £ 1 million has also been invested in speech and language therapies from Ipswich & East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCGs.

Currently, more than 6,000 children in Suffolk have a health and care plan to find out what support they need with their special educational needs. The number has almost doubled from 3,000 in 2014.

Another 12,000 students have special educational needs and do not require a health and care plan. There are currently 2,000 places in special schools or special units for people with more complex needs. We are increasing the number of places.

The education and wellbeing of your children are fundamental – I am fully aware of myself as a parent. Together we want to give your children and young people the best opportunities in life.

We wholeheartedly accept the results of the review and thank the Lincolnshire team for their attention to detail, professionalism and advice. We have learned very valuable lessons from this review and we will implement these recommendations in the best and fastest way.

You can read the report and the action plan at

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the report or action plan, please contact us by email at [email protected]

– Rachel Hood is a member of the Suffolk County Council’s Education Cabinet.

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