'Culture change' needed in special educational needs and disabilities strategy in Central Bedfordshire

The strategy will lead to a three-year plan for the local SEND partnership
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A “culture change” is an essential ingredient of a local authority’s new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) strategy for Central Bedfordshire, a meeting heard.

Ensuring children are closer to their families by not having to leave the district for their education is among Central Bedfordshire Council’s core ambitions.

The council’s strategy will lead to a clear three-year plan for the local SEND partnership, according to a report to its children’s services overview and scrutiny committee.

Central Bedfordshire CouncilCentral Bedfordshire Council
Central Bedfordshire Council

“This sets out local area priorities for improving services and outcomes for children and young people with SEND,” said the report.

“The strategy has been developed across the SEND system and forms a key part of delivering our written statement of action, following the local area SEND inspection in 2019.”

The SEND partnership includes CBC’s partners from across the community, such as the SNAP parent and carer forum, BLMK Clinical Commissioning Group, Cambridgeshire Community Services, East London NHS Foundation Trust and school representatives, added the report.

“The strategy will be reviewed annually and accompanied by a SEND action plan, which will detail a clear set of actions against each priority area and be closely monitored by the SEND partnership board.

It contains six key local area priorities:

> ensuring suitable education provision;

> a system which works together across the partnership;

> a knowledgeable workforce and community empowered to support families;

> clear pathways and seamless transfers and transitions;

> the right support at the right time;

> and opportunities in the community for children, young people and families.

“This strategy will be delivered through the strategic action plan, the Central Bedfordshire joint commissioning plan and the plan for delivery.”

CBC’s chief SEND officer Jackie Edwards told the committee: “This was a key element of our written statement of action to ensure we’ve a strategy in place.

“To be able to achieve that and deliver the best outcomes possible we’ll need to develop a clear plan, which will come out of the final consultation,” she explained.

“We’re not just focusing on children with education and health care plans (EHCPs). We want to make this an offer across the spectrum for all children identified with additional needs.

“That’s more than 6,000 children in our mainstream schools on stage two of the SEND code of practice and around 3,000 with EHCPs.

“This needs a culture change for us as an organisation to ensure we can never get to the place we’ve been previously and move forward in the right direction.”

CBC’s director of children services Sarah-Jane Smedmor said: “We’ve seen that demand for EHCPs double in the last few years. So it’s inevitable we need to ensure we meet the needs of our children individually.

“We also make sure we have the right provision for children. And we place them closer to home. We don’t want them going out of Central Bedfordshire.

“They need to be close to their families, close to us, so we can all give that support.”

Conservative Ampthill councillor Paul Duckett described it as “a really good strategy, which pulls it all together”.