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A message from Christine McInnes:

4 October 2023 weekly update

4 October 2023

This week, Christine shares the dates for the Director's headteacher meetings, and updates on our work with the Autism Education Trust, school visits and key meetings and the Supported Employment Project.

Dear Colleagues,

Director’s meeting with headteachers

I am pleased to share the dates for this term’s KCC Headteacher Briefing meetings which will take place on Teams, with a choice of two dates

  • Wednesday 8 November from 1pm to 4pm
  • Thursday 9 November from 1pm to 4pm.

The full agenda, together with information on registering will be circulated next week, but I am delighted to confirm that André Imich, SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, Department for Education, will be joining us for the first hour to present and take questions. Since April 2010, André has worked as the DfE’s Lead SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, contributing to a range of policy developments, including the Children and Families Act. He is currently working on the 2023 SEND and Alternative Provision Implementation Plan.

André has been a Teacher and an Educational Psychologist and has held practitioner and leadership roles in local authorities. He was also a Regional Director in the National Strategies SEN team. Andre recently presented to the Special School Headteachers and led a very lively debate so we are very much looking forward to his contribution to the meeting.

School visit

I was delighted to spend a morning at Ashford Oaks Primary School with David Adams, Assistant Director Education South. A huge thank you to headteacher Phil Chantler and Chair of Governors Rob Cooke and the rest of the leadership team, who were very generous with their time. I was particularly interested in the work going on in Early Years, where the school is now actively working with their main PVI providers to support them on inclusion and improve the transition for more vulnerable pupils into school.

Key meetings attended

I talked about the forthcoming Localities and High Needs Funding briefing meetings and public consultation in last week’s bulletin. During this week Siobhan Price led an all members briefing on the proposed changes which had a high level of engagement by members. On Thursday afternoon the Sarah Hammond, Corporate Director Children’s Services, Rory Love Cabinet Member, the SEND leadership team and I attended a four hour SEND Scrutiny Sub-committee

Update on the Autism Education Trust work with Early Years, Schools and post-16 providers

Earlier this year KCC purchased a three-year licence from the Autism Education Trust (AET) which allows Kent staff to deliver AET training and materials. Following a successful pilot in Ashford and Folkstone in early summer, the programme is being rolled out county-wide delivered by 125 staff drawn from the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service and the Educational Psychology Service. The AET model promotes change through working in partnership with autistic children, young people and families and inclusion of their voices takes place through Kent Autism Education Trust Young Experts Panel (part of Kent Youth Voice), the Parent Carer Voice Focus Group and we are currently recruiting a part-time Lived by Experience practitioner to join the team.

Over September, training was delivered to 839 delegates at 35 school age settings, 177 delegates at 21 Early Years settings and 114 delegates at North Kent College, with 27 further sessions already planned. The trainers will now be returning to settings to work with staff on embedding AET Standards and Competency Frameworks which will enable settings to provide evidence for the National Autistic Society Autism Accreditation Award.

Celebrating good practice – the Supported Employment Project

I have talked about the level of scrutiny we are under on our SEND improvement journey and whilst this is a huge task, there is a range of good practice already in place for us to build on and it is really important to recognise and celebrate this.

Last month the TEP Specialist Employment Service which delivers the Supported Employment Programme received an Excellent rating by the British Association of Supported Employment through their assessment of the Supported Employment Quality Framework Audit (SEQF). The outcomes for the service exceed the standards as set out by the British Association of Supported Employment (BASE) and seen by BASE as the ‘the market leader in the country for supported employment’. A Supported Employment report (PDF, 1.7 MB) is available which includes links to films of four young people.

And finally…

Two reports have been published recently which may be of interest. The Education Endowment Fund has launched a new guide this week on the use of Pupil Premium funding in schools. An evidence brief and set of discussion prompts for governors and trusts has been published alongside the guide, which aligns with the DfE’s template strategy.

The Education Select Committee has published a new report this week exploring how growing demand for mental health services and special educational needs (SEND) support, as well as cost-of-living pressures and other issues, have compounded a problem that worsened following the pandemic but remains present. Recommendations include a step change in approach to the system of parental fines for non-attendance and a register of children not in school.

Christine McInnes
Director of Education and SEN