ESSEX County Council (ECC) has become an Improvement Partner for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services with funding from the Department for Education (DfE) to work with Devon County Council (DCC).

The councils’ combined experiences will enable the new partnership to focus on the effective organisational design for SEND services, as well as SEND sufficiency and inclusion strategies.

The partnership follows an assessment by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which identified four areas for improvement in our SEND services.

The two councils will work together on a number of areas within DCC's SEND improvement programme. The wider programme aims to improve communications, embed local SEND arrangements and address the timeliness and quality of Education Health and Care (EHC) plans.

DCC welcomed a visit by NHS England and the DfE in October to review its Accelerated Progress Plan, which details how the authority is addressing the areas identified by Ofsted and the CQC.

DCC have also listened to families and committed to an ambitious whole system transformation that looks at the entire SEND experience.

ECC’s involvement marks a significant boost to the plan. Since 2019, they have been on its own SEND transformation journey, with a series of initiatives to improve experiences for children and young people with SEND, as well as their families.

As a result, they have seen considerable advancements in the quality of EHC plans, including accurate approaches to identifying needs and the development of an early intervention offer.

A visit by Ofsted and the CQC in 2022 found they had made significant improvements to all previously identified weaknesses.

Stuart Collins, the new Director of Children and Young People’s Futures at Devon County Council, said: 'The Department for Education’s support, both in holding us to account and in supporting us to improve, is invaluable.

'We’re looking to deliver system-wide change, and to do that we need to look at how others have achieved it. I’m therefore pleased to be welcoming Essex County Council as our improvement partner.

'We need to create a better system so children and young people with SEND can thrive every day.'