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We are continually looking to improve the services we deliver for the children and young people in Hertfordshire with SEND – our ‘Local Offer'.

The progress we have made, and the work we have carried out with parents and professionals on the SEND transformation programme over the last few years, have helped us to identify areas where we still feel there are improvements to be made.

These are the areas we will be focussing on next.

Specialist Provision

We know there is a need to create more specialist provision in Hertfordshire so that our children and young people can be educated within their own communities. In the past 3 years over 300 places have been created in Hertfordshire special schools but we know that the special schools in Hertfordshire are reaching capacity and that the demand for places continues to rise.

Here are some of the ways we plan to address the increased demand so that children with SEND have access to high quality local provision that meets their needs: 

Increasing spaces in Severe Learning Difficulties /Physical and NeurologicaI Impairment sectors 

It is clear that there is sustained pressure for places in these sectors. To ensure that we can meet the demand in Hertfordshire, over 200 places are planned, with delivery from as early as January 2024.

Maintaining and increasing places in the LD sector

Places in this sector will be maintained and marginally increased via the rebuild of The Valley Special School, Stevenage, with 15 additional places, from Spring 2023.

Delivery of 2 new Communication and Autism schools to meet the needs of children whose needs fall between current special school sectors

It is a priority to focus on meeting the needs of those pupils for whom a traditional SEMH school would not be appropriate (often of a higher academic ability) with autism or a social communication difficulty; significant anxieties, mental health issues and sensory needs. These children have often experienced trauma and have developed negative views of school that mean they have been unable access learning, resulting in school refusal/ phobia. The needs of these pupils will be met through the development of :

  • a new 60 place Communication & Autism secondary special school in Welwyn Garden City (delivered by the DfE Free School programme), earliest opening from September 2023
  • the provision of a new 60 place Communication & Autism primary special school in the centre of the county, phased opening from 2023 at the earliest

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH)

There has been a steady increase in demand across the sector, Essex County Council are opening a new SEMH free school for 90 young people aged 7 - 19 in Harlow in 2022. As the school is close to the border of Hertfordshire, we are reviewing the work as part of an SEMH/ Behaviour review, and the recommendations of that review will be fed into future versions of the Special School Place Planning Strategy. 

Specialist Resource Provision (SRP)

Read more about the planned development of specialist resource provisions (SRPs) for young people with communication difficulties.

Early Years

Our Early Years team are currently making improvements to the Early Years offer for children with SEND/additional needs and are aiming to better support families of young children with emerging needs.   To ensure that all children can access their entitlement to free early education,  and to meet the needs of young children with severe learning difficulties (SLD), we are creating additional places for children from the age of 2 in our SLD special school sector,  starting from January 2024.  Going forward, when we strategically plan the number of places needed in our SLD sector, we will include the demand for early years places as well as from statutory school age to ensure that there are enough places available.  This will enable these young children to have access to the high quality specialist education and support that they need. 

As part of our SEND Strategy commitment to ‘continue to enable and develop a skilled, learning workforce’, we are also developing webinars in order to support staff working with young children with SEND in existing early years provisions, and creating opportunities for them to share learning and good practice. This means that children with SEND will be better supported across Hertfordshire in existing provisions as part of our commitment to inclusive practice.  


Improving EHCPs

Over the last few years there has been a significant rise, nationally and in Hertfordshire, of the number of requests for statutory assessment of education health and care needs, as well as an increase in the number of EHC plans being issued. We've also seen increasing desire for children to be educated in specialist schools, and an increasing number of tribunals. We are working closely with HPCI and partners across education, health and care to introduce new systems and ways of working which will help us to deliver our statutory requirements in a way that supports every child and family in Hertfordshire.

We're really focussing on things that will help us: 

  • continue to embed a culture where SEND is everyone's business - by trying to build links between all services and sectors
  • develop our ways of working with families so that every interaction with our teams builds trust and respect
  • identify where we can make decisions and act more quickly or with less bureaucracy, so that we focus more on people rather than process

We have also listened to feedback from our service users and are finding new ways of working which will be much easier and clearer for parents.  You can read more about the EHCP Improvement projects on our blog.

Some of the improvements we are making include: 

Improvements to the Annual Review Process

Our EHCP software supplier has been developing an online portal which will allow parents to log in to a website and see information about their assessments and reviews. In partnership with HPCI, we've been providing feedback to them to ensure that our priorities are part of their development process. We hope that this will be a useful tool for families for Hertfordshire in the future.

To help manage the annual review process, we are in the process of introducing a new online tool for schools to share paperwork following EHCP reviews.  The new system is now live and we have 20 special schools up and running.  We're continuing to roll out this tool, working with colleges this term to get them onboard, and secondary schools will be offered the training next in 2022.  We have had great feedback from schools already using this tool. The new system saves lots of administrative time, and ensures that paperwork is always sent securely.  

We have also changed the way the EHCP Annual Reviews will be received, and the reviews will now go first to a dedicated Annual Review team.  This team operates a triage system, processing the more straight forward reviews quickly whilst sending the more complex cases to the SEND officers.  This new system will free up time for the SEND officers to focus on the more complex casework and should mean that all cases will be processed more quickly.  We're seeing improvements in timeliness for reviews - and whilst we're still not quite where we want to be, we hope that more families are receiving their decisions and review outcomes more quickly.

Improving the quality and training around EHCPs

We are implementing a quality framework and mechanisms to ensure that EHC plans meet quality expectations  Read about ways we're improving the quality of EHCPs.

We're reviewing the training that SENCOs get around annual reviews and assessment requests, to support them to be confident to hold reviews and provide good quality information to the SEND team after a review to help with EHCP amends.

We are developing rolling training plans for SEND professionals contributing to the EHCP process.  So far we’ve run the training sessions for the statutory SEND team and some key partners around the following topics:

  • “The golden thread” – how a plan flows from one section to the next – co delivered by the County Lead for SEND and HPCI
  • Quality assurance of EHC plans in Hertfordshire – co delivered by the County Lead for SEND and the ISL County Lead for Strategy, Performance and Quality.
  • Writing quality EHC plans – delivered by the Area Leads from the statutory SEND team
  • What CQC/Ofsted and the DfE look for in an EHC plan – delivered by a representative from the DfE
  • The Hertfordshire Professional Promise – delivered by a representative from the SEND strategy programme
  • SEND from a family perspective – delivered by a representative from HPCI
  • “Tell my story once” – recording and using information from families – delivered by Learning and Development colleagues

Our next sessions focus on responsibilities of schools delivered by the County Lead for SEND, and the legal framework of EHC assessments and plans. We’ll be continuing to develop this training programme throughout the year. HPCI will support in developing and delivering the training to our statutory service and partners to ensure that the focus on families is at the centre of training delivery.

Contacting the Statutory SEND teams through staffed duty lines

Through feedback, we're aware of some of the difficulties and challenges in communicating with our statutory SEND teams.

This academic year, we have introduced SEND Duty Lines which will be available as follows:

Mon - Weds 0900 - 1730 and Friday 0900 - 1630

  • East Herts, Broxbourne Welwyn & Hatfield- 01992 588562
  • North Herts & Stevenage- 01438 843758
  • St Albans & Dacorum- 01442 453300
  • Watford, Three Rivers & Hertsmere- 01442 454012

Wherever possible, we will always try to answer your query there and then, but if this is not possible (or you wish to speak with a specific officer), we will be operating a call back consultation offer. This model will provide you with the opportunity to arrange with the call handler, a pre-booked “call back” with a named officer across a range of available slots each week


Autism and ADHD

Partners from across the system (Health, Education, Social Care and the Voluntary Sector) have recognised that the demand for services for children and young people with Autism and ADHD has increased significantly in recent years, and families are facing a long wait for diagnoses. They are looking for ways to manage this increased demand and are making changes to ensure that children and young people, parents and carers are getting the support they need in a timely way.  Through working together with different agencies, colleagues and parents, we have agreed the following priority areas for improvement :

  • We aim to increase the capacity of the number of ASD diagnostic assessments we are able to undertake across Hertfordshire, with the aim of reducing the numbers on the ASD waiting list.  We believe this in turn will reduce waiting times for diagnosis
  • We know that there is inconsistency in the ways families access support for ASD in different parts of the county, which leads to confusion for both professionals and parents . We aim to create a single way of working across the county
  • We aim to provide better pre-diagnostic support for families and focus on a needs-led service for children and young people with ASD,  ADHD and/or social communication difficulties

Training 

20% of children in the UK have a registered SEND, and so we believe that SEND is everybody’s business. A suite of iLearn training modules about SEND is being created with the aim that all professionals who work with children in any capacity may complete them, with the content available for partners working in health, social care and education. We are working closely with HPCI to create this training.  We have created and launched the first of these modules: Introduction to SEND and 134 professionals have now completed this module. This module is now mandatory for all staff in Children's Services and Hertfordshire's Community Trust. We are now creating content for the last two modules. 

In addition, a series of bite-sized training is being designed and will be delivered throughout the coming winter and spring to support SEND staff  and our professional partners in their continued professional development. 

The statutory SEND team attended their first Annual Conference this winter where the focus of the day was on SEND Vision and Strategy, Professional Promise and SEND from a family perspective, along with refreshed guidance on EHC plans.  Professional partners and colleagues from other services were invited to join the day to support our renewed focus on collaborative working to ensure SEND if everyone's business. We want to ensure the entire workforce has a basic understanding of SEND needs and services, and how to effectively communicate with and support families and young people. Our Professional Promise (PDF 510kb) to families is at the heart of our workforce training plans.  We have now created a logo to help families spot services which are signed up to fulfilling our Promise, and partners are working hard to adopt the promise in their work.


Preparing for Adulthood

Through feedback from parents and carers we learnt that the post-16 offer for young people and their families has not been clear enough.  Young people and their families didn’t know what is on offer for them in their local areas, and were unsure how to access services.  We are improving the services currently on offer to these young people and are finding better ways of signposting families to them.

Transition 

Colleagues in education, care and health services are working closely to create smoother transitions for young people from children’s services to adults. They have been identifying broken pathways or places where young people have previously fallen through the gaps and are working to identify and fix those.

Education and Employment  

Services for Young People are working closely with the Step2Skills Supported Employment Team in adult services to improve and increase work and volunteering opportunities, and support young people with SEND to gain employment and/or meaningful day opportunities.   If a student expresses an interest in gaining paid employment and has been assessed as having 2 or more support needs, then they can be referred to the Step2Skills programme, either by Adult Care Services, or the 0-25 team.  Find out more about the Supported Employment Team

The 'My Future Coach' programme is currently being piloted in partnership with North Hertfordshire College. This programme involves providing careers information, advice and guidance support to high needs funded students, to enable them to produce a 'My Future ' transition plan. At least 25 of these young people will get either additional coaching or employment support to help them secure their post-college destination. 15-20 young people will join a 'My Future Job Club' where they will be supported to develop a Vocational Profile and/or CV and taught the skills and techniques needed to apply for and secure paid employment or volunteering.

Accommodation

We are working with partners to make sure that young people and their families have greater clarity of what the future looks like for them and know what their options are when it comes to accommodation (eg. what is available to them, and how they can access it). We are particularly looking at improving the offer of supported living in the county. 

With the help of parents and carers, we are in the process of creating a new Frequently Asked Questions and sign-posting guide to help young people and their families when it comes to looking at accommodation.   This will be shared on the Local Offer website and by our health and education colleagues.

Health

Working together with Health (HCT), Adult Care and Children's Services, we have produced two important new tools for families and young people with SEND to help manage health conditions. 

These include the new Healthy Adulthood Guide for families, as well as a new document - My Health Information document - which has been created for children and young people aged 11 - 17 with a learning difficulty or disability.  You can find out more about the new My Health Information document here on the Local Offer PFA Health Pages

We're also about to pilot the 'Hear Me Now' mobile application for young people to further enable young people to independently manage their health conditions and communicate their needs to health professionals.

We continue to work with health colleagues to find ways of increasing the uptake of young people going to their GPs for their annual health check. 

Travel Training

Our Travel Training programme helps young people with SEND become comfortable with travelling independently.  The programme continues to go from strength to strength and will now be expanding further to engage more young people and families.  We are currently in the process of building links with schools to deliver a classroom-based Travel Training programme to reach more children, and we aim to offer more young people the opportunity to participate in the programme as they move into Adult Care Services.

We are also developing “Train the Trainer” resources and training events, which will give other professionals and community groups the skills and knowledge to deliver quality Travel Training programmes and increase the independence of young people with SEN across the County.   

You can find out more on our Travel Training webpage.

 


Reviews

DSPLs and LSPs

We have completed a review of how we support schools and families in Hertfordshire through our Delivering Special Provision Locally (DSPL) and Local School Partnerships (LSP) provision.  The review included feedback from a range of partners, including families who use the services.  The review found that on the whole families and partners value these services.  However, some families and some partners would like to there to be more consistency of services across the county and have a better understanding of which services are available to provide support early, when children and young people with SEND, and their families need it.  A number of recommendations have been approved, which will now be implemented over the next 12 months, working very closely with HPCI.  You can read more about the review of DSPLs and LSPs on our blog.

Specialist Provision Banding and Funding and Top-up High Needs Funding (HNF) in Mainstream Schools

Following on from the completion of the work on Top-up High Needs Funding (HNF) in Mainstream Schools, a new project was set up by Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) to continue the work and apply it to Specialist Settings. An update on progress is set out below.

Top-Up High Needs Funding in Mainstream Schools (HNF)

This system has now been in place for over a year and is delivering £15m of funding to children and young people with High Needs in mainstream schools (a 50% increase from the start of this project). While this is a significant investment, there is still much work to do to ensure it reaches those with the greatest need in a timely manner. We have been working closely with schools and other partners to review services and see where we can achieve more value for money for services funded from the High Needs Funding, and better meet increasing demand.  This has already led to improvements to the Education Support for Medical Absence (ESMA) Teaching Service, including creating clarity of provision, introducing a new governance model, developing more efficient structures and practices, and creating a vision to ensure we deliver the best teaching and reintegration service possible for our children.  (Please note that the ESMA teaching service is open to all children absent from school on medical grounds, not just children with SEND).  

The following challenges and solutions are being addressed:

  • There is a backlog of unbanded Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) being addressed by a dedicated team and should be completed shortly.
  • A new ‘front door’ for Annual Reviews (AR) is in place so the journey of the AR can be tracked and completed in a timely manner. The number of outstanding ARs is gradually reducing.
  • For new EHC needs assessment, schools are being reminded to submit their banding tool outcome at week 15 to ensure there is no delay the banding process.

Additional Targeted Funding (ATF)

£3.4m of additional funding has been distributed to mainstream schools who have a higher than expected number of children and young people with an EHCP.

Additional Targeted Funding Plus (ATF+)

ATF is distributed to mainstream schools on a financial rather than academic year basis, so those schools whose number of EHCPs increases beyond the thresholds at the September transition points will receive additional funding for these pupils.

Local High Needs Funding (LHNF)

This system received an increase in funding for 2022 and is helping to address the needs of children and young people who have high needs but do not have an EHCP. Further work is being undertaken to ensure that this finite pot of funding reaches those who most need it.

Banding Descriptors

The banding tool used for HNF/LHNF includes descriptions of children and young people's needs and these are used to identify the band relevant to the child or young person. Phase 2 of the work on Banding Descriptors is now underway and includes:

  • A review of the existing banding descriptors to improve the specificity of the descriptors
  • The addition of descriptors that reflect children and young people in our special schools and specialist provisions
  • A provision tool that sits alongside the banding descriptors and identifies the features of the provision to meet the children and young people's needs

This is a significant piece of work and is taking some time to complete. A workshop to review all the work so far took place at the end of October and the new descriptors will be tested in the Spring term 2022.

Special School and Specialist Provision Admissions and Exit Guidance

Once the banding descriptor work is in place it will be used to review the existing Admissions and Exit Guidance with a view to ensuring clarity and specificity for children and young people who may need places at a special school or specialist provision.

Special School Funding

Once the banding descriptor work is complete, all children and young people in Hertfordshire mainstream and special schools will have a band that will reflect their needs. The banding will be used to identify the appropriate funding for special schools and specialist provisions. The banding will not change the needs or provision specified in a child or young person's EHCP.  The work is in its very early stages and includes:

  • Understanding and reviewing the existing funding mechanism
  • Identifying principles for the new funding mechanism
  • Modelling the impact of any proposals
  • Setting up a consultant group of special school heads (one per sector) to ensure that the funding reflects the needs of the school

The work aims to maintain the existing amount of funding for Special Schools overall and to ensure special schools receive appropriate funding to meet the needs of their children and young people.

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