James Reeder, Rachel Hood and Chris Chambers resign from Suffolk County Council cabinet positions in changes to SEND leadership
Three senior councillors have resigned from their posts today in changes to to the leadership of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services.
Rachel Hood, Cabinet Member for Education, SEND and Skills and James Reeder, former Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s (CYP) Services have walked away from their posts at Suffolk County Council (SCC)
Chris Chambers, deputy cabinet member for SEND, has also departed.
It comes in the wake of a damning Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into SEND provision at the body, which saw Cllr Sam Murray suspended from the Conservative group for speaking out about it.
Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “I would like to thank Rachel, James and Chris for their personal commitment and hard work over the past two and half years. They have shown huge dedication to improving SEND services.
“I would like to wish them well in their future work and reiterate Suffolk County Council’s absolute commitment to ensuring more young people and their families receive the support they need and deserve.”
Cllr Hicks had previously said it would not be appropriate to re-shuffle his cabinet during the budget setting process.
Cllr Murray called for resignations or sackings when she spoke out about the report, which was published on January 30.
She said she ‘felt disgusting being part of a group that’s doing nothing’ and she knew it could result in her removal, but that she would be able to look her children in the eyes and ‘know I did the right thing.’
In the wake of the report, Suffolk County Council and health partners are setting up a new ‘SEND Accountability Board’, with an independent chairperson which will aim to deliver faster improvements to SEND provision.
In a resignation letter, the councillors, who were appointed to their positions two and a half years ago, said: “Over the course of this week, it has become apparent that our positions have become a distraction from the vital work of this council in improving outcomes for children and families within the SEND service in Suffolk.”
“The recent Ofsted report is extraordinarily disappointing, despite Ofsted and the DfE’s recognition of improvements in the service and we are determined that the Council will go further and faster in providing SEND children and their families with the outcomes, and positive experience, they need and deserve. “
The councillors went on to say they ‘remained clear’ the service had been ‘successfully restructured’ and that reforms from the Independent Report had been accomplished. They stated their pride in their work since their appointments and their belief that the directorate is on ‘firm footing to continue to achieve the changes we all want to see.’
A restructure of senior officer leadership in children’s services is already underway, with the imminent recruitment of a new executive director of children and young people services.
This follows the departure of the county council’s executive director of people services and director of children and young people late last year.
SCC chief executive Nicola Beach said: “Given the known challenges facing our CYP services, both in Suffolk and nationally, I am taking this opportunity to restructure the senior leadership within the service so that we can best meet those challenges.
“It is time for a new leadership structure in CYP.”
Ms Beach said that two roles have been removed and will be replaced with a new senior management structure.