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A message from Christine McInnes:

18 October 2023 weekly update

18 October 2023

This week, Christine updates on new developments, parental engagement, health, the Kent Portage Service and the Director’s Briefing with Headteachers.

Dear Colleagues,

New developments

We all share a commitment to ensuring the best educational opportunities for all children and young people in Kent and so I am sure you will welcome yesterday’s announcement by the Leigh Academies Trust and the Department for Education (DfE) of a new proposed model for secondary school provision on the Isle of Sheppey.  This innovative proposal will now go out to a public consultation before the end of this year.  The DfE's Minister for the School System will then make a formal decision, early next year, on the proposal that the Island will have two secondary schools from 1st September 2024, each run by separate, outstanding, local Multi-Academy Trusts.

The Trusts, East Kent College Schools Trust and Leigh Academies Trust, have worked collaboratively with KCC's education officers, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills and councillors, the local Member of Parliament, and the DfE to develop complementary, high-quality education offers which will give families and young people a genuine choice without having to leave the Island as the proposal will provide a range of exciting academic and technical opportunities .

A big thank you to Tammy Mitchell of EKC Schools Trust and Simon Beamish of LAT for their collaborative work to bring this proposal to fruition, as well as to Marisa White AD Education East and Craig Chapman AD Fair Access who have supported from the KCC officer side.


Over the last week I was pleased to join Charlton Athletic Community Trust annual celebration event, hosted by Lord Michael Grade of Yarmouth CBE at the House of Lords. CACT are supporting work across a number of areas of Kent and recently completed a project working with schools on the Isle of Sheppey which included taking families by coach to see a game at The Valley.

Parental engagement - forthcoming SEND newsletter

The Kent SEND Newsletter will be out later this week containing a link to a Halloween and half term guide for parents of children with SEND and we would really appreciate your support in increasing numbers of families that subscribe which can be done by visiting the KCC website

Please see below for text used by KCC Comms on social media to promote the newsletter which can be used in your school comms as appropriate.

“Subscribe today to receive a copy of the October 2023 edition of the Kent SEND Newsletter with our free guide to enjoying the Halloween half term break.

This term it's bursting with news and information to support your children's mental health with details on our new, updated 'mental health support for children and young people' web page, as well as details about the  SEND Information Hub Advice and Guidance Roadshow events happening soon.

To subscribe for this and future editions visit

Newsletters are sent out termly to keep you up-to-date with the latest service improvements, news, and events in Kent. Each issue will also include updates from the NHS, Kent PACT, IASK, as well as local charities.”

Health updates


As COVID-19 presents a low risk to children and young people, combined with high vaccination rates in the population, there are no longer specific rules relating to it in schools, colleges, childcare and other education settings. The full guidance can be seen at The Education Hub

Recommendations on the national supply disruption to ADHD medication

On 27 September a safety critical and complex National Patient Safety Alert was issued warning of anticipated shortages over the coming months for the following attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medicines:  


  • Equasym XL® 10mg, 20mg and 30mg capsules
  • Xaggitin XL® 18mg and 36mg prolonged-release tablets
  • Concerta XL® 54mg prolonged-release tablets
  • Xenidate XL® 27mg prolonged-release tablets.


  • Elvanse® 20mg, 30mg, 40mg, 50mg, 60mg and 70mg capsules
  • Elvanse® Adult 30mg, 50mg, and 70mg capsules.


  • Intuniv® 1mg, 2mg, 3mg and 4mg prolonged-release tablets.

There is also a current shortage of certain atomexetine capsules and oral solution.

Please read this information and clinical recommendations about how to manage the current and anticipated disruption. 

To check stock availability a medicines supply tool is provided by DHSC and CMU with a designated prescribing available medicines to treat ADHD page which lists current availability of medicines used to treat ADHD.  

There is a non-clinical helpline for information on 01634 335095 option 3 then option 3, ADHD medicine shortages.

Flu vaccine briefings for schools

Flu can cause serious illness and the flu vaccine is the best defence we have against it

The below free joint UK Health Security Agency-NHS guidance has been produced to assist all school staff and headteachers with any questions about the annual flu vaccination programme for 2023 to 2024.

For primary schools, view or download this guidance

For secondary schools, view or download this guidance

SEND services -  Kent Portage Service

Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales joined children with special educational needs and their families, at a Portage Pre-school Learning Group at the Orchards MASH in Sittingbourne, Kent on Wednesday 27 September 2023, to highlight the importance of support for neurodiversity in early childhood and the support that Portage offers families who have children with profound and complex needs.

This year is the 40th anniversary for the National Portage Association.

There were three Portage services in Kent in the 1980s and they came together to form one service in 2008. It is jointly funded by Health and Education.

The service is managed by the Portage Manager, with three Portage Officers line managing 24 Portage Practitioners.

The Portage Service operates an open referral route with Health colleagues, parents and early years practitioners being the main referrers into the service. There is currently a waiting time of about three months, due to the demand on the service, with an average 80 children referred every month.

Once accepted, families are contacted by a Portage Practitioner who visits the child in their home, to carry out a baseline assessment and to talk about what Portage can offer.

The family is then offered Home Learning Sessions or Pre-school Learning Group sessions, which can be weekly or fortnightly.

Bespoke learning plans are prepared for each child based on their level of development and their interest, focussing on small steps of progress, as outlined in the Portage checklist.

Reviews take place every six weeks and children and families are supported from six weeks to 18 months, depending on their needs and what other early years experiences they are accessing.

Portage Practitioners work with families to help them develop a quality of life and experience, for themselves and their children, in which they can learn together, play together, participate and be included in their community in their own right.

The Portage model contains three essential elements; child led play, family focus and structured teaching.

Child led play is about time spent observing, self-initiated play to identify individual interests, strengths and emerging skills.

Family focus is about time spent sharing and addressing families’ priorities for their children.

Structured teaching is about time spent reviewing and planning play-based teaching activities, using the Portage small steps approach to learning.

Portage Practitioners support transition into pre-schools for children known to them and sometimes model strategies and interventions to mainstream Year R class teachers if the child hasn’t attended an early years setting, prior to going to school.

They work closely with social care, where necessary, with SENIF Practitioners and with STLS Eary Years Teachers to ensure a joined-up approach when working with the children.

There is a rolling programme of Portage training, from twilight sessions, one day sessions and a full three-day Portage workshop. This training is for early years settings and this year, as part of ongoing transition support, the Portage Manager has been delivering face to face training for Reception Class Teachers, to which there has been a significant take up.

Over the past five years training in the Portage approach, has also been delivered face to face in Moldova, Kosovo and Kuwait by Kent staff.

Director’s Briefing with Headteachers draft agenda

Date: Thursday 9 November and Monday 13 November
Time: 1pm to 4pm
Location: Virtual - MS Teams


Agenda Item




Welcome and Introductions

Children’s Services Priorities and Update

15 mins

Christine McInnes, Director of Education and SEN KCC


SEND Sufficiency Consultation

Kent Commissioning Plan

30 mins

Nick Abrahams and Marisa White,

AD Education West and South KCC


National Update on SEND

1 hour

Andre Imich, DfE

Break (2:45pm – 2:55pm)


Using data more effectively

20 mins

Michelle Stanley, KCC School Improvement Lead


Parental Engagement Training Offer

10 mins

Caroline Grover, Community Learning Services KCC


HR - Pay and Grading Structure Challenges

30 mins

Louise Gavin, Ian Allwright and Simon Pleace, KCC HR


Close - End of Meeting

5 mins

Christine McInnes, KCC

And finally …

The Confederation of School Trusts have published a discussion paper offering five principles for inclusion in schools, supported by school case studies. This is an interesting read that aims to stimulate discussion to think about practical steps to removing barriers to learning for all pupils.

And secondly the Education Policy Institute's annual report 2023 calls for reform to provide weighted funding to ensure more support is targeted the disadvantage gap.

Best wishes

Christine McInnes
Director of Education and SEN