On the 4th of January, representatives from DfE and NHS England visited Somerset to review the area’s progress in the delivery of its Accelerated Progress Plan (APP). The APP was implemented following the OFSTED/CQC inspection a year ago, which judged that, despite making good progress in addressing seven priority areas, there were two remaining areas of weakness, specifically:
- Poor assessment and meeting of needs caused by inconsistent practice leading to poor outcomes for children and young people with SEND.
- Too many children and young people not accessing education due to the disproportionate use of exclusion and poor inclusive practices across the area.
During their visit, advisors reviewed reports and data, and spoke to LA managers, health commissioners, providers, representatives of school leaders, and parent carers. They noted that:
- It was evident that there was a collaborative approach to the improvement work in Somerset. To enhance this collaboration further, the Local Area should continue to engage with schools and head teachers, including those working in mainstream schools.
- The evidence showed a focus from the Local Area on improving each area of weakness, with significant development being made towards Area of Significant Weakness 1.
- Progress has been made against Area of Significant Weakness 1, especially demonstrated by the increasing use of the Graduated Response Tool in schools. This has worked to develop consistency of practice and enable clarity in terms of the assessment of needs. Although further work is needed to ensure widespread usage, there is a plan for how to achieve this.
Despite expressing challenges with the work being done, it was clear that there was a collaborative approach to solving the problems. Where attempts had been made to improve exclusions, such as through intervening where children and young people (CYP) had three suspensions, the LA was reflective, keen to learn lessons, and to continue making progress.
The letter can be read here: 22012024 Somerset APP Feedback Letter