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Inclusive Sensory Environment

Who are the local authority SEND teams? And what do they do for children for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities? In this blog, Dr Tracy Laverick at Leeds Trinity University dives into these questions and shares insights into her latest research project, Gaining the Views of Local Authority SEND Officers.

Every local authority (LA) area has a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) assessment team whose role it is to ensure that the statutory assessment process is completed in line with the Children and Families Act 2014 to issue Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for children and Young People.

Over recent years there has been a significant focus on gaining the views of families on their experience of the local authority teams and it is often not favourable. Parental surveys report that SEND teams can be difficult contact and staff appear to have limited understanding of law. Parents feel that you must fight to gain any support for their child. As the pilot phase of this research was being conducted the SEND Green Paper consultation was released, it reiterated this view describing ‘a vicious cycle of late intervention, low confidence and inefficient resource allocation’ (p11) with increasing tribunals and poor parent confidence in the SEND systems.

This pilot research conducted by Leeds Trinity University has examined what the situation looks like from the SEND team perspective with the aim of improving services for parents and children. Staff from a LA SEND team completed a short survey with a combination of Likert scale and open response questions. Following a development event and amendments informed by the pilot, this research will be rolled out within a large area in England, with up to 15 local authority areas completing the online survey to see if findings from the pilot study are common across multiple local authorities. These will then be reported and open to peer review.

Due to this being a pilot piece of research it is not yet possible to report on wider themes, however this initial pilot has already led to a range of positive actions. The pilot authority has engaged in feedback events for all staff to discuss the findings and taken the time to reflect on the good practice identified. They have also developed an action plan to implement changes based on the findings, and how these relate to the SEND Green Paper proposals. As initial steps they are focussing on reviewing the range of communication methods with families and developing a training programme for all staff.

The SEND Teams are the administrators of a complex and emotional process for families. The pilot SEND team were motivated to deliver and improve the experience for children and families and to put in the time and resources needed to address any issues raised and develop the team further. This research aims to do that on a regional scale, disseminating good practice and leading to increased parental confidence when engaging with local authority SEND Teams.