Skip to main content

Developing and sustaining an effective local SEND system

A practical guide for councils and partners

Authors: Ben Bryant and Beth Swords

In recent years, there has been an increasing public focus on the nature and quality of support provided to children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND). It is a certainly a welcome development that public debates, in both policy circles and the media, are increasingly considering how effectively services support children and young people with additional needs. Often, however, these debates centre on the challenges that local services face in providing the right support at the right time. From our discussions with local councils and their partners through this project, and our wider work with local areas across England, there was a strong view that local areas are feeling considerable pressure and facing significant challenges in providing the support needed by young people with SEND.

The aims of this project are not, however, to detail those challenges. In part, that is because other pieces of work have been undertaken or are underway that are seeking to describe and evidence those challenges, and to influence the way in which they might be redressed. (For example, we are carrying out a parallel research project commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) to detail the nature of the funding pressures on local area’s resources for children and young people with SEND and high needs.) In part, this is because there is also an important role for a complementary piece of work, which takes the current system and its challenges as they are. This project seeks to consider what partners in local areas can do at the level of the local system to establish and sustain effective practice in identifying needs, providing support, using existing resources to best effect, and achieving the best outcomes for children and young people with SEND. In much of our work on SEND and inclusion, we often find local areas contending with a similar set of challenges. Furthermore, in many of the local areas with whom we have work, we have come across effective initiatives and projects to address those challenges. Often, however, there are few opportunities for leaders from local areas to come together to share promising approaches to addressing common challenges.

For this reason, the LGA commissioned Isos Partnership to undertake a project to work with local councils and their partners to:

a. draw together what partners in local areas have done to develop and sustain effective, system-level approaches to supporting young people with SEND;

b. from these approaches, distil some key practical messages that could be used by partners in local areas across the country, adapted to their local circumstances and priorities; and

c. share, develop and refine these key messages formatively and iteratively through co-productive discussions with leaders from local areas across the country.