Review into Kent special educational needs and disabilities school transport highlights ‘serious flaws’

SEN travel arrangements

The findings from Kent County Council’s review into the redesign of school transport for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have conclude that there were a number of serious flaws.

The SEND Transport Lessons Learnt Review, published today (September 29), was commissioned by the Chief Executive, General Counsel and the Section 151 Officer (Corporate Finance Director), following the significant and well-publicised service failures in February this year. Hundreds of disabled children were unable to get to school amid driver shortages and delays over new bus and taxi contractual arrangements by Kent County Council (KCC). School buses did not turn up and parents were left in the dark.

The review was conducted by the council’s Internal Audit Team in accordance with International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.

It focused on 11 areas which included the impact on children and families; the communication with parents and carers about the changes; how decisions were made; the processes that were followed; governance arrangements and the communication between the departments responsible.

The report sets out key observations, lessons learnt and conclusions for each area of focus.

The report highlights a number of serious flaws in the way the redesign of school transport was handled and states that if the correct governance arrangements and processes, which were in place, had been followed or complied with, then the service failure may not have occurred.

It concludes that there needs to be a greater emphasis on good governance and that this, along with the impact on those who receive services, must be at the forefront of all future council decisions to make sure similar situations do not happen again.

The report was published during today’s Governance and Audit Committee and received by the statutory officers who will now consider the appropriate management action required to address the lessons learnt from the review.

Kent County Council leader Roger Gough

Leader of Kent County Council Roger Gough said: “We promised parents that we would conduct a thorough and independent review of the issues that led to the significant service failures in February this year – and make public the findings. This report lays bare the causes of these services failures. On behalf of the council, I accept the report and its findings.

“We now need time to fully consider the report and the actions we need to take in response. The report will be discussed at the Scrutiny Committee on 11 October and at a future Governance and Audit Committee.

“We have already begun to make changes to SEND transport arrangements so that the start of the school year in September went as smoothly as possible for most families.

“Over the coming weeks we will be putting in place appropriate governance arrangements and publishing further details about the actions and measures we will be taking in response to the observations, lessons learnt and conclusions outlined in this report.”

The report is available on the KCC website.