A new independent chair of the SEND Improvement Board has been appointed by Suffolk County Council after a damning Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspection.

Kathryn Boulton will lead the Local Area Partnership’s special educational needs and disabilities board made up of senior councillors and NHS leaders.

Last November’s inspection found “widespread and/or systematic failings leading to significant concerns” with SEND provision, resulting in an Improvement Notice being issued by the Department for Education.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Ms Boulton said: “I feel privileged to be appointed as independent chair and am committed to working with the Local Area Partnership to ensure the improvements needed are delivered at pace.

“For me, it’s important that we listen and learn from children and their families and that they are at the heart of all our thinking, planning and ambitions for the future.

“I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead. However, I am confident that by working together effectively, we can bring about positive change that achieves positive outcomes for children and young people with SEND across Suffolk. I am very much looking forward to getting started.”

Ms Boulton has 37 years of experience working in children’s services, most recently acting as Corporator Director of Children and Family Services at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.

In this role, the Corporate Director helped make swift improvements to children’s services after an Ofsted report in 2022 found them to be “requiring improvement to be good”.

Three senior Suffolk county councillors quit their roles in the cabinet and deputy cabinet in February after the damning inspection, which identified serious failings in provision.

The SEND Improvement Board will oversee the delivery of the Priority Action Plan to tackle weaknesses identified by Ofsted and will monitor the progress of changes.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Education and SEND at Suffolk County Council since February, said: “An independent chair is crucial in ensuring we stay on track and improve outcomes for our children and young people with SEND and their families. Kathryn will hold the partnership to account and will act as both a critical friend and a sounding board.

“The Improvement Board has an important job to do and we remain focused on providing the best provision for children and young people with SEND.”

The council has previously announced additional funding for SEND services.

Ms Boulton will chair her first meeting of the board on June 7.