Big improvements targeted as Herts health and education chiefs publish SEND action plan
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ADDITIONAL investment, more school places for children with SEND and a redesign of the way children are assessed for autism and ADHD are among the changes being planned by Hertfordshire’s education and health chiefs to improve SEND provision.
The measures are included in a new ‘priority action and improvement plan’, drawn-up in the wake of an inspection that found ‘systemic failings’ in the county’s SEND provision.
That inspection – published in November – found that too many Hertfordshire children with SEND were waiting too long for their needs to be met and for provision to be put in place.
It said there were ‘systemic failings’ that led to ‘significant concerns’ abut the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with SEND.
And it said the ‘local area partnership’ – which includes NHS and the county council – should address these ‘urgently’.
The plan – drawn-up by the partnership – has now been accepted by officials from Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and the Department for Education and formally published.
It includes proposals by the county council to invest a further £2m-a-year in SEND services. That’s in addition to the additional £5m-a-year announced earlier this year.
And it includes a commitment to increase special school and mainstream SEND places by 2025/26.
With children in some parts of the county facing waits of two years to be assessed for autism and ADHD, there are also plans to ‘resdesign’ the way children and young people are assessed – and to improve the support they receive while waiting.
And there are also plans to strengthen data monitoring and governance , with the use of a new ‘dashboard’ to share SEND information across organisations.
Meanwhile Dame Christine Lenehan has already been appointed as an independent chair to oversee the delivery plan.
Progress in the county will now be monitored by the Department for Education, who are set to issue the county with a formal ‘improvement notice’.
Following the publication of the ‘priority action and improvement plan’ Hertfordshire County Council’s executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Caroline Clapper highlighted investment in staffing and school places.
“We are continuing to prioritise investment in improving our SEND service and strengthening our workforce to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND in Hertfordshire,” she said.
“This includes the launch of our new SEND academy, delivering training to new recruits and existing staff working within the SEND service, our £91m investment into special school expansion and our innovative approaches to identifying and providing support for pupils with SEND in mainstream settings.
“We are committed to working in partnership with our colleagues in health, social care, education, schools and parents and carers to urgently deliver the improvements that children and young people have told us they want to see.”
According to the plan, the council will employ more professionals to work on EHCPs and will improve guidelines that set out the expected quality of EHCPs.
They say they will continue to create new special school places and specialist resource provision (SRP), as well as focussing help on children who are not attending school because of social, emotional and mental health difficulties.
They also commit to do more to track how well existing schools are are meeting pupils’ needs.
Meanwhile the plan also commits to a redesign of the way children and young people are assessed for autism and ADHD – so it is ‘less confusing’ and so the process is the same across the county.
It commits to stop waiting times for services – including mental health, speech and language, ADHD and autism and audiology – from getting longer.
And over time it commits to making waiting times shorter – with a new tool for schools to help education staff to identify a child’s needs.
“Patients are at the heart of everything we do in the NHS and we always want to ensure the best quality care and support,” said Hertfordshire and West Essex ICB chief executive Dr Jane Halpin, following the publication of the plan.
“This includes ensuring we are doing everything we can do to support living an ordinary life for children and young people with SEND.
“Our joint partnership improvement plan demonstrates our commitment to deliver a further significant shift in the way children and young people who have additional needs are supported.”