BEFORE making improvements to address Estyn’s concerns about Special Educational Needs (SEN) Powys County Council (PCC) assess what services they provide now.

Part of how Powys County Council (PCC) bounces-back from the damning Estyn report into the education service is to have their new plans probed in depth by members of the learning and skills scrutiny committee.

Published in September, following the inspection by Estyn in July, the report caused a political storm in Powys.

Committee chair, Cllr Peter Roberts (Liberal Democrat – Llandrindod South), explained at the meeting on Wednesday, October 30, that the five recommendations from Estyn had been split up between councillors and school governors on the committee.

They will keep an eye on the developments in these areas over the coming months.

Recommendation Two is:

Improve the evaluation, planning and co-ordination of provision for learners with special educational needs and other pupils who may require extra support.

Caroline Rees a consultant on SEN, told the committee that the council needed to find out what it provided first, before being able to address the situation.

Ms Rees “We need to map out what we are currently offering, as a central team or outreach services.

“And what is offered at Brynllywarch, Cedewain and Penmaes (special educational needs schools).

“At the moment the authority does not know exactly what is provided, it’s not been monitored.”

Ms Rees added that listing resources would allow schools to know what is available and how to access them.

Ms Rees added that the authority lacked specialist teachers who could work with the schools directly.

She believed this is an area that needs to be boosted with more training for schools staff.

Ms Rees continued: “Data has not been used well enough.

“We can’t monitor the effectiveness of the outreach services as we don’t collect any data on it, we need that so that we know if what they are doing is effective or not.”

Committee chairman, Peter Roberts (Liberal Democrat – Llandrindod South), had concerns as he believed SEN could be in line for more cuts in next year’s budget.

Cllr Roberts said: “If we don’t know what we are providing how do we know they are making safe cuts?

“It’s quite a serious consideration for members as we go in to the budget.”

Ms Rees answered that reports each half term, with how many children and schools were supported and what the impact was, would help and the information would now be asked for.

PCC chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner, said: “What we have found is that there is a lot of activity going on in this area but it’s not co-ordinated, and this is what Estyn found.

“I was shocked, I hadn’t appreciated how serious things were in this particular area, I want to make sure that we use this resource effectively.

“What I have asked the team to do is look again before we make any changes.”

Powys Priorities to answer the recommendation are:

  • Ensure that senior officers provide strong leadership that drives improvement.
  • Ensure that schools and other stakeholders have a clear understanding of the services that are available to support SEN/ALN (Special Educational Needs/Additional Learning Needs) and other pupils who may require support and that processes for accessing these services are clear and robust.
  • Improve communication and consultation with schools
  • Develop robust procedures for the planning of services to include an audit of current provision, based on reliable data, a rationale for proposed changes costs and clear timescales.
  • Ensure that information management systems are fit for purpose and allow officers to analyse data to inform planning.
  • Develop robust procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of services and interventions.
  • Improve the coordination of provision for pupils with SEN and other groups both with the Schools Service and with external agencies.
  • Continue to develop a co-ordinated approach to behaviour across the local authority.