SEND Improvement Programme: February 2021

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Sally takes on new county wide role at Cumbria County Council

Sally Senejko

Sally Senejko has recently taken on county-wide responsibility for SEND services following Mary Mulligan's retirement. Here she tells us about her involvement in the SEND Improvement Programme and her priorities for her new role.

"Following Mary's retirement in November we took the opportunity to reframe the Management role in order to give more focused priority to children and young people with SEND and their families in Cumbria. We have split responsibility by need rather than geographical area to provide a more focused approach and to drive down the geographical inequalities we know exist in Cumbria. To that end, Di Routledge now has overall responsibility for Children with Disabilities Social Care, and I have overall responsibility for SEND services within Cumbria County Council.

"This forms part of a wider SEND team restructure, which I'm delighted to say is now complete, and we will share full details of this on the Local Offer soon. We're also busy recruiting to vacant positions to make sure we have a full and effective team.

"Within the SEND Improvement Programme I chair a working group looking at how to improve SEN support within schools. We are starting a very exciting piece of work - the Whole School Send Project, and you can read more about that later in this newsletter.

"Lastly I wanted to share with you that Alex Nancollis, the Designated Clinical Officer for SEND, and I will be scheduling some regular catch-up meetings with parents in the near future, giving us all an opportunity to work together to make things better. Details of how to get involved in these meetings will be in future newsletters, and I look forward to working with parents and carers to continue to improve SEND services across the county."

Sally Senejko

SEND Service Senior Manager


New Positive Behavioural Support website provides resources and information

PBS logo

The North East and Cumbria positive behavioural support steering group has worked with a number of partners across the health and care sector and with Northumbria University to create a range of accredited learning programmes in Positive Behavioural Support for the North East and North Cumbria. They say

"The PBS approach is becoming a way of life across health, education and social care in the North East and North Cumbria. We have developed a new website that builds on the previous North East North Cumbria PBS website. It is dynamic, innovative and has accessible content that brings together all the PBS work from across the region."

The new website includes:

  • Support for health, education and social care around PBS with useful information, resources and best practice.
  • Support for families around PBS with useful information and resources.
  • A PBS Coalition section for those who have completed the university programmes to manage sharing of resources and best practice.
  • Information around upcoming events, courses and latest news and resources published.

The new website has lots of information and resources for families and can be found here


Your questions answered - with Sian Rees

Strategic Lead for the SEND Improvement Programme

Q&A

Parents asked for the Q&A section to become a regular newsletter feature, to find out what you want to know from the programme's senior leaders.

In our December Newsletter we asked if you had any questions for Sian Rees, Strategic Lead for the SEND improvement programme. Here she answers your questions...

How long has the Ofsted programme got left to go? Who will monitor things once it is finished to make sure things don’t go back into the old ways?

An inspection re-visit is expected to take place within 18 months of the Written Statement of Action being approved as set out in the inspection framework – this was on 18 October 2019 and so the re-visit should take place before 18 April 2021. However, even before the pandemic the programme of re-inspections was running several months behind and since March last year inspections across a range of services have been suspended which is likely to cause further delay.

The re-visit will assess if ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in each of the nine areas of significant weakness; for those areas where sufficient progress has been made there will be no further monitoring by the DfE/NHS. If there are any areas where progress is not felt to be sufficient an Accelerated Progress Plan will be required which will continue to be monitored.  Improvement is an ongoing process and the SEND partners in Cumbria are committed to maintaining a programme of continuous improvement for the long term, recognising that to establish, embed and sustain the improvement required will take a number of years.

I get the newsletters and am happy to see that there is now a Facebook page for information and tips. Whenever I talk to anyone about my son’s autism they are always very understanding but everything takes such a long time. My question is will there be more people employed to help make things happen faster and reduce waiting times (this is for schools but also for things like speech therapy)?

It's good to hear that the newsletter and new Facebook page are useful – any feedback on these will always be welcomed. Waiting times for services is one important performance measure and we are measuring these where we have the data to ensure there is improvement. One example is the waiting time for Children Adolescent Mental Health Service’s (CAMHS) in which we are pleased has reduced significantly in north Cumbria. Where we don’t have this information at the moment we will include it as part of the contract for therapy services when these are revised.    

What assurances can you give parents that the health system and schools will work properly together in the future so that things don’t take so long and children won’t continue to be passed around the system like a pass the parcel without actually receiving any help?

Health and school leaders are meeting together to discuss these concerns, many of which are described in the letter from Ofsted following the inspection. Information about the pathway into services has been shared with schools so that access to the right support is clearer. Some examples of the work taking place to support more effective joint working is the programme of online SENCo Networks,  a SEND ‘Toolkit’ for professionals and between January and March this year a programme with the National Association for Special Needs on effective SEND support in schools.


DCO video

Call for questions for Alex Nancollis - Designated Clinical Officer

Alex is Cumbria's designated clinical officer (DCO) for SEND, and she helps families navigate the health system and works with the SENDIAS service and other partners. You can view a short video from Alex about her role here

Alex will be answering questions for the next newsletter. You can send your questions on 'health and additional needs/disabilities' to Alex via Hayley Stewart here


All of Us forums for young people move online during Covid

All of Us

Groups for children and young people with SEND have moved online during Covid and continue to provide support and friendship during periods of lockdown

The three All of Us groups normally meet across the county, to give young people a chance to discuss what's happening in their education, what is going well and what they would like to change. The groups' work also fits into the SEND improvement plan as they are able to feedback their thoughts and any issues of concern to the ‘Co-production and Engagement’ working group.

The three All of Us groups have now moved online and have continued to meet as one whole forum throughout lockdown. Recent discussions have covered issues such as mental health, the Duke of Edinburgh award, time with friends, independence, bullying and work experience.

The forums are open to any young people who have SEND whether they have an EHCP or not, and most who attend are between the ages of 11 and 21.

If you are, or know of any young people who might want to get involved the next sessions (both following the same agenda) will be held via Microsoft Teams on

Monday 10th March 4:30 – 5:30pm and Monday 17th March 2-3pm

Please email liz.wright@cumbria.gov.uk for more details or to register


Young people put out a call for help to make SEND information jargon free

Young people's All of Us forums are doing some work around making the world of SEND services more accessible for everyone by rooting out jargon and making things easier to understand.

During 2021 they will be looking at 'preparation for adulthood' and words used by schools and services around that issue. It is important that everyone communicates in a clear way that can be understood so the All of Us forums are asking people to send them any 'preparation for adulthood' words they feel are 'jargon' or need explaining.

One example given is the word Transition - one of the All of Us Group suggested that Transition could be better explained as Next step or Moving on.

The group would love your support with this and if you or your children/young people have any jargon or hard to understand words to suggest please send them through to liz.wright@cumbria.gov.uk by 1st March.


Work underway to update Cumbria's Local Offer website

Local offer signpost

Cumbria's 'Local Offer' is the term used for the collection of services and support that Cumbria has available to children and young people with SEND and their families.

The Local Offer website is the 'shop window' for these services and support, and following feedback from children and young people and their families, work is underway to make it more accessible.

Families identified areas where improvements could be made, such as content, navigation, interactivity and appearance of the website. Watch this space for future announcements, and if you would like to give feedback on the Local Offer website or join the group of parents, carers and young people who are helping to make this important resource better please contact Hayley Stewart for more information here.

There is also a Local Offer Facebook page. Set up towards the end of last year it regularly shares information, sources of support and general SEND tips. Check out the page and give it a 'like' here.


New social prescribing service LINK provides personalised solutions

Link logo

A new service to help children and young people struggling with their emotional health has been launched in some parts of North and West Cumbria.

The LINK service, a joint initiative between Barnardo’s and several local Primary Care Networks, is available to those aged between 5 and 19 years of age who live and/or go to school in the Penrith, Eden, Keswick, Solway, Longtown or Brampton areas, and offers social prescribing - a non-medical solution that provides a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and managing some of the issues young people face today.

Children and young people who may be struggling with issues such as anxiety, low mood, loneliness or stress from relationship difficulties with family and friends, can be referred into the LINK service by GPs and health professionals, schools and other supporting organisations.

LINK workers from Barnardo’s meet with each young person and work with them and their support network over a period of time, personalising the approach to the needs of each individual.

The specialist LINK workers provide practical and emotional support, helping to build confidence and identify strengths, worries and things in young people’s lives that they are struggling with. They provide them with strategies and tools to deal with these issues and work towards achieving goals, as well as connecting young people to wellbeing-boosting services within their local communities and other additional support as required.

The service has been co-designed with local children of primary and secondary school ages, who were involved with recruitment, branding and advising on service aims and delivery.

The LINK service is currently available to young people living in North and West Cumbria, within the Penrith and Eden, Keswick and Solway, Longtown and Brampton areas. Initially the service will work predominantly with children and young people who have been identified by GP’s and school pastoral leads in requiring support to help manage their emotional health and wellbeing.

Steve Oversby, Regional Director for Barnardo’s North said:

“Now more than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential that services such as LINK are available to support young people and their wellbeing. We would encourage anyone who thinks they could benefit from this service to speak with a health professional or their school and get in touch with us.”

Dr Richard Massey, Clinical Director of the Keswick and Solway Primary Care Network, said:

“This is an opportunity to support children and young people to feel empowered and to engage with support services and activities that will improve their health and wellbeing. We hope that the impacts of the service will have benefit for children and young people now, which will continue into adulthood.”

To ask for further details about the LINK service please email linkcumbria@barnardos.org.uk.


Exciting new project launches to improve SEND support in Cumbria's schools

Whole school send logo

The Whole School SEND Consortium brings together schools, organisations and individuals who are committed to ensuring that every child and young person with SEND can achieve their potential at school.

The Whole School SEND Consortium is delivering the Department for Education SEND Schools’ Workforce Support Contract, and a trial, funded by the Education Endowment Fund is bringing together schools, organisations and individuals who are committed to ensuring that every child and young person with SEND can maximise their potential. 

Cumbria is excited to be part of this project, which works across schools to help them to meet the need of SEN support pupils through a toolkit of support and interventions which will help to ensure consistent, high quality support in school for all children and young people at the SEN support level of need. The project kicked off in January with a briefing to Headteachers, SEN Governors and SENCO’s and will deliver 7 sessions over the coming months, focusing on SEND reviewer training, teaching strategies and sustainability of the SEND school offer, all while working to create first rate tools and practices to be used for SEN support across the whole county.


And finally...

virtual meeting

a message from the whole SEND Improvement Programme team.

As the months go by in this pandemic and the lockdown continues, we want to acknowledge the additional anxieties and pressures faced by many of our SEND families, and to assure you that we will work together to continue to support you through this difficult time. 

We want to assure you that we remain committed to delivering the improvements which we know are vital to ensure Cumbria does it's very best for children and young people with SEND and their families.

You can find information and support here, We wish you and your family all the very best, and hope that the coming months bring warmer days and happier times for everyone.