Guest blogpost from Pauline Melvin-Anderson OBE, Director of Learning, Inclusion and Skills, Derby City Council
Last week I was pleased to be asked to share Derby’s journey in relation to Early Intervention in SEND, at an IMPOWER Shared Learning Event. Over the last few years, Derby has been working to establish a new vision for our children with SEND: ‘Living my best life’. Like many local areas, we’re facing rising demand and budget pressures, and it’s a priority for us to make sure we – ‘the system’ – are seeing and supporting need as early as possible to avoid escalation.
Through the work we’re doing with IMPOWER we have made strides in the development of our early intervention offer, including setting up the Derby SEND Advice Line – ‘Derby SAL’.
Our diagnostic activity showed really clearly that we could do more to support our settings, bringing people together to make sense of the system – from improving the graduated approach, Local Offer and education, health and care plans (EHCPs). We are a year into our journey and, with just two members of staff, Derby Sal has:
- Supported 514 children and worked with 90% of schools in Derby
- Improved confidence of SEN Co-ordinators (SENCOs)
- Through a focus on: ‘right support, in the right place, at the right time’, reduced the need for EHC assessment requests
Here are some of the key themes that I pulled out from our learning and discussion at the event:
- CPD for settings – finding ways to work closely with settings to understand their challenges, and what knowledge or practice development is needed to support them. Identifying opportunities to build their network, enabling them to support children to get the ‘right support, in the right place, at the right time’. Derby SAL has been a real source of intelligence and practical help, and there are many further opportunities for Derby SAL to become a fulcrum of workforce development.
- Test and learn approach, informed by data – early intervention needs to evolve in the same way the needs of children do. We need to use our data to understand these changes, what support is working, in addition to how interventions can be improved and developed, and where we need more preventative focus. In turn, making decisions about what this means for re-focusing resources. Again, the requests received through Derby SAL, and the impact of the support provided, gives us a constant pulse check on what’s working where, or not.
- Multi-agency approach – to deliver prevention and early intervention requires us to work closely with partners and professionals across the system – working towards families’ needs, as opposed to fitting their needs to services. We know there are resource challenges for specialist services and teams, so it is important that these approaches build capacity, share knowledge and skills, allowing children to benefit before things escalate.
Our discussion showed that early intervention in SEND can take many simple or innovative forms. One of my questions is: how do we support the early intervention and the graduated approach without creating new dependencies, expectations or demand in the system? I believe incorporating these three themes will support us to avoid dependencies and allow us to continue re-investing in the system to improve outcomes for our children and young people with SEND.