Tories accuse Wolverhampton Council's response to damning Ofsted report of 'going AWOL'

Conservative councillors say Wolverhampton’s expected response to an Ofsted report identifying ‘multiple significant weaknesses’ in its special education needs services has gone ‘AWOL’.

Wolverhampton Council and its partners received the critical report in November, which said children with special educational needs were having their progress stunted due to failings in support and demanded a written statement of action (WSOA).

The Conservatives say they were "surprised" the response was neither on the agenda at the authority’s full council meeting on Thursday, nor was it mentioned by the council leader in his update.

The response, setting out how SEND services would be remedied, has to be submitted to the Department for Education by mid-February for approval.

The Conservatives say that despite the Labour Portfolio Holder previously pledging to bring the WSOA to full council as recently as the beginning of the month, a ‘behind closed doors’ decision was taken to not bring a report forward.

Council leader Ian Brookfield says the document needs to be approved by all the partners involved including Ofsted before it is published.

Adam Collinge, Vice-Chair of the Children, Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel, said: “I’m incredibly disappointed that the promised report to full council has gone AWOL.

“This is an important issue, and it affects many of the city’s vulnerable children and families.

“When we sought commitment for a SEND scrutiny review group, we did so in part to give this issue suitable public airing following Ofsted’s inspection report.

“The decision by the Labour leadership not to promote the work on the WSOA to full council risks giving the wrong impression.

“We are supportive of the WSOA being adopted and we are grateful to have had input; but we believe this should have come before the full council to endorse, to illustrate the priority this has to be for our city.

“As a group we’ll be calling for this to come to full council, particularly once the Department for Education responds.

“I hope that Labour choose to do the right thing, agenda this item and update the council voluntarily rather than us having to resort to constitutional procedures to do so.”

The council says following extensive co-production with parents, carers, young people and partner agencies, the SEND Written Statement of Action was subject to a specific meeting with members of the Conservative Group and then cross-party scrutiny at Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Panel in January.

It was subsequently approved by Cabinet earlier this month, and a news release was issued to the media detailing this, along with the next steps in the process.

The council says until Ofsted approves the final version, it cannot be formally published but that once approval is received, which is expected in early March, it will be published on the council website and Local Offer pages.

Then, it says, the Children and Young People's Scrutiny Panel and the Department for Education will be provided with regular updates on the implementation of the steps outlined in the Written Statement of Action.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We have not said that the Written Statement of Action will not go to full council.

“But it's important to remember that this document is not a council document, it belongs to the SEND Partnership Board and we would not want to bring a draft document to full council which has not been approved by all partners involved in the process, and that includes Ofsted.”

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