Protest planned as inspection of Central Beds Council's special educational needs and disability service takes place

Ofsted and the CQC are set to carry out the return SEND inspection in July

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 2:46 pm

Placard-waving parents are planning a protest outside Central Bedfordshire Council’s headquarters next month, when a reinspection begins of the local authority’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

It will be the second time families have gathered outside the council’s Chicksands base to show the strength of feeling over the slow pace of change in CBC’s and BLMK CCG’s SEND offer.

They lined up 52 pairs of shoes outside the building in September, one for each child without a place for the start of the academic year.

SEND protest outside Central Beds Council's headquarters

The council has confirmed Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) are due to return from July 4 to 6 to check on progress made in the Central Bedfordshire local area.

Their reinspection follows a highly critical report in 2019 which demanded a written statement of action “because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s SEND practice”.

CBC has compiled a SEND strategy showing a clear three-year plan for the local partnership, its children’s services overview and scrutiny committee heard last week (June 14).

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CBC’s chief SEND officer Jackie Edwards warned: “This needs a culture change for us as an organisation to ensure we can never get to the place we’ve been previously and move forward in the right direction.

The Central Bedfordshire SEND action group is planning the protest and inviting families and their friends to attend.

It said on its social media site: “Parents are organising a protest to show Ofsted that nothing has changed and that the strength of feeling around these issues are still just as strong.

“We’ll be meeting outside Priory House at 10am on the first day of the Ofsted revisit. Feel free to bring a placard or just stand quietly if you prefer.”

The group is urging its supporters to invite “absolutely anyone who cares about CBC’s catastrophic failure of SEND children”.

CBC’s director of children services Sarah-Jane Smedmor said: “Since the inspection, we’ve undertaken significant work with parent carers, partners and other stakeholders to make improvements for children and young people with SEND.

“Ofsted and the CQC are keen to gain the views of our parent carers, as this will help shape their understanding of our progress as a local area.”