Agenda item

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Question from Councillor Robin Stuchbury to Councillor Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services


“Where do you believe Buckinghamshire children who receive support for special educational needs & disabilities are placed against national statistics/criteria?  What steps are being put in place to ensure the well-being of children with special education needs and disabilities and who are the responsibility of the Buckinghamshire Council?”


Councillor Anita Cranmer, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, summarised her response to Councillor Stuchbury.  The full text of the response to the question was as follows:-


“Buckinghamshire children who receive support for special educational needs & disabilities (SEND) achieve as well or better than their peers nationally when looking at average attainment across core subjects.  This is true at both primary and secondary levels.  Due to COVID -19 the last full set of attainment data is from 2019. 


In looking at the key stage two tests at the end of the primary years, 12.1% of primary students with EHCPs achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, 3% higher than the national average.  The percentage of primary students receiving SEN support achieving the expected standard was slightly higher than the national average at 26% as opposed to 25.4% nationally.


In the same time period, GCSE students in Buckinghamshire performed 3.2% better than the national average for students with EHCPs (16.9% compared to 13.7% nationally) and 10.6% better than the national average for those with SEN support (43.2% compared to 32.6%).


Looking beyond attainment data, in Buckinghamshire students are also being assessed more effectively for their SEND with 74.7% of EHC plans issued within 20 weeks during 2020 compared to the national average of 58%. Our figures have increased from 40% in 2019 and currently stand at 85% in 2021 with figures to the end of April.


Permanent exclusions within Buckinghamshire have fallen between 2016/17 and 2018/19 from 13 to 8 students excluded across Buckinghamshire with EHC plans and from 41 to 21 students excluded on SEN support across all settings during the same period.  The exclusion rate in Buckinghamshire is below the national average for secondary pupils with SEN needs for those with and without plans. However, despite the recent reduction, exclusion rates for SEN students in primary and special schools remains above the national average and continues to be an area of focus for the service. Although the rate is high for special schools, because this is a small cohort, the exclusion of just three children has caused this rise.


In terms of the steps that are in place to ensure the well-being of the children and young people with SEND who are the responsibility of Buckinghamshire Council, the focus on this group as a key priority is highlighted within the Council’s Education and Skills Strategy (2018-2022) – which positions SEND as one of its six ‘pillars’. The stated aim is to enable excellent outcomes for all children and young people with SEND, not only in terms of their academic achievements but also for their personal and social well-being. Workstreams resulting from this strategic document have led to the introduction of systems and processes that have facilitated the positive progress in SEND provision demonstrated by the statistics above.


Furthermore, the ongoing drive of the Council in meeting the educational and well-being needs of children with SEND is captured in the Council’s SEND and Inclusion Strategy (2021-2023), with details against the identified objectives given in the associated SEND Improvement Plan (2021-2023). These core documents were collaboratively produced with key partnership organisations and representatives of the voluntary and community sector. The SEND Improvement Plan identifies eight key priorities: 

-                     SEN Support.

-                     Sufficiency – Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) and Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH).

-                     Preparation for Adulthood (PfA).

-                     Joint Commissioning.

-                     Statutory Performance.

-                     Quality Assurance.

-                     Local Offer Advisory.

-                     Voluntary and Community Sector.


For each of these areas, strategic multi-agency ‘Impact Groups’ have been established, which oversee the required development and offer accountability for achieving the desired outcomes.


Within the Council’s Integrated SEND Service, professionals are tasked with directly supporting the well-being of children with the most significant levels of SEND, as well as providing indirect support through consultation, advice, guidance and training for school staff. As an example, the iSEND Service’s Educational Psychology Team run the Nurture Group Network and Emotional Literacy Support Assistant programmes, which promote the well-being of children with a range of SEND by upskilling members of school staff who can then work closely and consistently with the appropriate pupils in their settings.


More immediately, Buckinghamshire Council has used the Department for Education’s?Wellbeing for Education Return?funding to support a range of programmes targeting positive mental health and well-being for all students, including those with SEND. A further tranche of?Wellbeing for Education Return?funding has recently been announced, which will enable the continuation of these programmes as well as the initiation/expansion of others. It is anticipated this will include establishing a network of “well-being champions” amongst Buckinghamshire schools, as part of supporting the promotion of best practice across the county.”