A plan to fix services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Hertfordshire has been set out by the county council after an Ofsted report found "widespread and/or systemic failings".

SEND services in Hertfordshire are run by the Hertfordshire Local Area Partnership, which is led by Herts County Council (HCC) and the NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board.

Following the report, the Partnership submitted a Priority Action and Improvement Plan in December. The plan has now been approved by Ofsted, the CQC and the Department for Education (DfE).

It includes an additional £2m per year for SEND services in HCC's budget for 2024/25 (on top of a previous £5m in additional funds), and redesigned assessments for children who may have autism or ADHD.

Data monitoring and governance will also be "strengthened", with monthly details to be provided to the new independent SEND Priority Executive, set up in the wake of the Ofsted report and chaired by Dame Christine Lenehan.

The plan also includes previously announced commitments to expanding special school and mainstream SEND provision - including creating 1,000 new SEND school places by 2025/26 - and training staff through a new SEND Academy.

The "significant concerns" raised by the Ofsted report included issues around communication with families and other professionals, the quality of support for children and young people, and the timeliness of education and care plans (EHCPs).

A High Court judge recently found that HCC is acting unlawfully every time it fails to complete a child's EHCP within 20 weeks. Only 38 per cent of EHCPs in Hertfordshire are currently finalised within 20 weeks.

HCC has also had to make multiple payouts to the parents of children with SEND in recent months.

A spokesperson for HCC recognised that improvements are "urgently needed", and said that the new action plan had been "co-produced with professionals from across health, education and social care in Hertfordshire, parents and carers, and children and young people with SEND".

HCC also confirmed that the DfE will issue them with an improvement notice "in the next few days". These are issued when widespread and systemic failings are found, and require the council to take steps to resolve the problems found.

If the DfE is not satisfied with HCC's progress after issuing the notice, they can choose to intervene directly and force HCC into further action. A HCC spokesperson said: "The measures set out in our Priority Action Plan and Improvement Plan will ensure we meet the requirements of the notice."

Cllr Caroline Clapper, executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning at HCC, said: "We are continuing to prioritise investment in improving our SEND service and strengthening our workforce to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND in Hertfordshire.


“We are committed to working in partnership with our colleagues in health, social care, education, schools and parents and carers to urgently deliver the improvements that children and young people have told us they want to see."

Dr Jane Halpin, CEO of NHS Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB, added: "Patients are at the heart of everything we do in the NHS and we always want to ensure the best quality care and support.

"This includes ensuring we are doing everything we can do to support living an ordinary life for children and young people with SEND.

"Our joint partnership improvement plan demonstrates our commitment to deliver a further significant shift in the way children and young people who have additional needs are supported."

Dame Christine Lenehan said: "I am really pleased to see that the Hertfordshire partnership is already making progress on their commitments to drive through improvements needed.

"I am delighted to be playing a part in supporting and challenging partners to deliver better outcomes for children and families."