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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 2 years an additional 233 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 sector 

It is clear that there is sustained pressure for places in this sector. To ensure that we can meet the demand in Hertfordshire, around 200 places are planned, with delivery from as early as September 2023.

Maintaining and increasing places in the LD sector

Places in this sector will be maintained and marginally increased via the planned rebuilding of The Valley Special School, Stevenage, with 15 additional places, from January 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 working on making improvements to the Early Years offer for children with SEND/additional needs. They will be aiming to better support families of young children with emerging needs by exploring the demand for the creation of a specialist nursery-aged provision for children with complex SEND. Our research suggests that there is a need and we are currently considering suitable locations with the aim of opening the by September 2022


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 EHC request and assessment processes

We have appointed 4 new SEND Childrens' Information and Advice Officers (CIAOs) who will be the first port of call for parents who are waiting for a decision following an EHC needs request (ie in the first 6 weeks of the EHC assessment process).  The CIAOs are based in our Families First front door and they will help us improve our services to children in a number of ways.

1. Not all families know about the process of an EHC needs assessment, or about the support that is available to them locally.  The CIAOs will contact all families who submit a request for assessment, and help them to navigate the services that are available before the EHC assessment is agreed. This will include making sure that all families know about the Local Offer website, our SENDIASS service, the Families First portal, and our fantastic local voluntary organisations, as well as supporting with information about the EHC assessment process, schools and settings locally, and benefits they could receive or support that's available within the home.  Where appropriate the CIAOs can support with a referral to our early help services in Hertfordshire, through the Families First team.

2. Not every request we receive has enough, or the right, information in it for the Statutory SEND Team to be clear on the possible educational needs of a child.  The CIAOs will liaise with partners to get as much information as possible before the 6 week deadline for a decision.

3. Many new requests can run to 100 pages of evidence and information about children's needs and progress.  The CIAOs will carefully summarise the information received to help identify those cases which very clearly meet the legal test for an assessment to be agreed, and those which need further discussion or consideration by decision makers in the team. With growing numbers of requests coming in, this ensures that we are quick and efficient for those who meet the legal test, and we really prioritise discussion time on those children whose needs and progress are not immediately identifying that an EHC needs assessment is the right next step.

Where a decision is made not to go ahead with EHCP assessment, SENDIASS aim to help families with the next steps and support them in working closely with their child's school to deliver different support.

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 10 special schools up and running, with more schools receiving training in the new system this term, starting with special schools and colleges.  We are planning for all special schools to be offered the opportunity to use the online tool by Christmas, with secondary schools being the next to be offered training 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.

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.  This term we're focussing on training for SEND services around legal requirements and responsibilities, working with families and young people, and ensuring and monitoring quality of casework. This will include educating key partners and professionals in the expectations around the content of EHCPs to ensure that each child's EHCP is of high quality, and contains information that is accurate, relevant and up-to-date.  HPCI will support in co-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. 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 will attend their first Annual Conference this winter where the focus of the day will be 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 will be 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 are working on creating a logo to help families spot services which are signed up to fulfilling our Promise.


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. 

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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