December 2023: open letter from Ros Somerville
As the year draws to a close, it is a time of reflection for many, and we are looking back over the last 12 months at the achievements and accomplishments as well as what we have learnt from the work we have done. It has been a busy term which has seen the inspection of the Local Area Partnership by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) alongside our continued work to deliver a better SEND system for our children, young people and their families. The Local Area Partnership remain acutely aware that all the work we are doing has yet to deliver the intended changes for enough children, young people and families. We will keep working until it does.
Here is an outline of some of that work.
Local Offer Website
After much work the new Local Offer website which has been coproduced with Suffolk Parent Carer Forum and partners launched in November 2023. Initial tester feedback has been very positive and there is confidence that users’ experience will be improved.
As a system we have focused on improving the timeliness of EHC needs assessments. The low number of assessments completed within 20 weeks is because of the limited availability of Educational Psychologists (EP). Suffolk County Council (SCC) has a permanent advert out to recruit more EPs and 7 new EPs joined the service in September 2023. We are also commissioning private companies and as many locum EPs as we can find to increase our EP capacity. There is a small and gradual upward trend to the data and we anticipate this continuing to grow as the new contracts with private companies have been procured. This will remain an absolute focus.
We have continued our recruitment drive in SEND Family Services, reducing our vacancy rate to 3% in September from 14% in 2023.
Delivering Better Value programme
Suffolk has been awarded a grant by the Department of Education for the council’s proposed project to improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND as part of the Government’s Delivering Better Value Project. A new Programme Manager has now been appointed and the recruitment of the Assistant Psychologists to staff the team is underway.
The programme will work with schools to support them to identify and implement evidence-based interventions targeted at improving the core basic skills of children and improve their confidence to engage with the wider curriculum, preventing needs escalating.
Specialist Education Services (SES)
SES has continued to develop the way they work with schools and groups of schools. As part of this Community Inclusion Forums have been introduced. They are locality-based groups of schools invited to meet together to focus on promoting inclusion and achievement for children and young people with SEND and additional needs.
The forums are also intended to provide opportunities for staff across the sector to be empowered to meet these needs, through the sharing of effective practice and providing peer support, and awareness of emerging research.
Through the collaboration of stakeholders, we intend to enable access and increase knowledge to develop inclusive practice in Suffolk. The initial meetings have proved helpful and popular.
As of next term every school in Suffolk will receive a termly visit from a specialist teacher to support inclusion.
Suffolk Education Partnership
Suffolk County Council are pleased to be working with Suffolk Education Partnership to come together as a system to support inclusion and prevent exclusions.
Suffolk Education Partnership is a schools led group focused on developing inclusive approaches and training and improved communication for school staff.
Local Area SEND Inspection
As many of you may know, a Local Area Review (SEND Inspection) by Ofsted and CQC took place during October and November. Thank you to all of you who engaged in the inspection and those who met with inspectors.
Ofsted and CQC are preparing a report which they will publish. Ofsted and CQC decide when they will publish their report and this is likely to be in January or February 2024.
Time To Listen
We continue to offer families the opportunity to meet with senior leaders across the Suffolk Local Area Partnership as part of our Time To Listen events.
These online conversations are so important to us in our efforts to hear from families about their lived experiences and I would encourage you to consider booking one if you haven’t already done so. You can read more about Time To Listen and see the full list of appointments on offer here.
Suffolk Local Area Partnership SEND Strategy
Our consultation for the Suffolk Local Area Partnership SEND Strategy launched in October 2023, the first phase of the consultation closed in December. The Local Area Partnership is currently reviewing the feedback received from approximately 900 respondents, which includes parents, carers, professionals and young people. We will share the findings from this with you in the new year.
Finally, I should like to wish you all a restful and peaceful holiday and a very happy 2024.
Assistant Director, Inclusion
Suffolk County Council