A message from Christine McInnes:
27 September 2023 weekly update
27 September 2023
This week, Christine shares a summary of the developments within KCC SEND.
Over the last week I was really pleased to present at the welcome event for new Kent headteachers, together with Cabinet Member for Education and Skills Cllr Rory Love and Chair of the newly launched Kent Association of Leaders of Education (KALE, formerly KAH) Ashley Crittenden. It was a lively event with delegates able to quiz us and a range of other officers on Leadership, School Improvement, SEN, Statutory and Guidance and HT/finance issues. I know that you will all be supporting these colleagues in their new role and particularly those who are new to Kent.
I was also delighted to share the tenth birthday celebrations at the Wells Free School as well as the opening of the school’s new library, jointly funded by the PTA and a local business Cripps Solicitors. Congratulations and thanks to headteacher Kate Le Page and her team.
A lengthy introduction this week as I share an update on SEND. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all you are doing with parents, children and young people. Some of you have written about your many frustrations and inequalities in the system and I hope the information below provides some level of reassurance about the direction of travel. We are committed to building a sustainable, functioning system and will only make quick fixes when we know there will not be negative consequences elsewhere. Sustainable change, which impacts positively at an operational level, takes time but we are confident that by the end of this term you will start to see tangible improvements.
The structure and the leadership team
The SEND division was formally dissolved on 31 March 2023 and moved over to be led through the Education Division on 1 April this year, forming the new Education and SEN division. The Children with Disabilities team did not move to education but are now managed through Operational Integrated Children’s Services.
We have a SEN leadership team in place, which comprises of:
- Alison Farmer - Alison.Farmer@kent.gov.uk, Assistant Director and Principal Educational Psychologist
- Alice Gleave - Alice.Gleave@kent.gov.uk, Assistant Director SEN Operations
- Elise McQueen - Elise.McQueen@kent.gov.uk Assistant Director Quality Assurance and Social work
- Craig Chapman - Craig.Chapman@kent.gov.uk, who retains his substantive role leading Fair Access as Assistant Director Fair Access and SEN Processes.
Other officers making a key contribution to the SEN leadership are:
- Siobhan Price - Siobhan.Price@kent.gov.uk, Education Inclusion lead
- Simon Smith - Simon.Smith@kent.gov.uk, Head of PIAS (PRUs, Inclusion and Attendance Service)
- Sophie Dann - Sophie.Dann@kent.gov.uk, SEND Strategic Development Lead.
This team line manage the service managers - more about them in a future edition of the bulletin.
We are in the process of updating the Who’s Who in KCC SEND, but in the meantime contact details of key staff will be included in this bulletin by mid-October.
It is about a year since the SEND area inspection re-visit took place which identified insufficient progress against the nine areas of weakness identified in the original inspection. This time last year, there were over 100 vacancies in the case work teams and our priority, in amongst the plethora of work going on, was to stabilise the staffing as you can’t deliver without a workforce. This of course takes resources and I am really grateful to all of the very experienced officers that have devoted large amounts of time to recruitment of the right staff over the last year.
We are now fully staffed (within the parameters of a reasonable amount of churn given the size of the workforce) and I am glad to say that recruiting officers are now back to their substantive work fulltime. KCC has agreed in principle to additional investment in the SEN workforce to allow for extra staffing to tackle the backlogs and more about that work in a future edition.
As you all know, the quality of the staff is critical and alongside recruitment we now have a written guidance and support library as well as compulsory training in place.
In early September we brought almost 300 of the SEND staff together to acknowledge all that has been achieved, the positive feedback we are beginning to get and to set our expectations for the year. We introduced our SEN 3Cs - Competence, Consistency and Communication as well as launching our cultural change programme to a very engaged and enthusiastic staff group. You will be familiar with the motif of the session from your work on education improvement, everything you do is important whatever your role, encapsulated by this quote from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey.
These are big changes which will take time to embed but again we are expecting clear evidence of improvement by the end of this term.
Next steps in the Countywide Approach to Inclusive Education (CATIE) - the Localities and use of High Needs Funding public consultation
Since the publication of the CATIE, our agreed approach to inclusive education in Kent, officers have been in discussion with all stakeholders, including education leaders, practitioners and families through PACT about what approach we will take to ‘Localities’, the in-principle commitment to devolving aspects of decision-making from a County SEN service level to an education sector led model. We have looked at where a more localised system has worked well and where it has not worked; we have drawn on national expertise; we have undertaken risk assessments, evaluating our existing local systems to assess the robustness and consistency of arrangements to deliver and we have talked and taken advice from you over a long period of time, informally and formally through a Localities Advisory Group and the High Needs Funding sub-group of the Schools Funding Forum.
All of this work has been crystalised into a proposal, but there are some outstanding questions which we want a final steer from you on before finalising the proposal which will be published in November as we go out to public consultation. There are 12 headteacher briefing meetings planned to explain the proposed changes and to gather your views on the outstanding questions. I strongly encourage you to attend one of these meetings and to respond to the consultation when it is published.
Headteacher briefings on localities and high needs funding proposal
- Tuesday 10 Octoberfrom 9am to 12noon - Maidstone - Kings Hill Community Centre, 70 Gibson Drive, West Malling ME19 4LG
- Tuesday 10 October from 2pm to 5pm - Tonbridge - David Salomons Estate, Broomhill Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells TN3 0TG
- Wednesday 11 October from 9am to 12noon - Thanet - St. Augustine, 125 Canterbury Road, Westgate-On-Sea CT8 8NL
- Wednesday 11 October from 2pm to 5pm - Canterbury - Broome Park Hotel, Broome Park, Canterbury Road, Canterbury CT4 6QX
- Thursday 12 October from 9am to 12noon - Dartford - The Inn on The Lake Hotel, 36 Lake Place, Hoylake, DA12 3HB
- Thursday 12 October from 2pm to 5pm - Gravesham - The Inn on The Lake Hotel, 36 Lake Place, Hoylake DA12 3HB
- Monday 16 October from 9am to 12noon - Sevenoaks - Bat and Ball Centre, Cramptons Road, off Otford Road, Sevenoaks TN14 5DN
- Monday 16 October from 2pm to 5pm - Tunbridge Wells - David Salomons Estate, Broomhill Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells TN3 0TG
- Tuesday 17 October from 9am to 12noon - Folkestone and Hythe - Hawkinge Community Centre, Heron Forstal Ave, Hawkinge, Folkestone CT18 7FP
- Tuesday 17 October from 2pm to 5pm - Dover - Broome Park Hotel, Broome Park, Canterbury Road, Canterbury CT4 6Q
- Wednesday 18 October from 9am to 12noon - Ashford - Repton Connect Community Centre, Repton Ave, Ashford TN23 3RX
- Wednesday 18 October from 2pm to 5pm - Swale - Sittingbourne Holiday Inn, 70 London Road, Sittingbourne ME10 1NT
A number of you have asked about proposed changes to High Needs Funding for schools. A working group of practitioners and officers looked in detail at the issues earlier in the year and their recommendations continue to inform our planning for change and are incorporated into our proposals. District meetings are planned in October to discuss the plans in greater detail and to allow schools the opportunity to inform the final model. I can be clear there is no intention to make significant changes to school SEND funding for the financial year 2024-25.
Improving the LA’s commissioning of school places - the SEND sufficiency of school places public consultation
You will be aware that KCC published an annual Kent Commissioning Plan which includes our intentions to meet demand through commissioning of high quality school places. Whilst the plan has included a section on SEND, it became apparent that we needed a more forensic approach and so followed almost a year of data collection and analysis focused on SEND trends to better inform our commissioning of places through the creation of a robust evidence base. Alongside the strengthening evidence-base , we have consolidated decision-making about commissioning of special school and SRP places to be led by the Assistant Directors for Education North, South, East and West (formerly the AEOs) to improve consistency and to ensure alignment with the schools capital programme. We are not there yet, but the first iteration of the SEND sufficiency plan will be published for public consultation during October and again I encourage you to respond to that.
Refreshing the SEND strategy
Work has started on this, look out for emails from Sophie Dann and more in this bulletin as the work progresses.
DfE and NHSE (National Health Service England) SEND area Inspection - publication of the Accelerated Progress Plan
This is the work which we are doing as a SEND system to address the nine areas of weakness identified in the original inspection and re-iterated following last year’s revisit by Ofsted and CQC. Further information can be found in the Accelerated Progress Plan (PDF, 714.6 KB) was published earlier this month. You will be familiar with many of the activities through the briefings we have been providing over the last year. Education leaders are involved in this work through membership of the five Task and Finish Groups and the SEND Improvement and Assurance Board. The next DfE and NHSE evidence review will take place in mid- November.
The Safety Valve
This is the DfE’s financial recovery programme. We are continuing to make system changes and improvements which will over time help us balance the budget.
Last term I put out an invitation for Kent education leaders with a strong commitment to evidence of strong inclusive practice in their organisation to submit an expression of interest in working with us at KCC on the SEND improvement journey, particularly helping us strengthen inclusive practice in mainstream schools.
We were delighted at the response and I am happy to report we have appointed a team of well-regarded and respected leaders as our Inclusion Champions. We are working with them to understand how we make best use of this fantastic resource with an intention for substantive work to start in term 2.
Valley Invicta Academies Trust
Mersham Primary School
The Judd School
The Marsh Academy
Anne Marie Godden
Joy Lane Primary School
Sussex Road Primary School
Jubilee Primary School
Kate Le Page
The Wells Free School
Northfleet Nursery School
East Stour Primary School
Stone Lodge School
The Rosewood School
Herne Church of England Infant School
Anne Marie Middleton
Pilgrims' Way Primary School
The Malling School
Wilmington Grammar Schools for Boys (CEO of Endeavour MAT)
EKC Dover College (EKC Group)
St Nicolas Church of England Primary Academy
KCC Headteacher briefings this term
Given the number of meetings which are planned, we will be providing the termly KCC HT Briefings as Teams meetings, for this term only. Dates will be circulated next week.
Cabinet Member Christmas cards
Our Cabinet Member for Education and Skills will be sending an ‘official’ Christmas card to various stakeholders and partners again this year. He is keen to provide an opportunity for pupils/students from your school to design the image that will appear on the front of the card.
Last year, a specialist college in East Kent supplied a photograph from their Nativity scene. The previous year, Rory Love (before he was the Education Cabinet Member) used a more abstract design.
If there are several entries, a judging panel will choose the winner, and there may be an opportunity for runner-up designs to feature on the back of the card. All featured artists and their schools will be acknowledged on the cards.
If this opportunity to promote your school interests you, please let us know, and we’ll send a template to help ensure the design is of the correct size and is fully usable. But hurry! We’ll need the designs submitted by the beginning of November.
And finally - Remember Together: Nuclear Test Veterans
This year, the UK is giving medals to our Nuclear Test Veterans. It’s the first time medals have been awarded to the men and women who were part of this extraordinary part of British history. There are free digital events to learn about the unique and incredible experiences of our Nuclear Test Veterans and plan a special display for your school in November. This will include an opportunity to ask questions to a very special guest speaker, pilot and cloud sampler, Squadron Leader John Robinson [ret'd].
There are separate sessions for primary schools and secondary and post 16. Please select the appropriate link below:
With best wishes
Director of Education and SEN