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A message from Christine McInnes:

3 May 2024 weekly update

3 May 2024

This week, Christine updates on sector led improvement, the Autism Education Trust, Ofsted's Big Listen and school attendance.

Dear Colleagues,

Friday’s SEND Accelerated Progress Plan assessment went well, though it’s up to six, long weeks until we hear the outcome.

A big thank you to Cheryl Chalkley, Mersham Primary School; Dr Alison Edkin, Valley Invicta Academy Trust; Emma Law, East Stour Trust; Kristina Yates, Turner Trust; John Dexter, The Elms School; Sam Perryman, Oakley School; Kayleigh Hales, The Rosewood School; Dean Jones, Inspira Academy and KALE; Ashley Crittenden, Orchard Academy Trust and KALE; Jamie McLean, Dover Christchurch Academy; and Graham Razey and Paul Owen of EKC Group; who all gave up their time to contribute to the day. Thanks to PACT and parent and carers as well as young people who contributed.

And finally, a big thank you to all the officers involved too, from Health and right across Children and Young People’s Services, most importantly for doing the work, but also preparing and presenting the evidence and planning the logistics for the day. You know who you are!

Sector led improvement

Over the last few months I have been really encouraged to see more examples of system leadership emerging in Kent. By system leadership I mean leaders stepping away from being solely concerned with their own organisational accountabilities and priorities, to consider their responsibility for all children, young people and families in their area. Leaders who commit to act with others who share the same moral purpose to keep the focus on what’s best for children, young people and families rather than individual organisations.

On Monday I joined Ashford headteachers at a Building Bridges across the System event. One of the aims of this third meeting of the group, was to agree how to better promote the inclusive offer of Ashford schools and reduce the number of young people taking up school places in the independent sector. A big thanks to those of you who are leading this work and to the many participants, I am very much looking forward to seeing the outcomes.

A second example is from Maidstone and Malling secondary headteachers who are piloting an approach to retain and invest their devolved funding in developing and improving their current inclusion provision. To enable this to happen they have agreed that the devolved funding will remain within each school in the district following a permanent exclusion. This will continue to develop mutual collaboration and support between schools, recognising that they all work for the best interest of all young people in the Maidstone and Malling district. The headteachers believe that this will lead to a much stronger way of working together and ultimately benefit the young people they serve. The Headteachers have also agreed that when exceptional circumstances require bespoke solutions, they will work together to find the best way forward.

Autism Education Trust (AET) update and call for evidence

You may remember that last year we entered into a three-year contract with the AET and lead officer, Melissa Devine and others have been busy rolling out the programme. We also have a very robust evaluation process in place so we can clearly identify the impact of the work and we need your help with this. Below is an update of the training followed by a request for case studies from schools and settings and to encourage parents and carers to complete the questionnaire.

Autism Education Trust training in Kent

Kent is implementing the Autism Education Trust training and frameworks to achieve consistent knowledge and practice in supporting autistic children and young people across all schools and settings in Kent. The Autism Education Trust training rollout began in earnest in September 2023. The training led by the Kent Educational Psychology Service and Specialist Teaching and Learning Service has now delivered the Making Sense of Autism training to 167 early years, 217 school age and 24 post 16 settings.

Feedback received has been positive and delegates often remark on the importance of hearing the voice of the autistic young people as part of the training.

  • "As SEN Governor it will help me when I visit the school."
  • "Great training, I have done previous Autism training but learnt more and good to have up-to-date research and most importantly hear from children and adults that have Autism."
  • "In my role of the caretaker I do like to joke around with the children. Now I will simplify my words and be more literal with the SEN children when having a chat."

We are continuing the rollout of initial module and have started training in the next module, Good Autism Practice, which is for the staff working directly with autistic pupils providing guidance on processes and tools that can help them to implement good autism practice.

However, training is only the first step; leaders are encouraged to download the Autism Education Trust Standards Framework document to use as a school improvement tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the support for autistic children in their education setting. This Action Planning is supported by the trainers who revisit the schools six weeks after the initial training. We have created a research project to assess the impact of the Autism Education Trust training and to develop a resource bank of interventions and strategies that are used in Kent Schools. We have also linked into a national research project looking at parent and pupil voice.

Here are some examples of the changes which settings have identified following the training:

  • "I have added visuals for the whole class - this includes transition visuals, equipment visuals, refocusing visuals, end of day visuals."
  • "Staff capability has improved and there has been a reduction of challenges which have had to be dealt with by myself or other members of SLT due to enhanced understanding of autism and awareness of the MCS."

Collecting evidence – can you help?

  1. Will you share AET Action Plans or Case Studies? This is for the purpose of evaluation and sharing good practice - a big thank you to the 16 schools that have shared so far
  2. For schools and settings that have had training and agreed to help us in their original AET booking form, can you please disseminate the online parental questionnaire to parents of autistic children (or identifying as autistic) and encourage them to respond. I’m pleased to report 77 parental replies so far from 16 schools. Please share the link above or they can contact

Transition Support for Autistic pupils

The Autism Education Trust training is available to all mainstream education settings across all three phases in Kent. The training and frameworks programmes provide staff with the knowledge and skills to support autistic pupils coming into new settings in September. 400 settings have already accessed the training and are using the AET frameworks to embed good autism practice to improve the support and wellbeing of autistic children and young people in Kent.

Find out more on the AET page.

Ofsted Big Listen

The Ofsted Big Listen seeks views across Ofsted’s work, from schools and children’s social care to teacher training and early years. Ofsted are very keen to hear from children, learners, parents and carers through the Big Listen. There are a number of face to face events in Kent or you can use the link above to read about the Big Listen and take the survey.

And finally …

You will be aware of the increasing focus by the DfE on attendance. National analysis of how school attendance is looking across autumn and spring this year as compared to 2022/23 and pre-covid show there are some small improvements in both overall attendance and small reductions in persistent absence, however levels of absence remain significantly above those in 2018-19. In Kent we are seeing some significant improvements. There has been a marked increase in attendance compared to the Autumn 2022 term across all school types with the exception of some districts for Pupil Referral Units and Special Schools.

Every district for primary and secondary schools has shown improved absence compared to Autumn 2022, particularly for Persistent Absence.

  • Primary and secondary combined overall absence has decreased by 1.1% and persistent absence by 5.1%
  • Primary schools overall absence has decreased by 1.1% and persistent absence by 5.1%
  • Secondary schools overall absence has decreased by 1.1% and persistent absence by 5.2%
  • Special schools overall absence has decreased by 0.4% and persistent absence by 3.8%
  • Pupil Referral Units overall absence has increased by 1.5% and persistent absence has decreased by 0.4%

Well done to you and your staff who have been working on improving attendance and to  Simon Smith, Head of PIAS, and the Attendance Team.

Enjoy your Bank holiday weekend.

Christine McInnes
Director of Education and SEN