‘I am truly sorry’ – parents of disabled children receive an apology from Sheffield’s director of education

Sheffield’s education chief says he is “truly sorry” that parents of disabled children have been let down by the council – and admits many are still struggling.

Thursday, 10th March 2022, 12:34 pm

Inspectors recently revisited Sheffield Council after they previously found significant weaknesses in its special educational needs and disabilities provision.

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission carried out the joint revisit after a 2018 inspection ruled an action plan was required.

Ofsted hasn’t yet published the latest inspection report but Andrew Jones, director of education and skills, admitted the council still hadn’t made enough progress with the way children transition through services.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Andrew Jones, director of education and skills, says he is "truly sorry" that parents of disabled children have been let down by Sheffield Council

‘High levels of dissatisfaction’

Mr Jones, who came into the job in January 2021, told a scrutiny board: “There’s been a lot of activity since 2018.

“However, I know the committee has found it difficult to reconcile all these actions taken with obvious continuing high levels of dissatisfaction

“Since I took up post, my view is we were too focused on taking actions – tick, tick, tick – and less focused on tracking their impact.

“In particular, we’ve been less focused on identifying key actions for our most important provision and outcomes for children.

“The outcome of the recent inspection revisit is confidential until the report is published but we will talk you through our own self evaluation of progress and we believe it is accurate.

“Overall, we are saying that we’ve made sufficient progress on addressing the seven significant weaknesses and we are now having a positive impact from this.

“However, there is also still an awful lot still to do. Specifically, we think that there has been sufficient progress in six areas of weakness, but there is still insufficient progress in one area.”

‘I am truly sorry’

Mr Jones said he was pleased progress has been made but added: “For too many parents and carers still, this progress is not being felt.

“Too many parents feel that their voices are unheard and for too many parents and carers the process of getting support for their children still feels too complicated.

“We are committed to dealing with this. We’re committed to resolving issues for children, young people and their families and we’re committed to listening and acting on feedback.

“If I may speak directly through the chairman – to any parents, carers past or present, where we have not got this right. I am truly sorry.”

‘Parents should contact us’

Mr Jones said he, and interim head of SEND Rose Ward who started in June 2021, were both determined to improve services.

“We’re both particularly committed to improving openness and transparency with parents and carers and to listening and responding to their views.

“The council plays a very important role in providing some services, coordinating assessments and ensuring appropriate provision.

“We encourage parents to reach out to us – we’re listening and will seek to address their concerns as quickly as possible.”

Roughly half of all local authorities in England have, or have previously had, a written statement of action for their SEND services following inspection.