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Enhancing partnership working and parent confidence through Valuing SEND in Cornwall

How Cornwall Council are using Valuing SEND to cultivate a reciprocal relationship with multi academy trusts, whilst increasing parental confidence in mainstream SEND support.


Tracey Foster is a SENDco at Trenode Church of England Primary Academy in Cornwall. She has been using the Valuing SEND approach to engage sensitively and proactively with families when planning support for children and young people with SEND.

For Tracey, the most powerful thing about using Valuing SEND has been its impact on conversations about need and she has been using the tool from the earliest point in a child or young person’s journey.

She has used the tool to support conversations with parents and carers, to demonstrate a child’s level of need, and provide them with confidence that the school can indeed meet these needs comfortably with their day-to-day provision and high-quality teaching. The school has impressive setting readiness scores that the whole team are proud of. Using Valuing SEND right from the beginning of the child’s journey has cemented strong relationships with parents and carers and is helping to build their trust in mainstream education.

What is Valuing SEND?

Valuing SEND is an approach that maps the unique needs of a child or young person with SEND alongside the support a setting is planning to provide for them, making it clear where needs can be met, and where further training or support might be required.

“It takes families gently on what can be a difficult and emotional journey. The tool enables non-judgemental conversations that clearly demonstrate needs. We should be doing this from day 1 in a child’s journey. I’ve recently been able to reassure one family that yes, their son had needs, but they can trust us to understand and meet those needs well.”

Tracey Foster, SENCo at Trenode Church of England Primary Academy, Cornwall


85% of schools in Cornwall are now academies. Cornwall Council’s SEND services recognise that this has changed the way they need to support children and young people’s learning. They have challenged themselves to create an offer that gives academy leaders agency and autonomy whilst providing support and challenge. Gone are the days of telling schools they must conform to the local authority way; Cornwall are creating a real offer of support that is reciprocal in nature and is needs led.

At the heart of this new approach is Valuing SEND, which is being rolled out across the county. The local authority is encouraging as many schools as possible to get involved. As well providing this tool to enable practitioners to meet needs better, the team in Cornwall have collected a set of aggregated data that they are using strategically to map needs across the county and plan targeted support for teachers and SENDcos. It is informing their training offer and opening up a dialogue with multi-academy trusts that is leading to better, targeted support. Tracey agrees this is a practical, useful way the local authority can support trusts to have better conversations about SEND.


Tracey has a group of children and young people in school who present with similar behaviours and she is keen to use Valuing SEND to better understand the individual needs of each child to ensure support planning is as effective as possible.

Trenode Academy already has impressive setting readiness scores and the head teacher and staff team are enthusiastic about the approach. Tracey plans to use the setting readiness scores to work strategically to strengthen inclusive practice even further, supporting staff members in their vital day to day work, supporting children and young people with SEND and their families.

Next steps

When the idea of Valuing SEND was first conceived, by practitioners, parents, policy makers and professionals across three county councils, everyone involved was excited at the prospect that aggregated data might be used to plan county wide support for schools and teachers, providing them with what they actually need. Cornwall are getting to a point where this is becoming a reality. In the next year they plan to develop their use of the Valuing SEND approach in the following ways:

  1. Thorough moderation of scores is planned to ensure that a ‘5’ in one local area replicates a ‘5′ elsewhere. The plan is to bring practitioners together for supportive huddles and strengths-based discussions in order to share best practice.
  2. Aggregated needs data is going to be used to inform the council’s learning and development offer, ensuring that services are providing the tools and resources that schools need to meet the specific, local needs of children and young people in Cornwall.
  3. Wider roll out of Valuing SEND to all schools in Cornwall in an effort to have a county wide picture of need that will further focus this strategic approach to support planning.