Let's Talk (used to be called Time to Talk)

Let's Talk (used to be called Time to Talk)

Parent briefings questions and answers held on 21 May 2021

The questions parents asked and our responses about what we're doing.

Question about preparing for adulthood

What is being done to prepare young people for adulthood?

Our answer about preparing for adulthood

We're working with our special schools and further education (FE) providers to look at the curriculum with a focus on the 4 areas of preparation for adulthood. All our FE colleges will have a link educational psychologist from September 2021.

We're also working with Adult Social Care and the Transitions Team to develop a range of options available for young people to enable them to transition into adulthood.

Question about SEN support for young people post-16

With an education, health and care (EHC) plan a young person is eligible for, and requires support up to the age of 25. School support is mentioned a lot but what's the strategy to support young people post-16?

Our answer about SEN support for young people post-16

Our aim is to support young people to feel like part of their community and so working with adult services locality teams is key.

We review each young person on a case-by-case basis and make decisions at their annual review about what provision they need post-16. There's a range of options to help and not all of them need the young person to have an EHC plan. We're working with the Transitions Team and Adult Social Care to make sure we improve our offer and work with the post-16 providers to develop their curriculum.

Feedback about educational psychologist (EP) reports

Why are local authority EP reports so unspecific and unquantified? This means struggling parents have to pay for proper reports themselves that can be used to get an EHC plan and the provision they actually need.

Our answer to feedback about educational psychologist (EP) reports

We're working with our EPs and have introduced a quality assurance process around the report which includes being more specific.

EPs write reports by looking ahead to the future so this sometimes means the details must be flexible too. Families should not feel that they need to use a private EP. If this is the case contact Miriam Leigh, our Principal Educational Psychologist for support: m.m.leigh@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk.

Question about when groups will start running again

My daughter would really benefit from attending autism groups, but they're not running due to Covid. The consensus seems to be that these groups may not start again for a long time because of policy and red tape. I do not understand why a suitable and sufficient risk assessment could not be done to allow these groups to take place - maybe outside. It seems a real shame to me that this vulnerable group of children will not get the support they need.

Our answer about when groups will start running again

We're working with our colleagues in other organisations, such as health teams to look at opportunities and what's possible. Our frontline early help teams are continuing to deliver groups in a Covid-safe way and we want to use our learning from these to help shape future groups and opportunities.

Question about Ansbury's contract ending

What will happen now Ansbury has gone? How will this affect the planning for a young person's future?

Our answer about Ansbury's contract ending

Most of the services Ansbury delivered through their contract will be coming into Dorset Council. We want to work with you to make sure that we can deliver what you need in the future. We know this has been a valuable service and do not want to lose this.

Find more information about our Education, Employment, Training and Re-engagement Support Team.

Questions about complex communication needs (CCN) bases

Complex communication needs (CCN) bases in schools

What is happening with bases at schools?

Our answer about CCN bases in schools

We are investing in developing more CCN provision in each locality and are consulting with a number of schools to host one. Rather than bases, they will be known as resourced provision where the children are provided with specialist intervention to enable them to access the mainstream experience alongside their peers, as well as receiving specific targeted intervention.

Question about CCN bases in upper schools

We're interested in knowing the progress being made in finding mainstream upper schools willing to take on a CCN base in the Wimborne or Ferndown area.

Our answer about CCN bases in upper schools

We're in the process of consulting the 2 upper schools in East Dorset and hope to have an update by early autumn.

Question about provision for children who cannot cope with mainstream school but don't qualify for a special school

What is being done for those children that don't meet the criteria for a special school but can't cope within mainstream? Particularly around CCN base secondary places.

Our answer about provision for children who cannot cope with mainstream school but don't qualify for a special school

All schools have a link educational psychologist (EP) and specialist teacher and we ask schools to draw on these professionals to support them to understand what they can do differently to meet children's needs.

We have specialist teachers who have expertise in autism spectrum condition (ASC) and deliver training and coaching to staff in schools. Alongside this we are committed to increasing our outreach offer from our special schools to mainstream schools.

Question about children who need an alternative provision

Where do children go that are academically very bright but don't fit in a mainstream or typical school environment or CCN?

We could do with provision like The Beeches or The Stable in West Dorset. This might reduce Independent Services Plans (ISP) places.

Our answer about children who need an alternative provision

We're working with out mainstream schools to remove barriers and with our mental health services to improve the offer.

Question about improving the specialist or alternative provision in the East locality

Are there plans to improve the specialist and alternative provision in the East locality?

Our answer about improving the specialist or alternative provision in the East locality

Yes, we will be looking to expand our CCN provision in the East and are working with our special schools in the East to expand their own provision for our children.

Question about lack of spaces in full-time special schools

Hi all, can I please ask a question about what is happening in the here and now about the problems with the lack of spaces in the full-time local authority SEN schools?

It's wonderful that there is an ambitious strategy for all our children and young adults and that there is investment for new SEN schools, but these things take time to embed. What happens to our children that need a more specialist placement now but are caught in the nightmare of there being no space and parents having to go through the very difficult and emotional process of appeals and tribunals to try and get the right placement for our children with complex needs? Is there a joined-up approach across the board to provide better SEN provision in mainstream schools and more CCN provision which might hopefully free up spaces in the full-time SEN schools and make the process and wait times easier?

It's heartbreaking that our children now have to fall 4 to 5 years behind before they can get a specialist placement. As a parent I would like to help where I can. Thank you.

Our answer about lack of spaces in full-time special schools

We're also investing in developing more CCN provision in each locality and are consulting with a number of schools to host one.

There are plans to develop the provision in some of our own maintained special schools. We're working in partnership with the special schools to increase their capacity to support our mainstream schools by developing an offer of inclusion support to sit alongside the specialist teacher and educational psychology offer.

Question about accessing specialist provision for secondary school

Our son has complex communication needs and is a good boy in school, but explodes when he arrives home as he feels comfortable with us to offload. We were told he is unlikely to receive specialist provision again for secondary due to him not having severe behaviour issues within the school. 

We have also had to fight for direct payments to support the family. Why should children that want to follow the rules and want to be good get discriminated against?

Our answer about accessing specialist provision for secondary school

I'm sorry to hear this. We have family support workers in each locality who provide support to families and are a bridge between home and school. They can work with both the family and school to intervene.

Question about early intervention in mainstream schools

Parents find it very hard to get early intervention in mainstream school. This is driving an increase in:

  • EHC plans
  • the need for diagnosis
  • special school places

How will the local authority help mainstream schools improve understanding and act proactively?

Our answer about early intervention in mainstream schools

I think this will link with our graduated approach. This is how we are helping all organisations across the system to understand what they can do right now.

We've been working with SENCOs in schools and our head teachers to explore what the graduated approach means for them and how our frontline teams can help support them.

Questions about education, health and care (EHC) plans

Confusion about the new model for the annual review for an EHC plan

With annual reviews for the EHC plan there seems to be confusion around the newer model. This has led to our son not having his views properly addressed. We were told that because of his communication needs that it makes it unsuitable for him to be involved. What is being done to ensure the child's views are considered?

Our answer about confusion about the new model for the annual review for an EHC plan

Hearing from young people at their annual review is essential. 

We're delivering training to our SENCOs and schools on facilitating annual reviews, still using person-centred approaches and ensuring the voice of the child is heard. We are working with the Dorset Parent Carer Council (DPCC) and parents to evaluate their experience.

Question about making the EHC plan process less complicated

Our EHC plan was pushed through the process even though we explicitly disagreed with it. The process needs an overhaul:

  • make the forms simpler and less repetitive and consider the users and their journey
  • ensure that the EHC plans are interpretable on a practical basis
  • ensure that the EHC plan is bespoke to the child and doesn't contain a stream of generalised strategies and best practice

Our answer about making the EHC plan process less complicated

Plans should be developed with you and your child and the other professionals that work with you. We know we haven't always got that right but we're providing additional training to frontline staff. And through the work being done in 'quality assuring' plans, we hope that this will improve. As part of this we will be piloting a process of co-producing EHC plans from September 2021.

Question about children without a school place

Following the LGO award from 2019 the Local Offer has still not improved for children that cannot access school. Apparently only children who are excluded can access provision and nothing is put in place until an EHC plan is finalised, which can take months. Why is this? There are many children without school places.

Our answer about children without a school place

We review all children and young people who are out of school regularly and track what support is in place to work towards them being in education. This is led by our principal teacher.

Question about measuring a quality assured EHC plan

A target to produce a quality assured EHC plan is important but how is the implementation measured?

Our answer about measuring a quality-assured EHC plan

Monthly monitoring and auditing which are reported to our quality assurance team and lead. We track the number of EHC plans quality assured and the gradings and implement learning and training as a result which is tracked through the monthly reporting.

Question about the EHC needs assessment (EHCNA) process

The EHC needs assessment process is taking so much longer than the statutory timeline and children are left without suitable provision while they're waiting. 

Are there plans to ensure EHC needs assessments are carried out in a timely manner without compromising quality and inclusion of children and young people and their families?

Our answer about the EHC needs assessment process

We recognise that a small number of those early decisions around the EHC needs assessment were significantly delayed last year due to some services not offering face-to-face assessment. This had a knock-on effect to other timescales. This has taken a long time to bring back in line with what we would expect. 

Our teams are working really hard to ensure that decision-making is communicated well and achieved within the required timescales.

Question about the annual review for an EHC plan

With regards to my comment and question on the annual review, who do I contact to discuss this further? I addressed this with my son's school and his coordinator and no strategies were offered to address this!

I was also told that the school had already attended the new training so why was it not person-centred? All they were interested in was targets!

Our answer about the annual review for an EHC plan

You can contact the DPCC or Miriam Leigh, our Principal Educational Psychologist who can help with this. Email: miriam.leigh@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk.

Question about listing all the different provisions

It would be helpful to have a list of all the different provisions in the area to help parents who are looking where best to place their children with additional needs, for example:

  • bases
  • special schools

Our answer about listing all the different provisions

We will make sure our published Local Offer includes all this information.

Question about community support for post-16 year olds

Community support is important for post-16 year olds, but with autism in particular young people may drop out of school as the stresses of GCSEs and adolescence are too much to cope with. However they may be able to continue education (as opposed to apprenticeships) later. How will this be catered for?

Our answer about community support for post-16 year olds

As part of our Children, Young People and Families Plan one of our priorities is 'Best Education for All'. And this includes developing a wider offer of post-16 options that do not have to be based on academic exams or results.

Question about anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with ASD. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) do not offer a service for these children as it's seen as part of their ASD.

Please can we have access to resources and support to help with ASD children and how to help them?

Our answer about anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Our specialist teachers and educational psychologists (EPs) provide training and support to develop autism spectrum condition (ASC) and anxiety interventions in school. We understand how anxiety presents differently in children with ASC and we're working with CAMHS and health colleagues to broaden their offer too.

Question about understanding the autism spectrum condition (ASC)

ASC understanding is very poor and there's little incentive for mainstream to be inclusive. Early intervention should be a priority.

Please take time to increase understanding of masking, academic ASC children who often shouldn't need EHC plans or ISPs.

Our answer about understanding the ASC

We're working with our special schools to launch a Dorset-wide programme to support schools to support children and young people with ASC and how to support better in the classroom. 

There is also work underway as part of the 'All Age Autism' review to create workforce development and training for all areas. We have been very vocal that needs to include schools as well as health and social care and the wider community.

Question about provision for waiting families

Can we talk less about Covid and more about getting provision in place for the numerous families that are waiting?

Our answer about provision for waiting families

It's a balance; some people feel just as you do, and yet others are still feeling the anxiety and pressure of this period. We're very keen to move on safely.

Question about advice on appropriate placements

Why are professionals dealing with young people not permitted to give advice to parents on which placements are likely to be most appropriate for the individual when these are the individuals with the knowledge of the establishments?

This can cause young people to be placed in an inappropriate placement which then fails and causes further disruption and damage to learning.

Our answer about advice on appropriate placements

Sometimes professionals will know about a small number of places through previous experience of work with that place. Our provision leads will have a more in-depth knowledge of a broader range of settings and provision as that is their role.

It's about getting a balance of taking advice from professionals and what the specific needs of the child are.

Question about schools being more inclusive for children with SEND

What expectations are there on teaching staff and heads of mainstream schools being more inclusive and not delegating anything to do with a SEND child to SENCOs? This would be in line with implementing the Equalities Act; advance the equality of opportunity between people who share protected characteristics and those who do not.

Our answer about schools being more inclusive for children with SEND

We want all our leaders (in schools and other organisations) to be leaders of SEND.

All head teachers will be briefed on the graduated approach and their responsibility in implementing it. 

We are working on training for head teachers and having conversations with our head teacher groups about their responsibility.

Question about CAMHS support

The council has an obligation to support young people up to the age of 25, but CAMHS only support up to the age of 18. How can a more joined-up approach be implemented?

Our answer about CAMHS support

The CAMHS development and transformation plan is to increase the age to 25.

Question about personal budgets (PBs) and education other than at school (EOTAS)

Greater support of PBs and EOTAS would be beneficial to support children that don't fit mainstream or specialist. This route doesn't seem to be well supported.

Our answer about personal budgets (PBs) and education other than at school (EOTAS)

Really keen to further develop the roll-out of PBs. Personal budgets in education, care and health.

Question about link workers

Where can we find information about link workers? Who else is in localities?

Our answer about link workers

Our localities are working on some communication material (postcards) and when these are ready we'll make sure these are shared through schools, GP practices, libraries and so on.

Question about funding for young children with special educational needs (SEN)

Question about funding for under 2s and under 3s with SEN

So why is there no funding for under 2s or under 3s with SEN?

Our answer about funding for under 2s and under 3s with SEN

Early years settings can apply for Early Years SEN Funding and there is some work underway at the moment to ensure that this is fully understood and easy to access.

Question about Development Language Disorder (DLD) in classes

There are 2 to 3 children with DLD in every class. Any chance of getting more Speech and Language Therapists (SALT) and specialist teachers? Dorset specialist teachers have been brilliant with my children; their help just came too late because parental voice in school for early intervention is often not heard.

Our answer about Development Language Disorder (DLD) in classes

Specialist teachers now provide a core early intervention offer which is available to all schools.

Question about schools signing up to our plans

Do you have schools signing up to your plans? What about academies?

Our answer about schools signing up to our plans

We work with all schools and academies. We have a range of schools who are part of the 'Best Education for All' board and on the Emotional Wellbeing Steering group. They are responsible to work with their colleagues.

Question about accessing mental health support for child with ASD

We were advised by a primary head that our child should be excluded in order to access the support he needed as he was in crisis. When we investigated support within the locality team, it wasn't there. Urgent mental health support for ASD. CAMHS had already declined to help.

Our answer about accessing mental health support for child with ASD

I'm sorry to hear this. If you'd like to contact me after this evening we can investigate this for you, email: kath.saunders@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk.

Comment about a good experience around SEN

It does feel as if things are changing for the better in Dorset regarding SEN from my experience. Having had a terrible experience with a previous worker, I now can't give enough thanks to the people that have helped in my son's case. 

Senior leadership have got involved, kept in touch and done what they said they would. Staff have listened and worked with me and the process has been much better. 

I feel very thankful I've had a good experience recently and thanks to everyone involved.

Our answer about a good experience around SEN

This is great to hear. Thank you for this generous feedback.

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