Improvements to the SEND service - October 2020 update

We take your feedback seriously and always look at ways we can improve our services and the information about them. We're pleased to show you all the improvements and changes we're making based on your feedback and conversations we've had with you.

Here is a summary of the improvements made between October and December 2020.

For the most recent updates, please go to our you said, we did page.

You said we need to listen more

  • Our Interim Head of SEN took part in a Facebook live interview organised by Kent PACT in the summer. Participants submitted questions beforehand and these were answered and discussed during the interview. The session was welcomed by many Kent PACT members and we are working with them to organise further ‘meet the professional’ sessions later this year with our leaders from transport, school transport, education psychology and parent engagement. Find out more about Kent PACT or follow them on Facebook.

  • We have appointed a SEND Family and Engagement Manager to lead all the engagement activities planned with parents, children and young people, while also managing partnerships with Kent PACT and other organisations. The role is one of 3 new roles that are also dedicated to lead on the continuous improvements to the Local Offer, alongside colleagues.

  • Parents’ views have helped to shape the development of the mainstream core standards and accompanying parent guide (due to be published this autumn). More than 50 parents were contacted to review the documents and their feedback, along with that of schools, is shaping the documents. Parents’ views have also informed the Early Years Threads of Success document and the schools’ ‘Parent Engagement Award’.

  • After listening to children and young adults, who told us they wanted to be able to speak up for themselves, we have developed a specific online survey focused on them.

  • We have created a volunteer plan and roles to allow volunteers to support the SEND service delivery and the improvement programme.

  • We have co-produced our vision statement with parents, children and young people, where:

    • children and young people with SEND can feel happy, safe, supported and as healthy as possible while they learn and grow.
    • families can reach the right people at the right time to support their children.
    • services will work with families to improve outcomes and achievements for children and young people with SEND.

You said we need to treat you as equal partners

  • We have co-produced our working together with parents, children and young adults pledge.

  • Following a ‘shaping co-production in Kent’ event in February' in 2020 led by Genuine Partnerships, and attended by parents, young adults and staff from the council and local NHS, we co-produced a definition of what co-production looks like in Kent.

  • We are now working with Kent PACT to develop a co-production charter which we will publish later this year. We have worked with Kent PACT to test that our communications plan meets parents’ needs.

You said we need to communicate better with you

  • Our Provision Evaluation Officers (PEOs) play a critical role in improving communications between parents, children and schools. They are available for parents to contact when they need support.

  • We have started to implement our communications plan, which will see the SEND information hub (local offer) website promoted more to parents, as well as to professionals supporting families. We have already started using social media to promote different parts of the local offer webpages. We now have an explore your options feature, designed to help parents new to SEND.

  • In August 2020, Mark Walker who was at the time, the Interim Director for Special Educational Needs, Disabled Children and Young People, wrote a letter to parents and carers of children and young adults with SEND with an EHC plan. In this he apologised for any delays experienced and gave an update on the plans to improve this. He also introduced his leadership team. Read the August improvements letter (PDF, 83.8 KB).

You said we must be more child and young people-focused

  • Following the national lockdown due to COVID-19, we provided all primary schools with a suite of recovery resources to help them support SEND children in coming back to school. These included catch-up toolkits for English and maths and toolkits to help schools develop recovery action plans to support children. We also provided all schools with NASEN Whole School SEND Resources to help them support children and young adults returning to school in September 2020.

  • The local NHS has set up a new school nursing network to make sure children with complex health needs can access their education safely. The service started working with 3 schools in east and north Kent (St. Nicholas in Canterbury, Milestone Academy in New Ash Green and Ifield in Gravesend) in September and will soon extend to other special schools across the county. The school nurses work with children with complex health needs, and their families, to secure the right support from both within the school and with other organisations. This will help to relieve some of the pressures the family have or may experience. They will also work with the school team, providing training and undertaking competency assessment so that more staff can safely care and support students in special schools.

You said we must be less adversarial and more compassionate

  • We have continued to work on changing and improving the way we respond to complaints, making sure we focus on resolutions. We have designed comprehensive and SEND-focused complaints training that is being rolled out this month to all our SEND staff.

  • Alongside the development of the mainstream core standards, we have been conducting a wider discussion with schools that started in September 2020 about inclusion. These discussions are shaping the Kent inclusion statement and how inclusion is quality is assured. These documents will be published on the local offer later this year.

  • 40 schools tested the new inclusion toolkit and following their positive feedback, it has now been made available to all schools. It helps them test how inclusive they are and helps them to develop a plan to make improvements. The toolkit will form part of a suite of documents designed to support schools in working collaboratively.

  • We have conducted a detailed analysis of the support that is available to schools and settings to help them become more inclusive and have made extra money available to support schools in the work needed to be more inclusive. The money can be used by schools to provide specific and general training.

You said schools must be more inclusive

You said schools must support children who will have different learning styles and need different types of support.

  • We are working with schools, academies, nurseries and pre-schools to develop a Kent Inclusion Strategy which will set out clearly how they can embed inclusive practice in the way they do things. It will be accompanied by training and a toolkit that contains practical measures and ideas to support children and young people.

You said we should be providing better information, advice, guidance and support

We have already launched some new ways to make getting information easier for parents, and plan to continue working with you to find more ways to improve.

  • There is a new way for parents to find out what first steps to take, who to talk to and where to find out about support available. This was developed as a result of the conversations we had late last year with parents, who said this would have been useful to them if they were just starting to find help and support.

  • We have published an online form to make it easier for parents to request an assessment.

  • The autism handbook is sent to all parents with children on the waiting list for a diagnosis and we will be holding family events across the county later this year.

You said we need to improve waiting times, provide more funding for local health services, and to have better trained staff

We have looked for ways to manage waiting lists consistently and how we can support parents more.

  • We are looking at ways to make sure waiting lists for the Speech, Language and Communication Needs service are managed in a consistent way across Kent and to reduce waiting times. This includes investing more money for new local clinics and more training to staff.

  • We have supported parents and carers with children who are waiting for an autism assessment in Canterbury. We held two events, with presentations and talks on autism, education and health care plans and marketplace stands offering further information and support. Parents could talk to professionals about their experiences, and even bring their children along with them as we provided staff to look after them so that parents could attend workshops.