To receive an update and make comments on the development of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Strategy.
The SEN Strategy report was presented by Matthew Booth, SEN Consultant.
Sal Thirlway stated that the service had undergone an inspection in 2019 which had identified the need for producing a new SEND Strategy to replace the existing one.
Some of the comments made by Matthew Booth during his presentation are listed below:
· The consultation had now finished and the results would be shared with the Committee;
· The Local Authority has huge legal responsibilities in relation to the education of SEND children, but limited resources to deliver services. Therefore, it was important to work in partnership with all the stakeholders;
· There was an aspiration that Wokingham continue to be a great place for children and young people with SEND to grow up;
· The strategy contained a needs analysis with facts and figures. The understanding of the needs was continuing to improve, including predicting what the needs might be in the future;
· There had been support from stakeholders in relation to co-producing the strategy and also challenges in relation to the delivery of the strategy;
· The number of children with EHCPs and SEND needs was growing at a much higher pace than the population growth;
· Feedback from carers and parents was included in the strategy;
· Wokingham’s position in relation to SEND challenges was similar to those faced by other local authorities;
· The priorities (as listed in the report) intended to improve services for children and young people with SEND and their families;
· There was an effort to improve provision within the Borough;
· Improving transitions was one of the areas that the strategy was focusing upon;
· Using data more efficiently was part of the strategy;
· The details of how the strategy was going to be measured were explained in the report, including key performance indicators;
· 50 full responses to the consultation were received, which was positive; the feedback received was encouraging and challenging;
· Conversations with partners were being undertaken to decide how the services would be resourced, in the context of the financial demands to deliver the strategy; funding models were being reviewed;
· The public sector equality duty would be further refined for the final assessment.
During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:
· In response to a question Matthew Booth stated that one of the main differences between this strategy and the previous one was the element of co-production and engagement with partners; he believed it was also more evidence based;
· In addition, Carol Cammiss stated that the previous strategy was educationally centred, whereas this was a local area partnership piece of work;
· Members noted that the number of boys with EHCPs and SEND needs was significantly higher than the number of girls; and asked if there was a reason for this and wondered if girls were being missed out and potentially not getting the help which they needed;
· Members also asked if the data could be broken down further, by gender and ethnicity;
· Matthew Booth stated that Health professionals had explained that behaviour signifiers showed up earlier for boys for certain disorders; there was concern by Health partners that girls were being diagnosed later;
· Members suggested that there could be cultural reasons that girls were not having their needs identified and suggested that this be investigated;
· Members questioned why there had been a drop in the number of EHCPs after KS2;
· Matthew Booth stated that educational professionals had explained to him that at KS2 education became more formal, thus was important to address needs so that the children did not fall further behind; he also added that KS2 had the highest volume of children in education;
· In response to a question Matthew Booth stated that one of the major strands of work in the action plan was a resource space review, to maximise the utilisation of local places;
· Members believed that the new strategy was much improved from the previous one, and congratulated Carol Cammiss and her team on the work they had undertaken to produce the strategy;
· Members questioned the statement that Wokingham was a great place for children to grow up, in that there were some areas of deprivation in the Borough, and perhaps this was not a statement that was true for everyone. Matthew Booth stated that some parent and carers groups had also pointed out that there was much improvement still needed in the services provided for SEND children in the Borough in relation to that statement. This may still be reviewed in order to strike the right nuance;
· Sal Thirlway stated that SEND Improvement Board would continue and that strategy would be co-delivered in partnership with stakeholders;
· Carol Cammiss stated that improving the outcomes for children was the focus of the service.
RESOLVED That the Committee noted and supported the SEND Strategy.