SEND self-evaluation framework

Buckinghamshire special educational needs and disabilities self-evaluation framework


Buckinghamshire’s Self Evaluation (SEF) provides an overview of the work that is being delivered across the Local Area including key areas of strength and areas of development. It is broken down into four main themes:

  1. Strategic development and partnership
  2. Identification of children and young people with SEND
  3. Assessments and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND
  4. Improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND

Throughout the document, the areas above have been mapped against our four main themes and against our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Improvement Plan. This Plan aims to fulfill the ambitions of the SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2021-2023.

Full details of the SEND and Inclusion Strategy 2021-2023 and Improvement Plan is published via Buckinghamshire Local Offer and schools web:

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Inclusion Strategy 2021-2023 | SchoolsWeb (

This document will be updated and published on a term basis. This document will next be updated in Autumn term 2021.

Executive summary

Strategic development and partnerships

SEND is a key priority for Buckinghamshire and is owned strategically and politically at the highest levels. The SEND and Inclusion Strategy was coproduced with all stakeholders, including professionals, young people, and parent representatives from Families and Carers Together (FACT) Bucks, the parent/carer forum, and Buckinghamshire SEND IAS. The strategy reflects collaboration across the Local Area and sets out our collective aspirations for 2021 – 2023. This has been approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday 2nd March 2021. Leadership across the Local Authority and the CCG is strong and a clear governance structure ensures that all stakeholders including young people, parents, and carers are engaged, accountable, and part of the solutions. The SEND Integrated Services Board (ISB) includes parent representatives, Voluntary and Community Sector, CCG, Headteachers, and is chaired by the Corporate Director of Children Services. This ensures that all services take accountability for their delivery and performance as part of a broader SEND system.

Buckinghamshire benefits from having an established Designated Clinical Officer and has been forward-thinking in appointing a Designated Social Care Officer to support joint working and drive areas for development, particularly in relation to statutory processes and quality. The views of children and young people are actively sought and heard, informing ongoing improvements across services/agencies as well as service transformation. Buckinghamshire knows itself well and has a comprehensive multi-agency plan in place to monitor and report on the progress of our improvement journey. A comprehensive Local Offer has recently been relaunched via the Buckinghamshire Family Information Service.

Identification of children and young people with SEND

Buckinghamshire has a good record of identifying needs in early years and is in the process of embedding Ordinarily Available Provision guidance to support and embed the graduated approach in all settings. Further work is needed to ensure all children who require SEN support are identified quickly, and targeted work is happening to ensure this. This is a priority across our SEND Improvement plan.

One of the challenges we face is the increased number of children with Autism and/or SEMH. In response to this, we are developing our Sufficiency Strategy, which will detail how the needs of all children will be met over future years.

The timeliness of the 20-week statutory process has improved considerably over the last 12 months, and work continues to ensure needs assessments are consistently timely. Increased management oversight and capacity in Educational Psychology is beginning to make a difference. Quality assurance work does however highlight issues with the quality of Final Plans and significant activity to increase understanding of the EHCP process across services is underway. It is recognised that a collaborative approach underpins a high-quality holistic Plan and there is work to do to ensure compliance with standards.

Assessment and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND

Good practice in meeting needs includes our Short Breaks offer that provides enriching experiences as well as respite for families, a strong mental health offer including our Trailblazing site in 49 schools, and the range of provision delivered by our vibrant voluntary and community sector. 90% of our special schools are all graded good or outstanding and are ambitious about what their pupils can achieve.

We have a well-established approach to joint commissioning and services such as Integrated Therapies have been commissioned in this way. We actively engage our parent carer forum FACT Bucks in our commissioning and Parent Advisory groups are the norm. Communication with parents /carers more generally has improved, and a dedicated Resolutions Team is able to step in early where parents have concerns, reducing complaints overall and ensuring needs are met. We are aware that more work needs to happen to ensure families are consistently involved in co-producing EHC Plans at the earliest stages.

An increase in demand has led to delays in the diagnosis of Autism through our neuro-developmental pathway, and the approach is currently under review by the CCG. We have seen an 8% increase in referrals to CAMHS. The service quickly moved to a digital platform where clinically appropriate at the start of the pandemic and has purchased additional remote diagnostic provisions to support neuro assessments. Mental health investment for 21/22 will be prioritised in line with demand which is anticipated to continue to increase.

Improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND

We are confident that children and young people achieve well academically in Bucks in comparison to national averages, however, identifying appropriate school places can be challenging. An area of focus within our improvement plan is to develop robust processes for securing places for Children Looked After (CLA) particularly those placed out of the area. The oversight of our Virtual School mitigates this in the short term.

We are not yet confident that our Preparation for Adulthood Offer is sufficiently robust, or that outcomes are discussed as thoroughly as we would like in Annual Reviews from year 9 upwards. Improvement activity is addressing this, however current capacity means this is not able to progress as quickly as required. We do however have a number of internship opportunities both within the Council and beyond that provide high-quality experiences for young people, frequently leading to stable employment.

The CCG, GPs, and the DCO have been working hard to increase the number of patients on the Learning Disability Register within GP Practices. 132 new CYP aged 0 to 25 were added within the last tear with 35 of these being under 14. This LD Health Assessment forms an important part of PfA for health for young people with a Learning Disability and ensures that they have the opportunity to express any health concerns and have routine tests completed. Continuing Care and CAMHS have transition pathways into adult services.

We are continuing work to reduce the participation gap between young people aged 16 to 17 with SEND and their peers and to reduce the rate of young people with SEND who are Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) or whose activity is not known. This work is unpinned by a NEET support Offer, that is targeted depending on need.

We aim to develop a more coordinated approach and increased information about supported housing and options available locally. This will ensure that young people are supported to attend Further Education programmes that are based within the communities in which they live, enabling them the opportunity to be part of their community, make impactful friendship networks, and gain a level of independence. We are mapping current housing options available and the uptake with a view to identifying areas to develop and include in future Housing Strategies.

Overall, Buckinghamshire is proactive about addressing the areas identified for development and there is considerable support, engagement, and effort across the county from all our key stakeholders. Achieving our collective ambitions, as set out in our strategy is a common goal.

Key areas of strength

Strategic development and partnership

SEND is a key priority for Buckinghamshire that is owned at the highest levels. Strategic planning flows into action planning, evidenced through the SEND and Inclusion Strategy which was coproduced with all stakeholders, including professionals, young people, and parent representatives from Families and Carers Together (FACT) Bucks, the parent/carer forum, and Buckinghamshire SEND IAS. The strategy reflects collaboration across the Local Area and sets out our collective aspirations for 2021 – 2024.

The SEND Improvement Plan is the mechanism to achieve the aspirations set out in the Strategy. It is delivered via Local area Impact groups based on the strategic objectives. These groups include parental representation, local authority, education, health, and the Community and Voluntary sector. This ensures that we focus on the right improvement actions that will make a difference to children and young people’s outcomes.

There is strong SEND Leadership within the CCG provided by the Clinical Director for Children’s Services

who is a voting member of the Executive Board and reports to the Governing Body? SEND reaches across all branches of joint commissioning and sits in various portfolios within the CCG. The Clinical Directors (Children’s Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Dementia) play an important role in supporting the Designated Clinical Officer (DCO) in ensuring improved communication between health and education for SEND. In addition, the Deputy Chief Executive of the CCG sits on both the Executive Board and the Governing Body. The Deputy Director of Quality represents the CCG on the SEND Integrated Services Board.

The Local Area has a clear governance structure and reporting mechanisms in place that covers all aspects of SEND support and joint commissioning. The SEND Integrated Services Board (ISB) includes parent representatives, Voluntary and Community Sector, CCG, Headteachers, and is chaired by the Corporate Director of Children Services. This ensures that all services take accountability for their delivery and performance as part of a broader SEND system

Good practice example: You said we did feedback
“It is unsettling to have to work with a new support worker at short notice – please tell us in advance if this is going to happen.”

We did: Whilst there are inevitable logistical challenges with staffing in schools – particularly in the present circumstances – in general, there is recognition that providing as much consistency as possible in adult support is beneficial for many children and young people with special educational needs. Where there need to change, it is advantageous to provide as much warning to the pupil as possible – as identified by the young person commenting here. This principle of practice, and a number of others, are to be enshrined in a new Buckinghamshire SEND Toolkit, which is currently being developed by the Family Support Service, in conjunction with other contributors from the Local Authority and partner agencies. Clarifying best practices in school for supporting students with SEND should help to move towards a situation where issues such as that highlighted here are all but eradicated.
You Said, We Did (Feedback) - YouTube

Within Buckinghamshire, we have a strong effective relationship with our parent carer forum, FACT Bucks. This relationship provides us with a critical friend and a working partner with whom we can identify and solve problems locally. This is leading to improved services and outcomes for children and young people with SEND across our Local area.

Good practice example: FACT Bucks has worked jointly with commissioners on the recommissioning of CAMHS, Therapies, and Short Breaks from 2015 onwards.

Each contract (for which there is a clear SEND agenda) has co-production embedded at three levels:

- There is a requirement in the specification that the provider establishes and engages with a Parent Dialogue Group (PDG) open to all users. FACT Bucks provide a chair for the PDG meetings which are a forum for two-way communication in which parents/carers can air their operational concerns and the provider can explain plans for the services.

- FACT Bucks are an essential participant in any wider Stakeholder Group for each service. This helps develop the service and its relationship to the wider Local Area Offer for SEND where applicable.

- A FACT Bucks representative is part of the contract monitoring process and is invited to all contract monitoring meetings. This enables the parent/carer's voice to be heard as the contract progresses and mid-contract changes are agreed upon.

The DCO has been in post since July 2017, facilitating joined-up working across Health and Education for the CCG, providers, and the Council. This has led to a number of improvements including robustly integrating Health into the annual review process. The DCO also supports the Integrated SEND Service with the health needs assessment process and is currently working on a project to support Paediatrics and Education in improving the quality and timeliness of health advice and plans. The DCO also represents the voice of health at the Impact groups, SEND Improvement Group, and the SEND ISB and has developed strong links with provider trusts and FACT Bucks.

Good practice example: Buckinghamshire’s SEND Quality Assurance (QA) Framework details a number of activities to support the improvement of Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs). The DCO has been an active member of the QA Impact Group completing 46 audits between May 2020 and December 2020. The DCO follows up on plans graded Inadequate or Requires Improvement, providing re-writes of all of the relevant sections so that each Plan can be amended. This is shared with the Education, Health, and Care Coordinator to ensure learning from practice. The DCO also provides training and support as appropriate as part of the improvement programme.

A new Designated Social Care Officer post established in Jan 2021 is jointly funded by education and social care. It reflects the commitment at a strategic level to improving the interface across Children’s Services in relation to SEND. This innovative role provides Buckinghamshire with additional capacity and expertise to analyse complex and varied work strands across functions, services, and agencies in order to identify and exploit opportunities for co-production and integrated working. Working collaboratively with social care directors and service managers this role is playing a key part in driving forward practice improvements relating to children with SEND. This work is underpinned through the Social Care Compliance and Process workstreams action plan.

The Local Authority works proactively with all types of schools across the county, attending each of the PEB (Primary Executive Board), BASH (Buckinghamshire Association of Secondary Heads), and SSHT (Special School Headteachers) meetings held half-termly. Through all of its improvement and development subgroups, schools have been active participants in the work undertaken. This has included but is not limited to, an overhaul of the financial banding system for all children with SEND, membership of the Integrated Services Board, input to all Impact Groups currently supporting the SEND improvement journey, and the ASD/SEMH workstream. Most recently, special school headteachers have linked with Additionally Resourced Provisions across the county to develop greater cohesion and parity between settings, funded by the Local Authority.

A dedicated Resolutions Team supports families to resolve issues at the earliest stage. This has been effective in reducing formal complaints and has supported collaborative working to meet the needs of the child. The Bucks SEND IAS service also provides effective support to families, ensuring they are equipped with information, advice, and support to actively engage in statutory processes and liaison with Services.

Good practice example: Parent feedback surrounding our EHCP needs assessment request form.

You Said:

“My main issues are that there is no guidance to help parents fill in the form"

- It appears outdated in terms of style and format

- I am the parent of a child with a life-limiting illness and I’m not sure this form is entirely fit for that purpose

- My initial feeling is that if the local authority doesn’t take the time to make sure the forms are suitable then I worry about how the rest of the process will be handled. Yet I know the professionals ‘behind the scenes’ are certainly of a high standard and want to make sure children have access to all they need to thrive.

We did:
The EHC Needs Assessment Request form has been revised as part of the work of the Quality Impact Group and launched with settings mid-2020. During 2020, 36% of requests for EHC needs assessment had been turned down; however, for the first two months of 2021, this has reduced to 24%, which is more in line with the national picture for 2019 of 22.8%. This demonstrates the impact of this work, ensuring the right requests are coming through, well presented, leading to assessments.

We have an established youth participation offer across Buckinghamshire for children and young people with SEND to help influence and share their experiences of services that they receive. This is achieved via our Shout Out for SEND Group. Our youth voice structures ensure that leaders across the local area are engaged with the lived experience of children and young people allowing members and senior leaders to actively drive forward improvement with a shared understanding and collaboration across sectors.

Good Practice example: We are currently working with The Care Leaders to design and implement a Children’s Services Participation Strategy, which will encompass SEND, CiC, Care Leavers, and Youth Council. The purpose of the strategy is to have a whole system approach to engaging children and young people in service development, through participation at all levels with identified decision-making delegated to children and young people. An integral part of the project will be to review and improve service delivery and engagement of children and young people with SEND, with a view to further develop their involvement in driving the improvement of services. The Care Leader’s will coach and support the Specialist Participation Team, practitioners, and leaders across children’s service to build skills and confidence in capturing and utilising the power of young people’s contributions in a way which is meaningful for them and beneficial to the council. Care Leaders will also work to co-produce a new on-line platform, to design and build an interactive, youth focussed and effective engagement hub, which will promote their own lived experiences, generate increased participation through engaging content which is accessible and create new opportunities to hear young people’s voices.

A Quality Assurance Framework has been developed that details a programme of ongoing auditing and moderation activities to improve the overall quality of Plans. Performance data is monitored at all levels of the organisation from individual worker and team level, to service and corporate level. We have a robust multi-agency auditing group which includes representation from across Education, Health and Social Care, as well as parent and school representatives, to collectively evaluate the quality of Plans, leading to increased understanding and improvement across sectors.

Good Practice example: Our cycle of quality assurance illustrates the process of operational monitoring and improving performance. Outcomes from auditing inform training and development across all professionals contributing to Education Health and Care plans. We have seen an increase in the quality of plans with our first Outstanding Social Care section identified within our focus audits. Health and Social Care workstreams drive forward targeted Improvement activity to help ensure that plans are consistently Good and Outstanding, reporting into the Quality Assurance and Statutory Performance.

Identification of children and young people with SEND

SEN Support identification is at 10% in Buckinghamshire, compared to 12.1 nationally (SEN 2 Jan 20). Year-on-year trends show increased identification of SEN Support, closing the gap with statistical neighbours. A co-produced Ordinarily Available Provision document forms part of Buckinghamshire Council’s graduated approach to supporting children and young people with SEND. This provides guidance to settings, families and professionals about the type and level of support that is available to children and young people at SEN Support. Previously there was no such guidance, and therefore expectations on schools and settings were unclear.

In a survey in October 2020, 56% of schools felt they had effective internal measures and procedures to identify and meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. To improve this % the SEND Support Impact Group are driving forward targeted actions to embed the graduated response and steps are being taken to ensure that schools feel equipped and confident to support children and young people with SEND in mainstream settings. Part of this work is ensuring the offer from specialist services is sufficient and accessible, as well as developing a culture of inclusivity in all settings, learning from best practice.

Good Practice example: Surgeries have been held jointly with therapies and specialist teachers to support schools to approach behaviour issue sin creative ways. Schools can access these without the need for referral, resulting in quicker advice and support. From September 2020, specialist teachers introduced a ‘helpline’ as part of their new ‘tiered approach’ offer, enabling even more efficient support when schools need advice on specific issues. The Educational Psychology SEN Support offer also aims to increase the capacity of the early intervention offer, supporting schools with identifying needs and addressing them sooner.

We have developed Solution Circles during the Autumn term 2020 and the first half of the Spring term 2021, the use of Solution Circles as an approach to collaborative problem solving has been used within SENDCO Network Groups in the High Wycombe area. At the end of the Autumn term, the team decided to amalgamate each of the 8 network groups with one other group, with the aim of increasing attendance at each session. We have also developed a weekly Integrated SEND Service newsletter that is also circulated to SENCos across the 3 areas to help ensure that we are consistent across the local area with information being shared.

Good Practice example: A supportive and collaborative space

The most common feedback surrounding the Solution Circles was a ‘supportive’ space for SENDCOs with other responses including feeling ‘reassurance’ and ‘relief to hear others are experiencing the same’. This theme was also reflected in feedback relating to the aspect of ‘sharing lived experiences’ with another SENDCO adding that the session was ‘really helpful to offload and feel supported

This allows SENDCOs to learn from each other’s knowledge and skills. Often, having SENDCOs with different levels of experience and coming from different school settings has provided learning opportunities for others within the group to help continue and develop good practice.

Increased management oversight of the 20-week EHCP process has led to significant improvements and Plans are now issued within statutory timescales. National figures for statutory 20-week compliance for 2019 was 60.4% with south-eastern region being 47.4%. For 2020, 74.4 % of final plans were issued within 20 weeks including exceptions and 74.8% for plans excluding exceptions, exceeding the national average for 2019. Buckinghamshire has made significant progress against this objective from a low starting point. As a result of this process 75% of plans are being consistently issued within statutory timescales.

The 5 mandated steps (Antenatal, New Birth Visits, 6-8-week checks, 1-year checks and 2-2 ½ year checks) carried out by Health visitors (HV), school nurses and the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) enable early identification and onward referral for children with SEND as appropriate.

Health Visitors utilise ASQ within all 1 and 2 year checks. Referral pathways are well embedded from the Neo-natal Intensive Care unit onwards.

A new School Readiness Programme has been developed as part of the School Nursing review. This will ensure that needs are identified before children start school. The Young Parents Pathway offers a lighter touch version of the existing FNP for those young parents who don’t feel that they can engage with the existing offer. Withdrawal of intensive support from the FNP is graduated to ensure family’s needs are met.

Speech and Language Therapists work 1 day a week assessing and supporting young people known to the Youth Offending Service (YOS) to establish whether language difficulties are impacting the young person. Funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner will support preventative SALT work within school settings, recognising the high proportion of children with speech and language needs who go on to have contact with the justice system. Commissioners and Buckinghamshire Health Trust (BHT) are working with YOS to develop further support, which could include extending the current 1 day a week YOS support from the SALT team.

41 young people were identified for support, of which 20 young people (48.8%) received less fixed term exclusions as a result of the support.

Assessment and meeting need of children and young people with SEND

The Short Breaks Community Service delivers a varied and flexible activity programme (universal, targeted and specialist) and families have more choice and control about the short breaks they access. The service includes residential breaks as well as day care. FACT Bucks were an integral part of the commissioning of this provision and continue to be involved in contract monitoring to ensure parent/carer voices are heard and influence provision.

The specialist residential services continue to support children and young people to achieve their outcomes. Children and young people are working towards achieving a range of outcomes such as, making choices, playing with others, preparing meals and snacks, using cutlery, making beds, completing laundry and developing self-care skills.

In quarter 3 October 2020 – December 2020 83% of children attending Merryfields have achieved 75% of their agreed individual outcomes. This figure is lower than the 90% target due to the numbers of families who are currently declining to attend the service due to the pandemic.

71% of children attending targeted services have made progress in their outcomes such as communication, social interaction, health and self-care.

Good practice example: A service user turned 18 this summer. He had already enquired last year about working for us and this summer it became reality. He had previously asked about how he would go about joining the team and asked the right questions about what to expect. The young man has ADHD, a stammer, and difficulties with reading and writing. He was successfully shortlisted and conducted himself very well at interview, answering the questions using his own experiences with us, things that he has seen when they haven’t always gone to plan and his personal experiences on how he used to be when he was younger.

He gave a fantastic response to being able to relate with young people who may experience frustrations and anger as he once did when he was younger. Since starting with us at the end of the summer he has been fully involved, using his personality and the skills he has developed to work with a variety of young people. We are sure he is going to be a fantastic, reliable member of the team.

March 2021, 99% of children and young people with EHCPs are in placements.

Good practice example: We set up an online tuition programmes, for a young person linked to Aspire, to meet the needs of one student who has recently suffered a brain injury. The young person is receiving six hours of remote tuition in the home supported by Aspire, until they and the family feel ready for the student to return to education.

We have an Integrated therapies service that includes a commissioned Speech and Language Therapy Service, which works collaboratively with our SEND and Early Years Services to support settings and individual children. Speech and language training has been remodelled with universal training now delivered through the Early Years’ Service, making better use of collective professional resources and removing duplication.

Good practice example: Ongoing collaboration between commissioners, Specialist Teachers and SLT has enabled schools to have access to SpeechLink packages until March 2022. Despite an uncertain start to the new academic year 167 Buckinghamshire schools assessed 3417 children in the Reception year.

In their data analysis report SpeechLink says Buckinghamshire schools should be congratulated on the amount of intervention put in place in short time frame from training in Sept 2019 to March 2020 comparable to areas in the country who have been using package for 10 years.

Children in care are well supported by the Virtual School who monitor the quality of planning and support provided to looked after children and young people with SEND. Every looked-after child with SEND has an allocated virtual schoolteacher who works closely with the Integrated SEND Service to ensure that the child’s needs are being met. Every child has a personal education plan that runs in conjunction with their EHCP or SEN Support plan.

Good practice example:
The Virtual School ensures excellent links and communication are maintained by being a member of the following meetings/panels.

- Children’s care planning and resource panel (minimum once a week)
- Fortnightly cross-team’s meetings with social care, IRO, health, CAMHS.
- SEN placement panel (monthly)
- Complex needs panel
- Corporate parenting - from autumn 2020 VSH becomes chair of the education, training and employment sub-group.
- Sufficiency Impact Group.

Notification from Social Care in respect of Review Health Assessments has continued to improve over the year: 97% of supplementary information was provided 6 weeks or more before the Review Health Assessment date in September 2020 (in comparison to 87% in September 2019). Communication continues to be strong between BHT and Social Care, for example reporting on Review Health Assessment due dates 24 weeks in advance has ensured more timely transfer of paperwork and assessment of LAC health needs (and any required onward referral) in line with statutory requirements. This is especially encouraging during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We currently have 147 children and young people who are CLA, for these children with an EHCP we are trying to ensure a joined-up process whereby their annual health check is linked to their EHCP annual review

There is a strong Mental Health offer across 49 different educational settings across Buckinghamshire. The Single Point of Access (SPA) to CAMHS allows professionals, parents and young people to call a single line for advice. CAMHS provide link workers to schools and additional investment has ensured dedicated CAMHS support to the residential children’s homes in Buckinghamshire. We have currently exceeded our access target which will be reviewed in April 2021. Online mental health counselling via KOOTH is available for young people aged 11+, improving access to mental health support and reaching targeted groups (i.e. BME: 23% of uptake). Initiatives such as these are supporting earlier identification of need, improved information sharing between professionals and they mean children are considered holistically rather than treated by different services individually. Our MHST provision coverage for is 25% of the pupil population, across Buckinghamshire.

Good Practice example: As a national Trailblazing site Buckinghamshire has been awarded funding to deliver two Mental Health Support Teams (MHST) to 49 different educational settings across the county. The Buckinghamshire MHST model takes a multi-agency approach (CAMHS, Local Authority CYP Early Help and the voluntary sector) to provide mental health and emotional wellbeing support to students in these settings. This initiative supports earlier identification of need, improved information sharing and enables schools to develop their own pathways to meet the specific MH needs of their students.

The Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in Buckinghamshire plays a significant role in supporting children and young people with SEND. The sector are actively engaged in the improvement work and offer a range of provision to support children locally, from universal youth activities to specialist provision and targeted work Through our close working relationships with the VCS we promote and support with the voluntary sector “offer”, both through the Local Offer to families but also to leaders and commissioners within statutory services for both signposting and commissioning.

Good Practice example: Thomley
Enhancing the lives and experiences of disabled people, their families and the wider community

‘My son is totally accepted at Thomley and doesn’t feel different like he does out in public. He can spend time in a safe environment, socialising with his friends, in a way he can’t in a mainstream club without drawing attention to himself through his obsessive talk and under-developed social skills.’

Improving outcomes for Children and young people with SEND

Children with SEND achieve well. Across Buckinghamshire we see a good level of development for those at SEND support and with EHCPs in comparison to the national average.

  • Pupils with an EHCP in Buckinghamshire achieved above national attainment levels in Reading at Key Stage 1. Pupils on SEN Support in Buckinghamshire also achieved attainment levels above National in Reading and Writing.
  • Combined attainment in Reading, Writing and Maths for pupils in Buckinghamshire with SEND, both those on SEN Support and those with an EHCP, is above National at Key Stage 2.

Good Practice example: Buckinghamshire actively finances the collaboration of Side by Side project. This project is the Buckinghamshire model for a local school improvement system. It builds on the established, strong relationships across Buckinghamshire and enables all schools across the county, regardless of type, size or status, to work collaboratively to support county wide school improvement. It recognises that it is this wider system that will deliver improvements and as such harnesses and utilises the experience, strengths and knowledge within our schools, with school leaders and practitioners.

Chiltern Wood School worked alongside mainstream primary schools to audit and improve the quality of the SEND provision within those schools. Development Plans were devised and support given to carry out specific actions to support the strategic leadership of SEND practice within the school, focused on a range of support from reviewing SEN support plans through to delivering training to Maximise the Potential of Teaching Assistants.

Attainment 8 for pupils with SEND, both those on SEN Support and those with an EHCP, is higher in Buckinghamshire than national average.

The CCG, GPs and the DCO have been working hard to increase the number of patients on the Learning Disability Register within GP Practices. 132 new CYP aged 0-25 were added within the last tear with 35 of these being under 14. Of those aged 14 and over, by 17/03/2021, over 66% had been given their annual health check thus passing the national target of 65%. This LD Health Assessment forms an important part of PfA for health for young people with a Learning Disability and ensures that they have the opportunity to express any health concerns and have routine tests completed. Continuing Care and CAMHS have transition pathways into the adult services. A virtual Access All Areas Event was held on 31/03/2021 for YP with autism and learning disabilities to promote conversation around PfA giving information and guidance.

Supported Internships linking with 9 employers provides opportunities for young people with SEND to have real employment experience especially in the fields of hospitality and healthcare, housekeeping and cleaning. Placements within the Council are also now offered. 70% of internships from this programme led to meaningful employment in 2020.

Ring-fenced funding from central government to promote supported employment has led to investment in 10-12 fully paid places to support the delivery of a level 3 certificate for supported employment (job coaching). Through closer working with employers and events we have encouraged local businesses to provide opportunities for young people with SEND. These have included a supported internship promotional event and a Disability Confident Employer event, both held in Nov 2020. Further events are planned for March 2021. A Reasonable Adjustments webinar, marketed through Bucks Business First was also delivered and a Reasonable Adjustment App for supporting lone workers is now being explored.

The Buckinghamshire Local Offer has been developed with parents, carers, young people and professionals and is continually being reviewed and improved. There has been in-depth user research and user testing to help develop the website. The content has been reviewed by subject-matter and content-writing experts to ensure it meets best practice and accessibility regulations. A multi-agency Local Offer Advisory Group, including a representative from FACT Bucks, directs and oversees the ongoing improvement and development of the published Local Offer and ensures feedback is acted upon.

‘You said, we did’ responses are published regularly and a process has been established for sharing themes arising from the Statutory Performance impact group for inclusion in the published feedback.

Participation activity with young people (i.e. Young Inspectors project) informs the content of the local offer to ensure the information is relevant and engaging. There is ongoing promotional activity and an additional comms campaign will align with the launch of the new Family Information Service website where the Local Offer is hosted to increase awareness with families.

In January 2021 the top 10 pages in the Local Offer had 4,477 unique page views. The intention is that the new website will reach more families and allow them to self-help through access to relevant and easy to understand content.

Good Practice example: SEND Young Inspectors:
14 young people have completed accredited training to equip them with the skills they need to visit local activities and groups as an inspector. They take part in the group activity and provide honest feedback after the session, about its accessibility and inclusivity.

To date (January 2020) there have been 5 inspections conducted. Planning is underway in partnership with a further 15 clubs awaiting inspection.

Feedback from Inspectors has been fed back to club leaders and published onto the Local Offer pages, where it can be accessed by SEND young people and their parents/carers


Key areas of development

Identification of SEND

The diagnosis and escalation of needs relating to Autism and SEMH in our children and young people is growing rapidly in Buckinghamshire, as is the pattern nationally. Those requiring specialist provision in high cost placements were primarily in the ASD or SEMH high functioning cohort (12 out of 14) in September 2020.

Year 6 and year 10 are key points where these specialist placements peak. We are developing a SEND Sufficiency Strategy which aims to address these growing areas of need and plan to consult on this in May 2021.

Emerging Good Practice example: Through our improvement work are working closely with Schools/Settings across education, health and care to evidence they are “autism friendly” as part of an inclusive culture and to support more pupils with SEND. A framework is being developed that will ensure mainstream settings are equipped to meet the range of needs that young people present with.

It is positive to report that Buckinghamshire is a Strategic Partner for the Autism Education Trust (AET) in the South East for Early Years, Schools and post 16, delivering training and quality assuring other Training Hubs in the South East. This means we are well placed to develop our work around ASD in Buckinghamshire.

Further work needs to be completed to ensure all children with SEN support needs are identified at the earliest stage. SEN Support identification is at 10% in Buckinghamshire, compared to 12.1% nationally (SEN 2 Jan 20). We are working to address this gap and have recently completed some targeted work with schools and settings to help raise awareness of the process and support available. We expect to see an improvement from the data submitted in January 21.

Emerging Good Practice example: Through our SEND Support Impact Group we are creating information and tools for families and professionals to aid the understanding and implementation of SEND Support – what can be expected and how families, professionals and schools can work together to support the child. It is anticipated that this will be an online tool and it will be promoted by the Local Offer.

There is a lack of understanding across agencies of the role of social care in the SEND system. Social Care advice requested (Appendix E’s) for the Education Health and Care needs assessments are not consistently received with the 6-week timeframe, leading to Plans being legally non-compliant.

The National Trial has expanded which sections of the Education Health and Care Plan can be appealed. The tribunal can now recommend (in conjunction with an education appeal) changes to section D (social care needs) and H1 and H2 (social care provision). In Buckinghamshire the SEND tribunals in relation to Education Health and Care Plans have increased by 70% over the past year, rising from 88 appeals in 2019 to 169 in 2020. Whilst most of the appeals relate to the young person’s education placement (section I), the majority of Education Health and Care Plans across Buckinghamshire do not contain sufficient information about a child’s social care needs.

Emerging Good Practice example: The Designated Social Care Officer is developing a Social Care SEND quality assurance framework which will provide clear expectations for high quality social care input and engagement within the Education Health and Care needs assessment, and planning process, as well as Annual Reviews. This will include practice guidance, tools and resources.

There is a lack of understanding surrounding Health advice with EHCPs. We have established a Health workstream, that is closely linked with our quality assurance Impact Group. This allows us to focus our improvement activity in a co-ordinated approach.

Emerging Good Practice example: We are still not seeing consistency in our judgements for plans audited across the Quality Assurance framework. In response to this we have looked at an additional layer of moderation of team audits utilising our DCO, DSCO to provide in-depth feedback on plans. This additional layer of moderation is also helping inform the Quality Assurance Impact Group and workstreams to ensure that we have a detailed understanding of the area of improvement across our teams.

Assessment and meeting need

Work is ongoing to improve the number and timeliness of EHC needs assessments. During 2020, there were 924 requests for EHC needs assessment. 63% of requests were agreed, compared to 77% nationally (83% SE region). 82% of the decisions on assessment were made within 6 weeks. Increased management oversight and capacity in Educational Psychology is beginning to make a difference with Buckinghamshire figures rising to 74% and 76% respectively in November and December 2020. We have also worked to embed Health questions into the relevant forms.

Emerging Good Practice example: We are developing our approach to tracking and recording outcomes for children with EHCPs. The ONE system now has the facility to track annual reviews, which will align with the revised annual review paperwork and link each outcome to an area of need i.e. Preparation for Adulthood outcomes. Other advice contributing to an EHC needs assessment will also be tracked through the ONE system to ensure reporting is accurate and enabling benchmarked targets to be set.

Quality Assurance activity suggests that we cannot yet be confident that all EHCPs issued are of good quality. Implementing the Quality Assurance Framework has been helpful in identifying where the issues are and these are being addressed as part of the improvement work. Since September 2020 we have seen an 11% reduction in plans being judged as Inadequate, however 68% of the 44 plans audited in 2020 were judged as Requires improvement.

A quality assurance scorecard has been developed to monitor progress robustly and increased activity through dip sampling is enabling more plans to be reviewed. A sign off process has also been introduced to ensure improved management oversight of Plans, and training is happening to ensure a consistent understanding of what constitutes a “good” Plan.

Some audits completed have focused on specific sections of the EHCP and this has led to improvements in these sections, including 1 Plan where the Social Care section was judged to be Outstanding. Learning from the auditing is being taken forward via the Health and Social Care QA workstreams of the QA Impact Group. The overarching aims of this group are to ensure that:

  • Plans accurately reflect the needs, outcomes and provision of the child or young person and develop as a result of collaboration across Education, Health and Social Care.
  • EHCPs have been co-produced with families and include the voice of the child or young person.
  • EHCPs are reviewed, amended and finalised following the Annual Review processes within timescales. Where plans are of poor quality, this is addressed as part of the Annual Review process.

The Framework describes the different audit activities that take place across Children’s Services and promotes a collaborative approach so that audit activity is done ‘with’ workers and managers as opposed to doing it ‘to them’, so that the learning is dynamic and improvements are visible. In relation to SEND, there will be further work undertaken to ensure that quality assurance activity reports on how the intervention has improved the experience of the child or young person. This means that audit activity will be based on judgment, evidence and impact.

We recognise that our communication with parents, is an area of development within the ISEND Service. Through our Statutory Performance Impact Group and our internal service plan we have taken significant steps to ensure that EHCCos understand the impact their communication is having on outcomes for children and their families. Overall communication has improved which is evidenced by a reduction in complaints. We have received 25% less complaints in 2020 compared to the previous year.

We have seen the benefit of staff working collaboratively with the SEND Resolutions Team and SEND IAS to resolve Local Resolution cases. Staff have also attended mandatory complaints and customer service training.

Good Practice example: SEND IAS Service
SENDIAS work hard to help service users resolve their concerns as quickly and easily as possible. Where necessary, we liaise with professionals on their behalf. We are very successful in assisting service users to reach their goals without having to resort to formal dispute mechanisms such as tribunal hearings and formal corporate complaints. Of 18 families we helped with tribunal paperwork and preparation only 3 of these led to a tribunal hearing, the others were resolved with our help beforehand.

Waiting times for neuro-developmental diagnosis are too long. A single neuro-developmental pathway has been developed for children between 5 -17. Prior to the pathway being launched, children over 11 were generally seen by CAMHS and those under 11 by community paediatrics (BHT). The new pathway means that all school aged children (5-19 years) who have concerns regarding a neurodevelopmental issue will access the most appropriate service for them through a single point of access.

Currently the Neurodevelopmental Diagnostic Pathway is at clinical capacity. Staff vacancies have meant that a waiting list has built up for assessment after initial screening tools have been completed. A Rescue Plan is required for the resulting waiting list of 500+ CYP. The joint working between CAMHS and Paediatrics for the Neurodevelopmental Diagnostic Pathway is being reviewed by the CCG via commissioning.

A SEND sufficiency strategy for educational placements is being developed that details the current demand for a range of different placement types and forecasts future need. There is a particular focus on children and young people with SEMH and ASD, where demand is growing fastest. It is anticipated that a draft strategy will be formally consulted on in May 2021, following pre-engagement activity with key stakeholders that will help to shape its content. The strategy aims to ensure that the educational offer in Buckinghamshire is able to support the full range and complexity of needs so that children and young people can achieve their educational goals.

At an operational level, co-production with families is developing.  Co-production meetings for all new EHC plans are in place consistently since September 2020, and annual review training rolled out in March 21 focuses on co-production of new outcomes and amendments to existing EHC plans. Aims of the Co-production, child and young person voice workstream linked to the Quality Impact Group, are to bring a real focus on co-production at all levels, with person-centred planning, and a co-production, young person voice conference in early development too.

Development of a Co-production Charter is being led by FACT Bucks, that puts the needs of the individual at the heart of all the decision-making processes and the support and services provided. The Charter will ensure that co-production works at all levels, individually, collectively and strategically.  

There has been an 8 % increase (6960 Vs 6425) in total referrals to Buckinghamshire CAMHS in 20/21 compared to the same period in 19/20. There was suppressed demand in Q1 in line with the rest of the country as a result of the first lockdown. Q3 alone however shows an 28% increase compared to the same period in 19/20.

The service quickly moved to a digital platform where clinically appropriate at the start of the pandemic, have purchased additional remote diagnostic provision (to support neuro assessments) and expanded their mental health support team offer. Mental health investment for 21/22 will prioritised in line with demand which is anticipated to continue to increase.

Improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND

In some cases there is too much drift and delay in securing school places quickly for Children Looked after when children move out of county, especially when they have an EHCP. The Virtual School has a close overview of these children and young people and is developing more robust systems with the SEND service to reduce delays. The headteacher of the Virtual School sits on the SEND panel to help ensure that strategic oversight.

Early Help Services have been brought together into an Integrated Family Support Service which supports children and young people at an early stage, particularly around behaviour (often linked to ASD/ ADHD). A range of approaches are used (i.e. group-work, 1:1 support, mentoring, experiential learning) to engage young people as they move towards independence. Outcomes are measured either through the FSS workflow (Understanding Your Family) or the use of the Outcome Star tool. Requests for Early Help support at Level 3 are responded to initially by the Family Support Service to promote prompt engagement with families in need of support. If, following initial assessment, a more appropriate support service is identified, internal transfer protocols enable this to take place. Where children and family cases are led by partner agencies, outcomes are measured using the Outcome Star. This work is embedding following the service transformation.

Emerging Good Practice example: Transfer protocol
Early Help have an effective, timely and seamless transfer process between teams within Children’s Services, the transfer protocol has been developed to facilitate the transition of children between Children’s Social Care (CSC) and the Family Support Service (FSS). The protocol details the principles and case transfer meeting process to ensure children are effectively supported by the most suitable service and that the support provided is family focused and at the appropriate level of need. This protocol supports further and deeper integration between early help and social care.

Preparation for Adulthood is not discussed as fully as we would like during the annual review process. PfA prompts have been added to the Annual Review paperwork to ensure that PfA discussions are integral to all annual reviews from year 9 and these are person-centred. The revised paperwork will be launched in April 2021 and will ensure that there is a clear ‘golden thread’ linking aspirations, outcomes and support, with a strong PfA focus. Outcomes and progress will be monitored as part of the QA activity, to ensure that PfA outcomes and support are embedded consistently across Plans.

We are developing training with SEND IAS on the annual review paperwork to ensure young people and parent/carers understand the annual review process and feel confident in co-producing outcomes alongside professionals.  

A 0-25 Service is being developed to ensure the social care needs of young people as they transition into adulthood are met. The new service integrating children and adult services is designed to ensure that the right pathways are in place from the perspective of the young person with a strong focus on the four PfA outcomes and a strengths-based approach.

Emerging Good Practice example: The new 0-25 service has been co-produced by parent/carers, staff, and young people. As design champions they have influenced the service specification ensuring that pathways of services are joined up and integrated where possible. Through this mechanism we are ensuring that we have a strong focus on the 4 PfA outcomes.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust are reviewing their transition processed from child to adult health teams, using the Ready Steady Go questionnaires where appropriate and holding teenage clinics in some services such as diabetes. By embedding health in the EHCP annual review paperwork and encouraging the use of an annual review Parental or Youth Health response, settings are expected to discuss health needs at the annual review and advise the LA on recommended changes to the health needs and provision in the EHC Plan. This is especially important from year 9 in order to support their Preparation for Adulthood in terms of health.

Buckinghamshire has 6.2% of adults with a learning disability in paid employment, as reported by NHS digital for the latest statutory return for 2019/20. This is slightly below the average of 6.9% for the South East. 66% of clients supported by Back2Base between 18 to 25 are engaged in paid or voluntary work. Through the Preparation for Adulthood Impact Group we are working together across the local area to develop Education, Employment and Training opportunities.

Emerging Good Practice example: We are driving forward aspirations to create jobs on Council contracts. Back2Base is working with the Capital projects team to create paid work opportunities on the project to redevelop the old council offices in Aylesbury and on a project for the developments in Winslow. The aspiration is to create paid jobs and training opportunities for people with a range of disabilities.

We need to develop greater opportunity and choice to enable young people to access appropriate education programmes that will support employment, including internships and apprenticeships, and voluntary work. The Preparation for Adulthood workstreams have developed a detailed action plan to improve our understanding of the current offer, ensuring our ambitions are high for young people with SEND. This piece of work will baseline data to establish whether the offer needs to be further developed to accommodate local needs. Ensuring that children and young people receive high quality careers advice and guidance and exposure to work related learning/enterprise opportunities to increase take up across apprenticeships, supported internships and further education Study Programmes is part of this work.

We are continuing work to reduce the participation gap between young people aged 16-17 with SEND and their peers and to reduce the rate of young people with SEND who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) or whose activity is not known. This work is unpinned by the Family Support Service NEET support Offer, that is targeted depending on need and closely aligned with the improvement activity within the Preparation for Adulthood Impact group. During the CCIS target period of December 2020 to February 2021, on average 88.5% of 16-17-year olds with SEND in Buckinghamshire are estimated to have been in learning. This is 3.4% lower than for all 16-17-year olds in Buckinghamshire during the same period. These figures are estimates only at the present time and will be updated when the figures are finalised in mid-March. Figures are not available for England or the South East for all three target months, but figures for December 2020 can be compared. These show the rate of participation for 16-17-year olds with a SEND in Buckinghamshire was 3.4% lower than for all young people in this age group; across England this gap was greater at 3.9% and in the South East it was slightly less at 3.3%.

Good Practice example: The NEET Solutions Panel works collaboratively to agree on the best programmes of learning for individuals who are NEET in order to support sustainable progressions into post-16 education, training and employment. The aim is for providers and organisations to work in partnership to avoid duplication of provision and ensure young people do not move between providers for reasons other than progression. We have excellent multiagency representation across this group including YOS, SEND, Virtual School, leave care service and relevant providers.

- Partners can bring complex cases to discuss but without the need for paperwork/referrals.

- Partners set out what they can offer.

- Professional discussion and network session to allow partners to discuss young people with relevant colleagues and match young people to the support available. 

We want to develop a more co-ordinated approach and increased information about supported housing and options available locally. This will ensure that young people are supported to attend Further Education programmes that are based within the communities in which they live, enabling them the opportunity to be part of their community, make impactful friendship networks and gain a level of independence. 

We are working with Housing to map the current housing options available and the uptake with a view to identifying areas to develop and influence future Housing Strategies.

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