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Transforming SEND services in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole

BCP Council and NHS Dorset (CCG) are committed to working in partnership with children, young people, parents, carers and other agencies to radically improve support for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

We have produced an improvement plan – called a ‘written statement of action’ – which we are now putting into action. The plan sets out how we are going to make improvements in eight key areas highlighted in an inspection of SEND services earlier this year (read the original inspection letter here). 

The eight key areas addressed by the plan are: 

  • Culture  
  • Evaluation  
  • Co-production  
  • Sustainable services 
  • Graduated response  
  • Education and health care plans (EHCPs)  
  • Joint commissioning 
  • Exclusion and inclusion  

Find out more: 

You can also read the full written statement of action about our SEND improvement plans here.

We will make the changes set out in the improvement plan as quickly as possible. In some cases, actions may take time to implement, as we need to put robust arrangements in place to ensure they deliver sustainable, permanent improvements and result in a change in culture. However, we will communicate clearly and openly about timescales throughout the process with all of our key stakeholders. 

BCP Council and NHS Dorset are responsible for implementing the plans set out in the written statement of action. However, children, young people, parents and carers have been – and will continue to be – at the centre of the transformation programme.  

We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all the parents, carers, young people and delivery colleagues who worked alongside us to create the written statement of action. In particular, we want to thank all the parents and carers who, either individually or through their groups, shared their lived experiences with us and helped to shape the written statement of action. 

The groups included Parent Carers Together, our strategic parent carer forum, and wider groups including: 

•           Dorset Children’s Foundation

•           Dorset Doors Open 

•           Parent Carer Foundation 

•           SENturions 

•           Slades Farm Group 

•           SWAN (Syndromes Without A Name) UK 

If you would like to share your views in the future, join one of the above groups or offer co-production support from your parent/carer group, please see the section below called 'how to get involved'.

What we are changing

The SEND inspection carried out in July 2021 identified eight key areas for improvement, which are addressed in the written statement of action. These are: 

  • Culture – we need to tackle cultural issues that have led to weak partnership working across the system, and with families and children 
  • Evaluation – we must improve leaders’ self-evaluations and ensure more focus on the lived experiences of children and young people  
  • Co-production – we need to work much more closely with families, children and young people to co-produce services 
  • Sustainable services – our services must be more sustainable and recruitment challenges need to be overcome  
  • Graduated response – there has been inconsistency in our graduated response, leading to slow identification and inconsistent access  
  • Education and health care plans (EHCPs) – we need to improve variations in EHCPs caused by weaknesses in joint working, access, timeliness and quality assurance 
  • Joint commissioning – poor joint commissioning arrangements have limited our ability to meet local area needs so this must be tackled 
  • Exclusion and inclusion – too high a proportion of pupils have not accessed education because of exclusions and a lack of inclusion 

We are working with children, young people, parents, carers, schools, health providers, education providers and the voluntary sector through the SEND Improvement Board (SIB). The SIB was set up in August 2020 to oversee the development and implementation of our improvement plans.  

The SIB’s agreed approach is that leaders and professionals will lead but not direct – the actions and outcomes that are needed will be co-created and co-produced with those who need them and use them.  

Read the full written statement of action on how we will improve SEND services here.

Progress so far

April 2022 update 

We have made good progress in many areas within our SEND improvement plans, including work to improve the graduated response, an agreed new service model for speech, language and communication needs, and development work on a new support pathway for autism. 

We are also recruiting a participation worker and co-production worker, to make sure children, young people, families and carers are at the centre of future work, along with an officer dedicated to improving the information available on our Local Offer website (this site). 

Additional progress from January-April 2022 includes: 

  • permanent leadership in place to support the changes​ set out in the SEND improvement plan 
  • full programme team in place​ to provide a secure structure for the improvement work 
  • successful parent-carer conference held in March 2022 and positive engagement with parents/carers throughout the programme 
  • successful education conference held in March 2022 to engage headteachers and other key education colleagues 
  • capital programme to develop specialist places agreed 
  • communications plan in place​. 

Current challenges 

We are working hard with our partners to deliver the actions set out in the improvement plan as quickly as possible. We are facing challenges in some areas, including an increase in EHCP requests (almost 60% more requests in January-March 2022 compared to last year) and challenges in recruitment and retention, but we are taking action to tackle these. Increased workloads also mean some team members have limited capacity to focus on the actions in the plan, but we are working to streamline processes further, to free up additional time for improvement work.  

July 2022 update - Expanding the SEND team

We are continuing to make good progress against the action plan for improving SEND services.  

It is vital that we have a strong team in place to help us build better support, so we are pleased to report that we have now successfully recruited to some key new posts. 

The SEND team now includes four permanent additional caseworkers (taking the total to eight) who will work directly with families to help them access the right services and support. We have recruited a new Participation Officer, who will be embedded in the community working to ensure children, young people, families and carers are at the centre of our work, and a Local Offer Officer, who will work with families, young people and other partners to develop our Local Offer website. We have also now appointed a new permanent Head of SEND. 

We have seen delays in recruiting to some other new posts such as our new Co-production Officer role but have now held interviews for that role. Further funding has also been identified to support the recruitment of Educational Psychologists, in response to increased requests for education, health and care plans (EHCPs). 

Additional progress from May-June 2022 includes: 

  • Improved training, including making SEND a mandatory part of social work induction training and monthly training on advice for EHCPs 
  • Work to streamline the EHCP process, including internal process mapping 
  • Wider participation in our SEND Improvement Board from parents, carers and partners.

Get involved and help us shape a new culture in SEND services

We need to achieve real change in the culture of SEND services within the BCP area, and we would like to hear from people across the community to help us do that.     

You can do this is in as little or as much time as you are able – we welcome all involvement.     

If you’re interested in getting involved, all you need to do is email us at SENDimprovement@bcpcouncil.gov.uk 

You can also contact one of the following parent/carer groups: 

Dorset Children's Foundation - dan@thedcf.org

Parent Carer Foundation - marion.parentcarerfoundation@gmail.com

Parent Carers Together 

SWAN UK - dorset@undiagnosed.org.uk

Read an open letter about the culture change work here.

To stay up-to-date with what's happening in the SEND transformation programme and the improvements we are making, you can also sign up to our weekly family information newsletter. To subscribe, please click here, enter your details and tick the Family Information option.