Agenda item


Purpose of the item:


To scrutinise the draft Inclusion and Additional Needs Partnership Strategy, share feedback from the Surrey Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership and receive an update on delivery of the Safety Valve agreement.



Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Education and Learning

Rachael Wardell, Executive Director – Children, Families & Learning

Liz Mills, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

Hayley Connor, Director – CFL Commissioning

Julia Katherine, Assistant Director – Inclusion and Additional Needs 

Daniel Peattie, Strategic Finance Business Partner – CFL

Key points made in the discussion:

1.    The Chairman queried why home to school travel assistance information was not included in the key inspection criteria in the Strategy, despite being in the new area SEND framework. The Assistant Director said the inspection criteria (appendix 4) was cross-referenced with the Strategy. The Chairman asked how success would be measured. The Assistant Director said they hoped the number of appeals and complaints would reduce. There was currently a high number of appeals in Surrey, and a 22% increase in 2022 compared to a 30% increase nationally. The vast majority of appeals ruled in line with the family, and this was seen in the county and nationally. The Director (Education and Lifelong Learning) added that the Council was an outlier in terms of the total number of tribunal cases and appealable decisions. They would agree by Christmas a range of key performance indicators (KPIs) to come to the Committee’s performance subgroup. 


2.    In response to a question on timeliness of completion of EHCPs (9% of those due in July were completed within the 20 weeks), the Director (Education and Lifelong Learning) explained that in the most recent set of figures, which were published annually, the Council were performing above the national average of 60%. A recovery plan was established in the summer following a reduced availability of educational psychologists (EPs) and the Council had since recruited eight assistant EPs. There was a weekly meeting to monitor the recovery process and it was expected timeliness would improve in the new year when newly qualified EPs begin in the role.


3.    A Member asked what the Council was doing to encourage schools not to be afraid to share information on a child’s additional needs if they move, in order to enable a school to make a fully informed decision before admission on whether it is able to fulfil that child’s needs. The Assistant Director said they the Ordinarily Available Provision guidance sets out what SEN support could be put in place for a child from the school’s existing resources without the need for a statutory plan. There is a different process for a new placement when a child has an EHCP, which gives the school three weeks to respond as to whether they can meet the needs set out in the plan.


4.    A Member asked what would indicate a good performance in relation to tribunal cases and what support a child was given in the meantime. The Assistant Director explained success would be a reduction in the number of families that feel they need to take that route. Nationally, 3.7% of tribunal decisions were agreed in line with the local authority; the figures for Surrey were similar. The school remained responsible for continuing support while waiting for the outcome. The Director (Education and Lifelong Learning) added that in general terms, tribunals occur when the Council made a decision that a statutory assessment was not necessary or that a statutory EHCP was not required or  or when parents did not agree with a school placement decision  or when parents feel a section of an EHCP does not accurately describe their child’s needs.


5.    The Chairman queried how the roles and responsibilities of the governance structures linked together. The Executive Director explained that the overarching decision-making responsibility sat with the Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership Board. There were other bodies that did not have overall oversight of the Strategy, however, they did make material decisions impacting children with additional needs, for example Surrey Schools Forum made funding decisions. An addendum could be added to the Strategy to explain the role of each body involved in the governance structure.


6.    In response to a question on the Mindworks neurodevelopmental profiles pilot project, the Assistant Director explained that it was a pilot which ran between November 2021 and March 2022. It was developed, building on a model piloted by Portsmouth City Council and involved profiling a child’s strengths and difficulties to enable support to be put in place at the earliest point, rather than waiting for a neurodevelopmental diagnosis. Evaluation showed that 88% of those involved in the pilot found it useful and it was now being rolled out across all schools in the county. The Member also asked about the extra 1% of funding for mental health in the 2022/23 budget, to which the Cabinet Member responded it had been a one-off precept. The Strategic Finance Business Partner (CFL) explained that the majority of spend on mental health for children would be funded through the Dedicated Schools Grant. 


7.    Responding to a further question on the timeliness of completion of EHCPs, the Executive Director explained that the Council was performing well in the areas that were wholly within their control, with phase 1 above target (86%). The performance then dropped in phase 2 (lower than 9%) as this involved other professional input and much of this from known shortage occupations (such as educational psychologists within the Council, and certain health professionals in the wider system). The Council staff then tried to improve the performance in phase 3 and data showed that this did improve timeliness slightly. The Member expressed concerns about the Mindworks contract. The Executive Director explained the neurodevelopmental pathway was problematic due to the long delays for diagnoses. The Council was working with partners to improve this. The Director (Commissioning) added that the mental health need post-pandemic had increased dramatically, from one in nine children to one in six nationally. Mental health support workers in schools were being rolled out in Surrey.


8.    A Member asked about staffing of the SEN teams. The Director (Education and Learning) explained that 80% of staff were now in place and the recruitment process was being finalised. The Member asked if the gaps were in any particular areas. The Director explained vacancies fell unevenly within the teams and varied at different times.


Actions/requests for information:

1.    The Director of Education and Lifelong Learning to provide a short summary of case studies of where tribunal decisions had been upheld and data on the reasons of cases.


2.    The Strategic Finance Business Partner (CFL) to provide a summary of the Mental Health Investment Fund spend on children and adults. 



1. In order to transform the lives of Surrey children and young people aged 0 to 25 with additional needs and/or disabilities, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning is asked to ensure the Surrey Inclusion and Additional Needs Partnership Strategy 2023-26 reflects the following recommendations before it is referred to Cabinet for agreement:


(a)  Use the evaluation criteria listed at paragraphs 50 - 60 of the Area SEND inspection handbook as a guide to set clear goals, thus benefiting from this document’s extensive consultation process involving parents, teachers, children and young people and other stakeholders.


(b)  Goals outlined in (a) should have specified measurable targets that make it easy to identify whether progress is being made.

Targets should incorporate the following:


i.      Commitments set out in the Safety Valve Agreement;


ii.    Learnings from the Home to School Travel Assistance learning review;


iii.   Action plan resulting from the Additional Needs and Disabilities Partnership’s self-evaluation (referenced on slide 7);


iv.   Human Resources action plan to ensure issues such as EHCP timeliness are not affected by staff shortages.


(c)  Present the Strategy in a way that allows any parent or young person to identify measurable targets at a glance.


(d)  Regarding the Governance Structure laid out in the Strategy (slide 24), aim to avoid any gap in accountability by:


i.      Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each level of governance and who is accountable to whom;


ii.    Identifying precisely how each level will work towards achieving recommendations 1 a-c;


iii.   Explaining how organisations within the same pillar will work together to achieve recommendations 1 a-c, for example the three groups forming ‘Joint Commissioning, Sufficiency & Evaluation’; 


iv.   Ensuring any parent or young person can identify at a glance where different responsibilities sit within the structure. 


(e) Ensure that the website and other digital platforms are used to good effect by:


i.              Developing the webinar series for families on the statutory assessment process so it is an example of best practice;


ii.            Developing webinars on assessment criteria for SENCos to enable them to give well-informed and up-to-date advice.


2.    That Cabinet agree the Surrey Inclusion and Additional Needs Partnership Strategy 2023-26 subject to the changes recommended in 1.


3.    That until further notice the Director for Education and Lifelong

Learning reports, at every formal meeting of the Select Committee, on progress made towards and barriers against achieving recommendations in 1.


Cllr Michaela Martin left the meeting at 2:30pm.

Supporting documents: