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A message from Christine McInnes:

4 November 2021 weekly update

4 November 2021

This week, Christine updates on SEND and Ofsted discussions from the Headteacher Briefings, and shares the updated NICE looked-after children and young people guideline.

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome back from half term, I hope you managed to have some time for rest and relaxation. It was great to get to meet so many of you at my first two Headteacher Briefing events this week, at Maidstone and Ashford. Thank you for your suggestions on how we can improve the local SEND system. Apart from structural changes, the need to really improve our communications came across loud and clear.

At the Ashford meeting, a number of headteachers whose school has recently been inspected shared their experiences and the consensus was the process was rigorous but fair - described by one as a ‘proper professional conversation,’ which was very encouraging to hear. The key message was that inspectors are carefully triangulating what they hear from you about the vision of the school and what evidence they are seeing and hearing in the classroom from pupils and staff.

A worrying local development is an apparent increase in children and young people’s overdoses across the region, especially with paracetamol. Included in this bulletin is more information and suggested draft text for a letter to parents if needed.

Last week was National Care Leavers Week and I was delighted to attend the North West Social Connections and Leaving Care Services Black History Month celebration event at Ebbsfleet Football Club. The Care Leavers service works with nearly 2,000 young adults aged 18 to 25 years who are care experienced and this was a joyful event. I really appreciated the opportunity to talk with some of the young people attending about their experiences as well as hearing the speakers. A huge thank you from KCC to the organisers and the organisations and individuals who so generously supported the event, particularly Ebbsfleet Football Club who provided the venue for free.

You may be aware that NICE has recently updated its guideline on looked-after children and young people (NG205), which covers how organisations, practitioners and carers should work together to deliver high-quality care, stable placements and nurturing relationships for looked-after children and young people. It aims to help these children and young people reach their full potential and have the same opportunities as their peers.

The guideline includes recommendations on:

  • supporting positive relationships
  • valuing carers
  • safeguarding
  • health and wellbeing
  • learning and education
  • transition between care placements and to permanent placements, and out of care to independence.

Learning and education guidance is available with the full guideline.

Given the enhanced focus nationally on adult and child mental health and wellbeing, we were delighted that the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Network recently received the 2021 National Mental Health Award for 'Suicide prevention services with a particular focus on initiatives which encourage multi-agency working'. Really well done to Tim Woodhouse, Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Programme Manager and his team.  In a separate ceremony, a number of the partners and individuals involved with the Suicide Prevention Network have also been named as Kent Mental Health and Wellbeing Award Winners. These include Megan Abbott, KCC Public Health, for her nationally unique research highlighting the link between domestic abuse and suicide. For the latest information on the Kent and Medway STP Suicide Prevention Programme, please find the latest Kent and Medway STP Suicide Prevention Programme Newsletter.

Finally, I just wanted to report back on the TEP Outdoor Learning family fun day where I climbed a tree, after a fashion. The various children in the group raced up to the top and I progressed at a more leisurely pace managing to keep my fear of heights under some control. The instructors were fantastic and we had a lovely day out with a picnic overlooking Bewl Water, which ended with toasting marshmallows over the fire. Many thanks to all the staff involved.

Best wishes

Christine McInnes
Director of Education