How will the new ‘Universal SEND Services’ programme help for learners with SEND?

with Amanda Wright, Deputy Head of Whole School SEND

Earlier this year, The Department for Education announced a funding service to improve SEND training in school and further education workforce, particularly in mainstream. It's aimed at identifying and meeting a broad range of special educational needs, including autism, earlier and more effectively. This includes improving preparation for transitions into adulthood and employment.

"This will be achieved through one contract which will provide SEND-specific Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and support the school and Further Education (FE) workforce to identify and meet a broad range of needs, including autism, earlier and more effectively, and to successfully prepare for transitions into adulthood, including into employment."

DfE Contract page

The contract was awarded to nasen, on behalf of the Whole School SEND Consortium in a strategic partnership with the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) with contributions from the Autism Education Trust and other education partners. I am delighted to have joined a new Advisory Group that will meet to oversee this work.

To explain more about this development and how it hopes to improve SEND training and practice in schools, Amanda Wright, Deputy Head of Whole School SEND has written today's article for SNJ.

What does the new ‘Universal SEND Services’ programme mean for children and young people with SEND? by Amanda Wright, Deputy Head of Whole School SEND

Over the last four years, Whole School SEND (WSS) have been delivering support, training, and resources to enable the school workforce to prioritise and understand their responsibilities in relation to SEND.  

Teaching assistants, SENCOs, class teachers, Governors, head teachers and parents have accessed a wide range of free CPD opportunities, thanks to funding through the DfE SEND Schools Workforce contract.  We know that our colleagues in schools and other settings trust our resources and that we have ‘members’ in every local authority area of England.  

But is this enough?  While we are very proud of how far our reach has grown in four years, we are determined to make sure that this has an impact on children and young people with SEND.

There is now an increased awareness and understanding about SEND within school leadership”  

WSS member survey

How is the training helping disabled children?

It is important the professional development opportunities that we offer are actually making things better for children and young people with SEND in schools.  We love it when we see hundreds of people attending our webinars and thousands of downloads of our resources. But what's really exciting is a teacher explaining how practice has changed in their school, resulting in more inclusive high-quality teaching for learners with SEND. We want our work to help every pupil enjoy learning, achieve well and thrive. To evaluate our work, we gather evidence to see how schools are changing their practice and the resulting positive impact on children and young people with SEND.  

We need to do more-with Universal SEND Services

But we know there is still much more to be done. Too many children and young people with SEND continue not to achieve their ambitions. Not all schools are yet inclusive and welcoming of pupils with SEND. Proposed changes in the SEND and Alternative Provision green paper, if put into practice, will take time, and there are children in our schools and young people in our FE settings who need more and better now.  

This is where the new ‘Universal SEND Services’ programme comes in. It will run from now until 2025, giving us the confidence of knowing that we can work with education staff for the next three years. More importantly, it brings together both support for SEND in schools and across further education, with the ambition of improving preparation for adulthood, from the earliest years, in a seamless, joined-up way.

How it will work

nasen and Whole School SEND have teamed up with the Education and Training Foundation. ETF supports teachers and leaders across the Further Education and Training sector to achieve their professional development goals, for the benefit of learners and employers. We’re also working with the Autism Education Trust (AET), who have a proven track record of supporting and informing education professionals about autism. And, of course, our Advisory Groups will continue to inform us of the priorities of children, young people and their families. This collaborative approach, combined with our learnings from the last four years, is underpinning our plans for the Universal SEND Services programme.

What support will we be offering schools and colleges?

Recently, we published four online learning modules, ‘Ambitious About Inclusion’ that focus on the ‘big picture’: 

  • inclusive ethos and environments, 
  • identifying learners’ strengths and needs, 
  • inclusive curriculum and 
  • preparing for the next phase.  

Within each module are six role-specific ‘routes’ to ensure the learning is both relevant and useful across the schools’ workforce.  To complement this resource, this year we will begin to publish a suite of smaller, ‘bite-size’, online units addressing the barriers most commonly observed in classrooms and other learning environments, regardless of age, label or area of need. 

Online or IRL training?

Teachers tell us they value the efficiency of online learning.  Being able to access CPD without the time, expense and travel constraints of traditional training courses means they can engage with a greater number of sessions.  However, they do miss the opportunities to discuss the learning and how it can be applied in their own school's settings.  Therefore, alongside our online units we will be running live, online sessions with our regional SEND leaders where attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their learning.  We hope this will support teachers and other staff to reflect on their own practice and adapt their approach to better support the children and young people with whom they work.

Evidence that our training is working

Last year, we ran eight Professional Development Groups across the regions and were delighted with the outcomes from these – 100% of participants reported that SEND is now prioritised within school improvement planning. We have lots of examples of the impact on children and young people too. For example, accelerated progress in reading, and reductions in negative behaviour points given out. We felt strongly that we wanted to continue, and extend this work if possible. Fortunately, DfE agreed with us, so there will be further opportunities in each of the three years for teachers and school leaders to be part of these groups.  

WSS will be offering peer mentoring support to school leaders in schools that received a judgment of Requires Improvement at their last Ofsted inspection, where SEND was identified as an area for development. We really hope that headteachers and others will value this opportunity to engage with the rich SEND leadership expertise in our regional team, and that this will translate over time into improved provision and outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

Our regional SEND leaders will continue to build and develop networks to share the expertise and good practice that exists in the system.  Over the next three years, we are looking to extend these networks even further by joining up the whole community including parent/family groups.  If this is something you would like to learn more about, sign up to receive the WSS e-news through our website.

What will this mean for your child in school or college?

The aim of the Universal SEND Services programme is for all children and young people with SEND to attend education settings where:

  • Leaders prioritise SEND in their improvement plans by acknowledging that SEND is everybody’s responsibility.  
  • The education and opportunities for children and young people with SEND are built into every policy, not added in afterwards.  
  • School and college leaders consider preparation for adulthood from the earliest stages when designing the curriculum and through other opportunities.
  • They are taught by professionals who are reflective in their approach to meeting the wide range of needs in their class.
  • Teachers are better equipped to identify needs earlier and can adapt their teaching to address and support these needs effectively.
  • The expertise of parents and the voice of the learner is valued to pursue a truly co-produced educational experience.

We are excited about continuing our work to support colleagues in schools and FE settings to identify and meet needs effectively, leading to improved preparation for adulthood.   Your child may well attend a setting which is already engaged with the work of WSS.  Why not ask? The Universal SEND Services programme will be free to access for all schools and colleges.  So, make sure that your child’s school or FE setting knows about this offer!  They can find out everything they need to know about accessing this CPD on our website

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