New SEND bosses begin work for Central Beds Council's troubled children's services department

Two new appointments have been made to transform Central Bedfordshire Council’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services.

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 5:12 pm

The new director of children’s services Sarah-Jane Smedmor has arrived from Dorset Council and replaces Sue Harrison, who left in October.

Central Beds Council’s children’s services department has been under pressure after a critical Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in November 2019.

The report highlighted significant areas of weakness in the local area’s SEND provision.

Central Beds Council

Parents have criticised the slow pace of change.

Ms Smedmor was previously the corporate director of care and protection children’s services for Dorset Council, where she had strategic lead for social care and responsibilities for early help, education and SEND services, according to CBC.

“Her professional background as a children’s residential practitioner and children’s social worker shapes her beliefs and values,” said the council.

“These are that children should be at the heart of all we do, supported by a highly-skilled and motivated workforce.

“She joined Dorset Council in 2020 to support its improvement journey and last autumn, Ofsted rated the county’s children’s services as ‘good’ overall with ‘outstanding’ for leadership and management.

“Her child-focused approach, partnership ethos and demonstrable performance will enable us to continue to deliver great services for our children and families, and improve those where we need to.”

Ms Smedmor’s responsibilities include children’s services, safeguarding and early help, business and support services, and education.

As part of CBC’s corporate management team, her salary band is between £155,000 and £160,000 a year.

Dr Helen Phelan has arrived as the new assistant director for SEND, having been the director for SEND and inclusion in Barnet for the past three-and-a-half years.

She was previously head of SEND services and principal educational psychologist in Cambridgeshire, explained CBC.

“Dr Phelan brings a great breadth of knowledge and more than 25 years’ experience in the field of SEND.

“Collaborative working and co-production with all stakeholders, and especially with children and young people with SEND and their parent/carers, are the cornerstones of how Dr Phelan works.

“She is passionate about getting excellent outcomes for children and young people with SEND, and her top priority is to ensure that they achieve well locally.”

The Central Bedfordshire SEND action group described the appointment of an assistant director specifically for SEND as “about a decade overdue”.