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Agenda item

Special Educational Needs in Sheffield

Report of the Director of Strategic Commissioning and Inclusion Services



The Committee received a report of the Director of Strategic Commissioning and Inclusion Services containing details on the current provision and practice in regards to supporting children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in the City, together with the response to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) reforms.




In attendance for this item were Councillor Jackie Drayton (Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families), Joel Hardwick (Head of Commissioning – Inclusion and School Services) and Tim Armstrong (Head of SEN).




Joel Hardwick introduced the report by referring to the Sheffield Inclusion Strategy, of which a refreshed version was currently in the process of being completed, and would be consulted on, and which would provide clear outcomes in 4 key themes – (a) Identification and Assessment of Needs, (b) Support, Provision and Commissioning, (c) Improving Outcomes through High Quality Partnership, Leadership and Practice and (d) Engagement of Children, Young People, their Families and the Workforce and Good Communication.




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·             In terms of the current SEN provision in Sheffield, there were a number of special schools across the City, including independent specialist provision, attended by over 1,000 children.  The SEND reforms, which had been implemented in September 2014, under the Children and Families Act, represented the largest changes to the way children and young people with SEN were supported in over 30 years.  The changes included, amongst others, a holistic approach to meet the needs of those with SEN from age 0 up to 25 from across Education, Health and Care Services, a graduated approach to meeting a child’s SEND, ensuring effective preparation for adult life for those with SEND and the replacement of School Action and School Action Plus with SEND support, and the introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC) to replace SEND statements, with a requirement that all statements should be reassessed to provide a EHC Plan by the end of March 2018.  There were a number of different services offered by a variety of service providers. The services offered by the  Authority included educational psychology support, speech and language therapists, autism support, deaf and hearing impairment support, visual impairment support and independent travel training support. Other services were offered by health and care providers, such as the Child and Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS), and other specialised provision.  There were also the Multi-Agency Support Teams (MAST). The Service operated on a referral and evidence-based system, and undertook regular reviews of the children’s progress, being mindful to listen to the views of the children’s families.



·             Whilst some progress had been made in terms of reducing the backlog with regard to the reassessment of SEND statements to provide a EHC Plan by the end of March 2018, there was still a considerable amount of work to do.  As well as the required work with regard to the reassessment, the Service was also receiving an increased number of requests for an EHC Plan, but it was hoped that with the additional resources put in place, which included the employment of a number of Senior Business Support Officers to oversee the process, and the secondment of staff from within People Services, it was hoped that the targets would be met. 




·             The Authority would continue to monitor levels of provision required in respect of each child having SEN.  There had been an increase over time in the numbers of children moving from mainstream to special schools, as well as those moving from special schools to out of City specialist provision.  Whilst the main focus was on what was best for the child and their families, such increases had a financial impact on the Authority.  Whilst there was a need for flexibility, there needed to be a balance in terms of the child’s individual needs.  The new specialist provision planned in the City would be part of the answer to dealing with these issues, as well as reviewing provision more generally. 




·             Whilst it was not always the Authority’s view that out of City placements for some children were the most effective course of action, the SEND reforms highlight the importance of parental preference. 




·             The Authority was working with schools and health and care practitioners to ensure that there were clearly defined processes for identifying needs early, particularly through key transition points, and joined up with other assessment processes.  The Authority was trying to look at a more common offer in the City, which it was hoped could be found through a number of different ways, including the training of the Early Years workforce.  It was accepted that there may be too many children starting in school without an adequate support plan in place. 




·             Sheffield had developed the use of the MyPlan as a tool to support good and consistent identification and assessment of need at SEND Support Level.  There had been no intention on the part of the Authority to use the MyPlan to delay assessment or provision. 




·             There were still delays in terms of the Education, Health and Care Needs Assessment and, in recognition of this, officers were looking at how the process could be improved through additional leadership capacity, staffing and training. 




·             External plan writers had been appointed specifically, and were supporting a number of Inclusion Officers, to transition the SEND statements to an EHC Plan.  In addition to this, additional staff from other Services within People Services, had been seconded in order to try and clear the remaining transition cases.  At the present time, there were approximately 600 cases which needed to transition from a statement to an EHC Plan.  The Department of Education were very clear that the deadline of the end of March 2018 should be met.




·             It was hoped that parents, particularly those who required help, would be assisted by a Council officer or a representative from the health and care services, in terms of referring their child for an assessment.  It was accepted that some parents, particularly those in hard to reach areas of the City, or with language problems, would find it harder to request a Plan, and it was hoped that such people could receive assistance.




·             Work had already commenced on the development of Early Years Centres of Excellence from within existing structures, to align with the localities, to support the prevention and early intervention agenda by working with Early Years providers to identify and support children aged 0 - 5 with SEND as early as possible, through supporting improved practice across providers.




·             There were currently 25 full-time posts within the SEN Team, who were responsible for dealing with the reassessment of SEND statements, as well as any new referrals and reviews of EHC Plans. 




·             Early responses from the review were pointing towards a lack of capacity in terms of provision between mainstream and special schools, and efforts were being made to look at how this gap in provision could be filled.




·             One of the biggest criticisms of the SEN Team by service users has been poor communication.  One of the steps being taken to address this was talking to the Parent Carer Forum to seek their views on how this could be improved.




·             The Service was not aware of any specific sanctions facing the Authority if the March 2018 deadline in respect of the reassessment of SEND statements to provide EHC Plans was not met.  There may, however, be a certain level of criticism from parents. 




·             Whilst bullying was prevalent in all schools in the City, it was particularly unsavoury in those circumstances where SEN children were victims.  There was a need for the Local Authority to work with all schools and associated support services in connection with the schools’ bullying policies.  There was also a need to identify specific support for those children with SEN attending mainstream schools.  The SEN Team would investigate the allegations made at the meeting by Councillor Bob Pullin.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the contents of the report now submitted, together with the responses to the questions raised;




(b)      thanks Councillor Jackie Drayton, Joel Hardwick and Tim Armstrong for attending the meeting and responding to the questions raised; and




(c)      requests the Director of Strategic Commissioning and Inclusion Services to submit a report to a meeting of the Committee to be held in September 2018, providing an update on the progress of the development and implementation of the Inclusion Strategy, specifically with regard to the conversion to EHC Plans.


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