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SEND Transformation

Cambridgeshire SEND Transformation Programme

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Transformation Programme is a highly aspirational plan for improvements to SEND across Cambridgeshire. It started in 2020 and will continue until 2026.

We want the best for all our children in Cambridgeshire. Children and young people with SEND remain at the centre of all we do.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know that there are areas of SEND in Cambridgeshire that require improvement including special school places, Education Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) processes, SEN Support, information sharing and building confidence in the system.

Alongside these identified areas, the County Council has a deficit on its high-needs block funding, the element of funding allocated to support special needs. This is expected to rise if we continue with this current growth. Our level of funding has not kept pace with our growth in demand for services and we have seen a significant increase in the complexity of the need. This has increased dramatically following the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenge is compounded by our schools being under funded compared to our statistical neighbours.

Cambridgeshire is an inclusive county; many schools demonstrate commitment to inclusion in mainstream schools; we have a significantly low number of permanent exclusions and Cambridgeshire special schools work in close partnership with the Local Authority to meet rising demand. However, the demand rate means we cannot continue with our existing arrangements and need to consider better ways to deliver better outcomes. It is not a programme of cutting support but looking to support children in different ways in their local community.

If we are unable to change the way we deliver, the prospect of cuts to services is inevitable.

The SEND Transformation Programme therefore seeks to review all aspects of services funded from the high-needs block, ensuring we deliver the same or better outcomes using the resources we have available.

In March 23, Cambridgeshire entered into a Safety Valve agreement [Size: 253 KB, File: PDF] with the Department for Education (DfE). This is a programme to provide additional resources to Local Authorities so they can be sustainable in their funding and expenditure. The DfE view is that we are experiencing higher increases and levels of spending in the following areas (relative to similar authorities):

  • Growth in demand of overall EHCP numbers over the last 3 years.
  • Increases in the relative levels of spending linked to EHCPs.
  • Post 16 numbers and associated spending.
  • Demand and spending on specialist places in the independent sector.

These areas coincided with the key areas of our SEND Transformation Programme, and we are working with the DfE to deliver a sustainable position for our children and young people without impairing their education.

Our SEND Transformation Programme first began in 2020 with the following objectives:

  • investing in early years and earlier prevention
  • embedding a focus on outcomes
  • developing a system-wide view and working with partners to shape and deliver change
  • measuring and sharing our impact.

The key areas of focus are:

  • Developing Capacity: Ensuring we can provide the right support, at the right time for the right cost, including a significant increase in special school places across Cambridgeshire.
  • SEND Support and Ordinarily Available Provision: Designing a SEND support professional, web-based toolkit to support a shared understanding of mainstream provision expectations.
  • Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) Improvement Plan: Improve timeliness, quality, and confidence in the system and increased transparency in decision-making.
  • Preparing for Adulthood: Ensuring young people can access high-quality transitions and provisions to promote independence and wellbeing.
  • Outreach Model: To facilitate supporting pupils with SEND in mainstream provision through Special Schools outreach.
  • Banding and Descriptors of Need: Bring clarity to the graduated approach with consistent understanding and planning to meet needs across school types.
  • Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH): Achieving positive outcomes for children experiencing SEMH needs while remaining in mainstream education.
  • System Leadership: Embedding a strengths-based, person-centred approach to enable positive, sustainable change.
  • Case Management System: Implementation of a new case management system including online parent portals for EHCPs.
  • Review our Behaviour Attendance Improvement Partnerships with Secondary Schools: A review of arrangements to bring greater clarity to funding, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Panel Redesign: Developing consistent, transparent, strengths-based multi-agency decision making.
  • Tuition: A review to ensure the appropriate use of tuition packages, promoting reintegration back into school placements
  • Increasing Independence: Targeted reviews to ensure provision is proportionate, meets needs and promotes independence.
  • Enhanced Resource Bases: Confirming the commissioning arrangements for Enhanced Resource Bases and developing the Cambridgeshire offer.
  • SEND Transport: Review, rationalise and re-tender SEND Transport.
  • Early Years: To provide a more cohesive and comprehensive SEND Support offer to early years children.
  • Budget Reviews: A review ensuring value for money and aligned to support SEND Transformation Principles.
  • Tribunals: Review of tribunal process and allocated resources.

We have identified several areas for improvement and initiated projects to address these. Some of these areas will be subject to a consultation process. Others are simply not suitable for co-production and will focus on internal systems and processes. We will, however, work through all the workstreams with parent/carers to understand the impact and ensure they are clear.

The SEND Transformation Programme has been working with key stakeholders to get early feedback and help design areas of work. We intend to engage more widely as the workstreams emerge over the next 2 years.

Engagement with parent and carers so far:

  • The programme was introduced at the Pinpoint conference, with a keynote session from Jon Lewis on 21 June 2022 and SEND Support/Ordinarily Available Provision session on 22 June 2022.
  • Parents working with professionals’ participation sessions on the 27, 28 April and 11 May 2022.
  • Transportation participation session 18 October 2022.
  • Pinpoint’s regular ‘Meet the Head of Service sessions’ (3 times each term) provide an opportunity to raise issues directly with the Local Authority.
  • We will communicate with you via the SEND Information Hub, the SEND Ordinarily Available Provision Toolkit and via schools.
  • The new Local Offer was launched in May 2023.
  • EHCP improvement – Emma Harkin the new Head of SEND Service 0-25 started 1 December 2023 and is working with the Service to improve performance.
  • We will review and update these pages every term.

Co-production with parent, carers and young people is a core aim of our practice within the Local Authority. We have engaged directly with parent, carers, and young people in the following ways:

  • The SEND Transformation Programme was introduced at the Pinpoint Conference on 21st June 2022.
  • The Local Offer has been re-launched and renamed as the ‘SEND Information Hub’ – Pinpoint parent and carer forum have been heavily involved in this.
  • System Navigation – Links to Local Offer ‘SEND Information Hub’ and parent and carers’ experience of accessing information and support.
  • Parent and carer attendance at various SEN Boards and multi-agency Quality Assurance audits for Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs).
  • Planned focus groups for the autumn term 2022 included a face-to-face workshop.
  • EHCP Improvement Plan – review of complaints and communications.
  • Termly parent and carer communication via schools.
  • Partners in Commissioning presentations and progress updates.
  • Communications, Participation and Engagement Strategy developed.
  • Co-production through commissioning exercises.

  • Regular engagement with the Speak Out Council.
  • Voiceability attendance at SEND Partnership Group meetings.
  • Pupil surveys.
  • Engagement in the East of England Forum, with the hope to set up a Cambridgeshire Children and Young People Forum in 2024.

We have worked to shape the initial programme with our key stakeholders including Health, Social Care, the Department for Education (DfE), and school leaders. We have also looked at practice in other Local Authorities.

No, we are seeking to provide the same or better outcomes by targeting our resources more effectively.

No, we are looking to avoid the need to go through the EHCP process by providing support earlier than we currently do.

No, we are seeking to review all areas of support to ensure it is appropriate to each child’s needs.

Department for Education (DfE) guidance explicitly states that safety valve programmes are “not a cost-cutting exercise.” 34 Local Authorities either have safety valve agreements or are negotiating the details and 55 are part of a financial sustainability programme. 60% of other Local Authorities are overspent on their high-needs block funding. Our aim is to make transformational improvements to services.

We have campaigned hard over the last three years to get recognition for the challenges faced in Cambridgeshire. This has included meeting ministers on three occasions. The prospects for further school funding look bleak and we are considering how parent/carers can best support us with this challenge we face. We have briefed Councillors and will met MPs in autumn 2022 to share the issues we face.

Pinpoint is not allowed to lobby or petition but they do raise your concerns loudly and clearly to the Local Authority (directly) and nationally to ministers (via the National Network of Parent Carer Forums). Contact for Families, who administers the Forum grants for the Department of Education (DfE), have a lobbying arm and can help anyone wishing to campaign.

How to Get Involved

Pinpoint Sessions

Participation sessions are advertised through the Pinpoint events pages.

We want to hear from you. If you would like to get involved, please email: