COUNCIL chiefs have adopted a new strategy for its children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – after Ofsted found “serious weaknesses” in the authority's previous approach.

City of York Council's SEND Strategy 2021-2025 will “drive that process of holding the local area to account”, according to the assistant director of education and skills, Maxine Squire.

The strategy’s four main priorities are about ensuring: the voice of children and young people is paramount; the right support is in the right place at the right time; their needs are identified at the earliest opportunity and effective transition into adulthood is secured.

Ofsted said parents told them they had to be “pushy” and “dogged” to ensure their children's needs were identified and supported after the service was inspected in December 2019.

Inspectors also said access to child and adolescent mental health services was an “ongoing concern” – with waiting times being too long.

A council action plan was judged fit for purpose by Ofsted in May 2020.

The number of children and young people receiving SEND-support plans in York decreased by around a third between 2010-2015, in line with the rest of the country, but the trend has since stabilised.

In York, 13 per cent of pupils have SEND.

Families involved in the creation of the strategy told the council they “want to see that their children are included in education, have the same opportunities as others and that local provision fits with the needs of their children".

Ms Squires said: “We’ve not completed our journey and nor should we because we should remain ambitious at all times that we are committed to continuous improvement.

“It’s very important that the lived experience of children and families continues to improve.”

The new plan will be reviewed annually and a SEND improvement board will help hold the service to account.

Councillor Ian Cuthbertson, executive member for children, young people and education, said: “Our ambition is that support for children and young people with special needs in York will evolve over the next four years. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in developing the strategy.”