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The SEND inspection report for the Hertfordshire area partnership (covering the council and health services) gave us 2 "priority" areas we need to urgently fix, and 5 other areas where we must also show improvement.

Change will take time, but we have a detailed plan to make things better.

The plan was reviewed and approved by Ofsted/ CQC. The DfE have also issued an improvement notice to us. This is standard practice in these circumstances and our Priority Action and Improvement Plan will ensure we meet the requirements of the notice. 

Priority actions - the most important things the report told us to focus on

1: Improve the way we share SEND data and information across organisations, so everyone understands where to focus improvements.

More about this aim

We will use the data we have in a more intelligent way, to decide where improvements in services are needed. We will make data easier to use and learn from by making a new “dashboard”. This is one spreadsheet that everyone can view (within our organisations), where we will keep all of the key service information and numbers. We must work quickly to get this new reporting in place. 

We are putting methods in place to make sure we listen and record what children and young people tell us about their lives and services they use or need, and use this information to make improvements.


Creation of a data dashboard

  • Our data team has developed an extensive dashboard of analytics, for internal use, that captures key information across education, health and social care. This means we can share our data more easily and openly between our organisations.

2: Leaders from all organisations need to work together better. They need to make sure that the work done by their services is high quality.

More about this aim

This "priority action" is about leaders in the council and health services working together effectively, with delivering this improvement plan as the key focus. Leaders will set this priority across all services, so we can achieve the aims of the improvement plan as quickly as possible.

We are putting things into place to make sure that the people in positions of leadership have the best ways to find out about what is happening in their services, so they can make the right decisions. We are changing the way our meetings work to improve this. This is known as our 'governance'. 

We will give children and young people opportunities to feed into this work and make sure leaders can listen and respond to what they tell us, through their decision making.

We will create guidelines that set out the expected quality of work that services should provide. We will develop ways to check that services are working to these guidelines.


Getting the right decision making framework in place to prioritise improvment work (January - March 2024)

  • Our focus has been on setting up the systems and reorganising workforces to prioritise improvement in the areas outlined in our priority action and improvement plans.
  • In December 2023, we set up a new governance structure to ensure that we regularly review the progress we are making and have clear accountability for delivering improvements. This governance includes a Partnership Board, attended by Education, Health and Care service leads, Headteachers and parent/carer reps, who meet every month, and a Priority Executive, independently chaired by Dame Christine Lenehan. They have met 5 times so far to review progress of actions.

Improvement areas - important areas the report told us to improve on.

Improvement areas 1 and 4: Address the gaps and delays in service provision for children and young people with SEND. This includes services for autism, ADHD, mental health, audiology and speech and language

We are reporting on both of these improvement areas together because a lot of the work happening in our improvement services contributes to both these aims.

More about improvement area 1

'Leaders across the partnership should address the variability in children and young people’s access to health services that exists in different areas within the local area so that all children and young people with SEND in Hertfordshire have an equal opportunity to access appropriate provision and support that meets their needs.'

We need to redesign the way we assess children and young people for autism and ADHD so it is less confusing and the process is the same across Hertfordshire. We will improve the support children and their families get while they wait for assessment and make sure everyone can find excellent support no matter which area they live in.

We also aim to more get young people aged 14+ with learning disabilities attending the annual health checks they are entitled to.

More about improvement area 4

'Leaders should further address the gaps and delays in service provision to meet the full range of needs of children and young people with SEND. This includes services for ASD, ADHD, mental health, audiology and speech and language.'

We will stop waiting times from getting any longer, and make sure services exist for the things our families need help with. Over time, we will make waiting times for services shorter, but within our 18 month plan, we will "stabilise" the waiting times. Some particular things that families need more help with, and faster, are:

  • mental health
  • speech and language
  • ADHD and autism
  • audiology (hearing).

We will also make sure that when families do have to wait, they know where to get support in the mean time.

We are also helping schools to use a new tool (called Valuing SEND), which helps education staff to identify a child's needs. This can be useful as evidence when getting the right support from colleagues in health and social care, and helps the school to provide the right support to the child.


Reduced the number of families waiting for speech and language advices (March 2024)

  • From December 2023 to February 2024, the Speech and Language service focussed on delivering assessment-only appointments in order to provide their contributions to EHCP reports, so that schools and families have up-to-date advice about the children and young people’s strengths and needs, as well as strategies that can be used to support them.
  • We were able to complete a SaLT assessment for 526 children. 
  • As a result, the number of children and young people waiting for a SaLT assessment for their EHCP has reduced by 78%. 
  • We're now reviewing what we learned from this process and asking for feedback from families, schools and staff.

Reduction in the number of children and young people waiting for PALMs

  • In the last 6 months we have seen reduction in the number of children and young people waiting for PALMS treatment by 52% (since Sep 2023).

Neurodiversity support hub expanded across Hertfordshire

The Neurodiversity Support Hub has been expanded across Hertfordshire, staffed by Experts by Experience. The hub offers advice, support, signposting, and guidance about a whole range of things relating to ADHD and Autism.

Anyone who has a question about a child's neurodiversity (age 0 - 25) can get in touch with the hub. The child or young person does not need to have a diagnosis. Parents, carers, family members, professionals and friends can also call.

We received feedback from users of the hub that having wider opening hours would help improve parents’ and carers’ ability to access this resource. Recruitment is currently taking place and once completed we’ll be increasing the opening hours.

2: Improve the quality of Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) documents.

More about this aim

EHCPs need to have really good information from professionals in them about the child’s needs and how to support them. The plan must also include the wishes and views of the child.

We are employing more professionals to work on EHCPs, aross a wider range of teams with specialised experience. They will have excellent training and support in the "SEND Academy". We are calling this programme, which has a £7million per year investment, "Making SEND everyone's business".

We will improve our guidelines that set out the expected quality of EHCPs. This will cover guidance for the annual review process too.


Recruiting more staff: Making SEND Everybody's Business

  • We have recruited 110 roles so far through our workforce transformation programme. More than 50 of the new recruits have completed their training through our newly developed SEND Academy, and are now working in the service.
  • 34 new recruits are currently in training through the SEND Academy Induction. We expect them to join their teams by June. After this time, the positive impact may begin to be felt by families, as there will be more staff managing smaller numbers of EHCPs each.

Capturing the voice of the child and young person in every Plan

  • Our new SEND Participation Lead and our EHCP quality assurance have developed a tool called ‘This is Me’. It will be used with children and young people to record their views in their EHC assessments and annual reviews more consistently. We expect this tool to start being used from May onwards.

Tackling the backlog of Plans

  • In 2024 to date, 42.5% of new EHCPs have been finalised within 20 weeks. In 2023 this figure was 35.7%. Our target staed in the improvement plan is to raise this to 60%.

3: Make sure that children who have EHCPs are attending the right type of school for them.

More about this aim

If a child's EHCP says they need a place at a special school or other type of setting, we need to make sure the right places are available for them.

We continue to create new special school places and specialist resource provisions. We keep you up to date on this work on our page: Increasing specialist provision and school places in Hertfordshire.

We will also focus more on helping children who are out of school or with low attendance because of social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

We will improve the way we make decisions about placements for children with EHCPs, so they have the right type of school identified for them in the first place.

We will do more to track how well the existing schools and education settings we have (including alternative provision) are doing, so we know that they are effective in meeting their pupils' needs.  


Increasing specialist provision - the numbers (March 2024)

  • We are investing £91m across the county to create more than 1,000 special school places for our children in Hertfordshire as part of our Special School Place Planning Strategy. 
  • As of March 2024, the number of special school places in Hertfordshire has increased by 737 places (31%), from 2350 in 2018/19 to 3054 from September 2024.
  • We are on track to extend our Special School Place Planning Strategy to Spring 2025 so we can deliver additional places for children and young people with Severe Learning Difficulties and to meet immediate demand. This is backed up by an additional £40.5m of investment agreed in February 2024.
  • Since September 2023, almost 100 children who had been waiting for longer than 1 year have now secured a place.  
  • There are now less than 70 children who have been waiting longer than 1 year. We are aiming to clear the referral list for special provision so that there are no children waiting longer than 3 terms by January 2025.  

Provision panels and communication (March 2024)

  • We know that communication in relation to panel decisions can be unclear and inconsistent. We have recruited 4 SEND Panel Managers, who will be focused on delivering a new locality based provision panel model, for quicker decision making and better communication with families. We are on track to move to this new model at the end of June 2024.

5: We should act to address parents’ and carers’ concerns at an early stage to reduce dissatisfaction and eliminate the need for parents and carers to have to follow formal routes of complaint.

More about this aim

We need to make sure all families in Hertfordshire can find information about SEND support and services when they need it.

We also need to communicate better with families who are receiving a service. This means making sure we actively provide updates, and answer calls and emails more promptly. We want to build trusted relationships with our families to help them feel confident in the service they are receiving.

We will make a formal process for communications that all organisations must follow, and create new staff training on the importance of communicating well with families.

In particular, we want to improve parent communication, experience and expectations around the EHCP process. One way we will do this is to increase the number of staff in the EHCP team as a whole. The Making SEND Everyone's Business work (as outlined in improvement area 2) will have a huge impact on improving communication.

We will commit ourselves to learning from previous complaints, by reviewing them and addressing patterns and themes in feedback.


Improving our communication with families during the EHCP process (January - March 2024)

  • Through our SEND Academy, we are training staff who manage the EHCP process on the importance of communication with their families.
  • Herts Parent Carer Involvement (HPCI) worked with us to develop a training video on communication, based on parent carers' experiences. 
  • We are developing a parent portal to provide parents with information about their child's EHCP, including during the needs assessment process. We are about to start testing the portal with parent reps.
  • We have seen an ongoing increase in visits to the Local Offer wesbite. We will continue to raise awareness of the website, and signpost to SEND support in Hertfordshire through our termly webinars also.



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