The Committee received a verbal update on the SEND Written Statement of Action from Rachel Barnes (Delivery Lead, Change Hub Lead) and Chris Baird (Assistant Director, Education Management) who advised that a full update report would be delivered to the next meeting. Rachel Barnes reported the positive feedback from a recent meeting with Department of Education and NHS England, advising that the Team had been commended for the pace of movement of work, the visible progress against key areas of concern and the shared aspirational vision being displayed. Members were advised they would be sent a link to the full report after the meeting and a press release had been sent out the previous week which include a positive statement from the Department of Education and NHS England on the work carried out so far.
The key areas of progress were summarised and included:
· Improvements in co-production – working with parent carers and young people, leading to deep culture change
· The team were encouraged to continue developing the working relationships with health partners
· Understanding impact of work and articulate what will be different in the future
· All areas of work were 85% on track, with no work in the red and 11 flagged as amber (15%), actions and mitigations in place;
· The wait for an autism referral had reduced considerably to 195 weeks and now on trajectory set;
· Referrals for autism diagnosis was up 70% on those originally forecast with analysis ongoing to understand the reasons;
· Referrals for girls had increased and pre-school children;
· A positive autism conference in April 2022 and a further two events were being arranged
· Published information advice booklet for neuro divergent people – to be shared with communities
· Recommission of community support services for autism progressing well & due to go live in April next year;
· Emotionally based school avoidance project had also started, looking at attendance issues in schools
Area 2 of the report dealt with Young People and parent carers with support of the officers Sam Craven, Elaine Lambe (Chair of Parent Carer Forum), and Shinderpaul Bhangal, who were thanked for their work. Officers had held a series of co-production workshops, with support of CONTACT, a charity for disabled children and families. Another key area had been to deliver restorative practice training for all staff in SEND, with over 75% having received the training to date. This was also being extended to schools and health colleagues.
Social Care and Health had produced a Community Strategy as part of the Integrated Health System work but it was recognised that more was needed to integrate co-production. There had been a significant increase in communication and engagement using newsletters, Facebook page, forums and webinars, the links to which would be shared with Members after the meeting.
A further piece of work focused on disagreement resolution with a target to reduce tribunals by 20%. This target was not being met nationally or locally at the present time with a SEND resolution officer being recruited and letters being revised to make them more reader friendly.
There had been a number of positive quotes regarding ‘co-production’ in the report. Areas 3 and 4 of the report covered the newly created School Inclusion Charter and workforce development, including training in mental health being rolled out to 36 schools.
Section 5 of the report related to the local offer which had been relaunched last year and was being actively promoted.
The Chair asked for clarification on the figures indicating a 70% uplift in autism figures and was advised that this would be shared with Members after the meeting. Rachel Barnes advised that partners were undertaking the analysis but the situation had been made more complicated following a cyber attack on NHS systems recently.
In relation to the autism training, 80 schools to date had taken up the training in addition to those who had participated last year. The aim was for all schools to take up the training.
In response to a question from Councillor Hammersley, Rachel Barnes advised that the target referral time as provided by NICE was thirteen weeks. It was not yet known if there was a backlog as a result of the Covid lockdown but more analysis would be carried out once the report was delivered in February 2023.
Members noted the importance of robust leadership in schools that worked alongside their governors to manage disruption to other students. The Chair highlighted the rising number of children with SEND and queried why this might be. He asked officers to look into studies in the UK and abroad which may provide theories on this.
Councillor Hammersley queried teaching methods compared to a number of years ago and raised a concern that the situation was snowballing.
Councillor Gilbert gave an explanation of employing individuals with learning difficulties, who provided a valuable contribution to the working world. He felt that small businesses had the ability to support school leavers and mentor them in the working world. He hoped that society was identifying conditions properly and not straining already stretched resources.
Councillor Roodhouse described the changes that had taken place since academisation had come in and Warwickshire had not managed to establish its relationship with schools as yet. He recognised that the autism spectrum was vast and noted the importance of identification and resources. He was mindful that some of this may fall to the Educational Attainment Task and Finish Group to look at but reminded members that the county did not have as much power over schools as in previous years.
Councillor Humphreys provided an example of the successful implementation of coping strategies in relation to a primary school child known to her. She stressed that the management of his condition and the support give to his mother had been vital but had taken one and a half years to put in place. She welcomed the schools charter and hoped this would be put in place swiftly to help children.
The Chair thanked officers for the update, which was noted.