David Butcher, Head of SEND Transformation, discusses our commitment to proactive communication and the challenges of sharing information across a county as large and complex as Hertfordshire.
We’re really ambitious about improving the SEND system in Hertfordshire, and we're already making lots of positive changes. That's why it’s really important we find ways to effectively share our work, and continue to engage with parents.
Current examples include the effort going into increasing the number of special school places, with the development of the new free special school by 2022. As a result of feedback from both schools and parents we've heard some of the challenges associated with current approaches to funding, and we're working closely with a Hertfordshire Headteacher who is taking the lead on a project to review this. Alongside these developments, we’ve also been working on improving the local offer online, and working closely with our parent research group the SEND Online Feedback Group.
Improving our sharing of information
I'm really excited by new approaches like this blog, as a way of sharing our work and building more opportunities to work positively together. We’re committed to continuously improving our sharing of information- whether that’s between the local authorities and our partners such as health, working closely with our schools, or building relationships in terms of parents talking to support services.
With over 500 schools, 10 districts, and a 0-25 population of over 330,000 however, that’s a lot of children, young people and families in Hertfordshire which plays out particularly in terms of the demands on SEND services. In a county of that size, communication becomes really challenging, in terms of what’s happening in local areas and also getting the various practitioners who are all working with families in different ways, talking together.
Building communication into our services
With so much change happening, it's especially important that we maintain our ongoing communications, so we can continue to share events, news that’s of interest to people, celebrate good practise, and promote the Local Offer. This includes things like our social media updates, or those regular messages that are available locally through DSPL newsletters, the HAND SEND news, or individual services.
Something that emerges consistently from parent feedback forums, and the recent parent interviews is the feeling of being 'lost' in the system. Some of that is around the nuts and bolts of communication- 30 secs to acknowledge an email for example, is all some parents are asking for. So we're trying out things like the NHS ‘ask, listen, do’ initiative in some of our teams as an important part of improving the ways that we communicate with families and parents.
Let's keep talking
We’ll continue to talk regularly and openly about the things we're doing to improve our SEND services- be it the big strategic developments or the smaller, positive changes we're making at community level. Communication isn't just about us broadcasting information however, it's about listening to your feedback and changing how we work too.
If you’d like to share your thoughts on the Transforming SEND programme, or if you'd simply like to know more, you can email us at SENDTransformation@hertfordshire.gov.uk
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