The Committee will receive an overview of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Improvement plan and an update on progress to date.
Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
Tolis Vouyioukas, Corporate Director for Children’s Services
Simon James, Service Director, Education
Mr James introduced the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Improvement Plan report which related to the progress and improvement across whole local authority area. It was part of the work for the local area inspection and should be seen in line with the SEND Strategy, the improvement plan and self-assessment document. Demand for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) was increasing each year and there were more children with complex needs, notably children on the autistic spectrum and also children and young people presenting with varying degrees of mental health concerns.
Governance was carried out by the SEND Board which was chaired by Mr Tolis Vouyioukas. This was an executive board, representative of the whole area and included parents, schools and partners. There were also a number of impact groups beneath the SEND Board which focus on specific areas of priority; e.g. Co-production (working with families and children preparing for adulthood), the quality of EHCPs, and the local offer (an online resource for families to access information).
Recent areas of improvement included the timeliness of EHCP assessments; there was a 20 week deadline for EHCP assessments to be completed and over 80% had been achieved in last four months with 89% at the end of August 2020. The Service had also focussed on the quality of the plans through an audit programme; 50% of all plans were good or better during the last month. Two of the biggest challenges were to ensure pathways were clear for young people moving into adulthood and to provide more focus on identifying children in need of SEN support.
The following points were raised and discussed by members of the committee:
- The self-evaluation document was a live document and involved the contribution of all the stakeholders across Buckinghamshire including statutory and non-statutory services to parents, representatives and volunteers and the community to identify the people who had a special education need. Mr James reported that there had been a recent, very well attended, school governors’ board meeting in which there was specific interest in the SEN topic. The schools and School Governors were aware of the inspection preparation and there would be a series of upcoming meetings with head teachers to raise awareness of SEN.
- A member referred to Paragraph 2.14 and asked about the support for those in need of speech therapy. Mr James reported that ‘Speech Link’ was a very effective tool which identified children that might have a speech language therapy need. It was a way of supporting schools to identify those needs early and, if appropriate, refer into the speech and language therapy service for a further assessment. The Service was also working closely with health colleagues to make sure that teachers and teaching assistants felt confident to meet the needs of those children. Mr James did not know if there was a waiting list for children who required speech therapy but agreed to check this.
ACTION: Mr James
- A member requested an explanation of the rise in the level of statutory performance from 40% in 2019 to 65% in the current year (paragraph 2.7). Mr James stated that the rise was due to the work carried out by the SEN team who had focussed on consistency in this area.
- In response to a question on how the Council could meet the demand for support for children on the autistic spectrum; Mr James agreed that there was an increased demand and that the Service had focussed on reconfiguring the additional resource provisions in schools to align to the needs of the children who required support.
- In response to a request for an explanation on the underlying cause for the increase in the number of children on the autistic spectrum; Mr James advised that it was due to the earlier identification of the needs of autistic children; some of whom had very complex needs and would not have survived years ago.
- A member asked how parents had been supported during the recent pandemic, in terms of accessing respite care; Mr Nash Richard advised there was a need to continue to be flexible, and provide care on a case by case basis. The Service looked at alternative support where necessary and worked with the family and partner organisations.
- Mr James stated that partnership working across education, health and social care was vital to effectively support children with additional needs.
- A member asked whether any more resources had been provided to prepare children for adulthood and whether the system had been tested. Mr James reassured the committee that increased work was being carried out with adult services to ensure decisions were made which worked best for all concerned. He understood that the process could be difficult and bureaucratic and the parent forum had been involved in developing the process. It was suggested that a report be provided to the committee on the preparation of children for adulthood. Mr James stated this should be presented jointly with adult services.
ACTION: Simon James/Kelly Sutherland
- It was noted that there was currently funding for home to school transport for children with SEN but this funding was under pressure. Mr James assured the committee that he was working closely with Transport Services to ensure the provision was sustained for the current academic year.
The Chairman thanked all the school staff and officers for their hard work.
RESOLVED: The Select Committee NOTED the most recent update against the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Improvement Plan.