Review into the changes to SEND transport

Last updated: 29 September 2022

The findings from our review into the redesign of school transport for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have been published.

The ‘SEND Transport Lessons Learnt Review’ was commissioned by the Chief Executive, General Counsel and Corporate Director of Finance (in their statutory role of Section 151 Officer), following the significant and well-publicised service failures in February this year.

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
  • the communication between the departments responsible.

The report sets out key observations, lessons learnt and conclusions for each of the 11 areas of focus.

The report highlights the ‘serious flaws’ within the council in the way the redesign of school transport was handled and states that if the correct governance arrangements and processes 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 the Governance and Audit Committee on 29 September and received by the statutory officers (Chief Executive, General Counsel and Corporate Director of Finance/Section 151 Officer) who will now consider the appropriate management action required to address the lessons learnt from the review.

Read the report (PDF, 387.6 KB).

Why was the review needed

In February 2022, the redesign of the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) transport service caused significant and distressing impacts to pupils, parents and carers across the county.

The decision was taken by the Chief Executive, General Counsel and Section 151 Officer/Corporate Director of Finance (who all have statutory duties to ensure the lawful conduct of the council’s business) to commission an independent review of events so that lessons could be learned and implemented quickly and meaningfully.

Who conducted the review

The Head of Internal Audit and Counter Fraud was appointed to lead the review into the changes to SEND transport that took place in February 2022.

They conducted the review in accordance with International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.

The Internal Audit service is not and will not be influenced by anybody within the council, be it a politician of any persuasion or rank or any officer.

Scope of the review

The scope of the review, set by the Head of Internal Audit and reviewed by the Statutory Officers focused on 11 areas:

  • the impact upon families and children
  • the consultation process with parents, carers and Kent PACT
  • decision-making
  • the re-tendering and contract award processes
  • project planning and change management arrangements
  • review of risk management and assurances before implementing the changes
  • the communication process with parents, carers and Kent PACT between December 2021 and March 2022
  • the governance arrangements in place in the Growth, Environment and Transport directorate and in the Children, Young People and Education directorate
  • cross-directorate governance and communication
  • the effectiveness of short-term remedial actions from February 2022.

How the review will be conducted

The Head of Internal Audit talked to a wide range of officers, as well as the relevant politicians, conducted an analytical review, examined documentation and conducted sample testing as necessary.

They also talked to Kent PACT, who provided an extensive document (more than 150 pages) detailing individual experiences, concerns and complaints from parents and carers that reflects the impact on children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families.

Once the relevant facts were established and validated, the Head of Internal Audit discussed their findings with the 3 statutory officers; the Chief Executive, the General Counsel and the Corporate Director of Finance and produced a report of their findings (PDF, 387.6 KB).

Next steps

The report has been received by the statutory officers who commissioned the review, who will now consider the appropriate management action required to address the lessons learnt from the review.