A NORTH EAST council has been given 70 days to explain to the government why it has failed to implement sufficient changes to its special educational needs and disability services.

The Department for Education has written to Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council (RCBC) calling for answers following an Ofsted and CQC inspection last month.

Inspectors raised concerns about slow progress in implementing changes to services following a change in legislation in 2014.

Stuart Miller, deputy director SEND, alternative provision and attendance unit Department for Education, wrote: "I was very concerned to read about these areas of concern and the finding that there has been insufficient progress over time in implementing the 2014 reforms.

"I was, however, encouraged by the strengths reported, including the commitment of frontline professionals in education, health and social care to making a positive difference for children and young people with SEND in Redcar and Cleveland."

Councillor Craig Hannaway, the council's lead member for children, was present throughout the inspection and a joint RCBC and South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group statement reads: "Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspectors recognised many strengths and areas of strong practice during the recent SEND inspection.

"This included the joined- up, effective arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting the needs of children in early years and the deep and shared commitment to get it right for all children, young people and their families.

"We do, however, recognise that improvements need to be made and we are aware that outcomes achieved by our children and young people who have SEN and/ or disabilities vary too much.

"We are committed to working with all partners, including education providers and our parents and carers. We have already made significant progress and we are working closely with the newly formed Parent and Carer Forum to ensure better communication and involvement."

Dr Caroline Jackson, Hutton ward Councillor and the council's Conservative group spokesperson for Children and families, accepts that the council has faced financial constraints but believes the letter raises serious concerns about the quality of the service.

She said: “I find it extremely concerning that we have reached the point where the DfE felt this matter was so serious that it needed to write to the Council and reiterate the requirements laid out by Ofsted and the CQC.

"Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable children in our Borough and it appears from the report that we are failing them."