Millions invested in Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND), service access improvements, positive user feedback and strong project management lead advisors to conclude Somerset’s SEND services remain on track.
A recent Department for Education and NHS visit concluded Somerset SEND services for children and young people in Somerset continue to ‘maintain progress’ – despite the challenges faced during the pandemic.
Advisors, who offer advice and guidance nationally to SEND service providers, heard that investment in SEND is continuing at pace in Somerset. Children and families are positively helping shape future services and partners are working more closely than ever to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND in the County.
In turn, advisors noted that Somerset’s SEND Written Statement of Action (WSoA) is ‘project managed to a high standard’, improved pathways have been implemented, accessing information has been made easier, and they highlighted the positive feedback they had received from parents/carers.
Education settings, health providers, staff, as well as children and families are all encouraged to engage in Somerset SEND services. This interaction from across all areas helps inform understanding through the ‘lived experiences’ of children and young people, helping shape future services and drive forward improvements.
Leaders are keen to emphasise that SEND is ‘everyone’s business’ with a positive focus on inclusion and diversity; ensuring SEND services are right for each individual child and family.
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services said: “The number of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Somerset continues to grow. We are investing strongly in SEND across the county to meet this need and to give our children the opportunity for the best outcomes in their lives.
“We are really pleased the hard work our staff, partners, children and young people, their families and educational settings are doing together was recognised by the Department for Education and NHS advisors during their recent visit. We are proud of the strides we’ve made and will continue to work together to deliver great SEND services here in Somerset.”
Becky Applewood, Deputy Director of Women’s and Children’s Health of NHS Somerset CCG said “We want to ensure that every child and young person with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Somerset is able to access the support and care they need to allow them to flourish and fulfil their potential. It is great to see that the National Advisors have recognised the work we are doing, but we know that there is more we can do to ensure that improvements continue to be made. We want the best for our children in Somerset and will continue to work closely with all our partners, including the Council, NHS trusts and the parent carer forum to ensure we are listening to and learning from the lived experiences of our children, young people and families. Understanding what matters most to them is crucial in helping us to ensure that local services are fit for purpose and shaped by those who use them.”
Ruth Hobbs, Director Somerset Parent Carer Forum CIC said: “The monitoring report reflects all the hard work that has been taking place across the area. We are starting to see impact of this work being felt by some families, but acknowledge there is more to do to make this a reality for all. We remain resolved to work with Somerset County Council, the NHS Somerset CCG as well as education settings to ensure the WSOA is implemented and the improvements are made.”
Over the last year, Somerset County Council has increased the number of places in special schools by 80 and invested heavily in improvements to school buildings. Recently this has included, Fiveways and Fairmead Special Schools in Yeovil and the Holway Centre in Taunton.
The council also recently announced an investment of £23m to create a new special school – Polden Bower School in Bridgwater – and work has started on a £1.87m project to create a new hydrotherapy pool at Selworthy School in Taunton.
Further SEND funding will also be invested across mainstream schools, ensuring wherever possible children will have their needs met in a local school.
Somerset County Council and NHS Somerset CCG are working hard together to make sure that all children and young people are happy, healthy and prepared for adulthood, with fairer life chances and equal opportunities.