The SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan: A blog from Dame Christine Lenehan

Image of Christine Lenehan

Dear all,

Following the publication of the Improvement Plan in March there has been a hive of quiet activity.

From a government point of view this has included identifying and appointing lead and supporting LAs, ICBs and their clusters and tendering for, and appointing, a delivery partner to work alongside them. At CDC, we are really pleased to be part of the REACh (Reaching Excellence and Ambition for all Children) partnership and to be working within a consortium led by PA Consulting, working alongside IMPOWER and Olive Academies. 

The programme builds on the systems improvement and change work we have been doing through our DfE and NHSE contracts and what we learn and hear from working directly with local areas. For example, bringing together information and people on key elements of the improvement plan to support thinking on EHCP templates and National Standards, as well as contributing key evidence and practice from current work on Ordinarily Available Provision, co-Production and joint commissioning.

We have linked this to other work we are doing such as the What Works in SEND programme and the Effective Practice Evidence Framework which sets out the co-produced domains of an effective SEND system. We have also been linking this to the new SEND inspection reports, building the evidence base so we understand both the markers for positive practice and the key challenges the system faces.

As well as understanding the overall system, we have started to look at key elements within it. We know the roles of schools are crucial when children succeed in school their outcomes are so much better, so helping schools, from the outset, understand their critical role will be key.

The heart of some of this is to change the narrative. If we are not careful, the needs of disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs becomes a crisis that cannot be solved, which gets lost in a myriad of problems and agendas. We want the programme to be framed in the clear understanding of what a good system is. We know the elements of it, we know the challenges and we know what children and families deserve, as well as what practitioners want to be able to deliver. We know at the heart of it is partnership working, but we also know there are financial and legal challenges, at this stage we want to focus on what is working and why, and how we can build on this.

I also sit on the SEND and Alternative Provision Implementation Board; we have had one meeting so far. The purpose of the board has been to bring system leaders together to have those difficult conversations about making change happen and to build a shared cultural aspiration. We have started by looking at some of the key pillars of the reform, for example, what makes a good Local Inclusion Partnership , how does it link with schools, how does it link with the local offer and how do we build on existing good practice so that change is not imposed on a system but built through what already works and the strengths that exist.

The summer break is for planning and evidence building; success for the programme will be the level of engagement from all partners and the start of changing the narrative into believing in a system that works and delivers the very best outcomes for children, young people, and their families.



Read more about REACh here