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What is the ‘Universal SEND Services’ programme and how will it support you?

Universal Services

Author: Alex Grady, Head of Education and Whole School SEND, nasen

You are probably aware of the work that Whole School SEND (WSS) has been delivering through funding from the DfE over the last few years – you might have attended a webinar, used one of our resources or linked up with your regional team. We were able to offer these opportunities through the SEND Schools’ Workforce contract from 2018-2022, and we know that they were very well received and have already started to have impact for children and young people with SEND:

  • Over 95% of people were satisfied with WSS’s services
  • Thousands of professionals made changes to their own practice and/or the practice of others after engaging with WSS services
  • More inclusive high quality teaching, a more inclusive ethos and earlier, more accurate identification of SEN have been reported, at least in part as a result of those changes

But there is still much more to be done – too many children and young people with SEND continue not to achieve their ambitions, and not all schools are yet inclusive and welcoming of pupils with SEND. The proposals in the SEND and Alternative Provision green paper, if put into practice, will help us to move in the right direction – but that will take time, and there are children in our schools and young people in our colleges and other 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 you for the next three years. More importantly, it brings together support for SEND in schools with support for SEND across further education, with the ambition of improving preparation for adulthood and all that that entails, from the earliest years, in a seamless, joined up way. It is also linking this work with the work in schools that the Autism Education Trust (AET) has been delivering very successfully for some years, in the bid to join up the SEND system, which can only be a good thing for everyone.

In order to do this, nasen and Whole School SEND have joined forces with the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), who support teachers and leaders across the Further Education and Training sector to help them achieve their professional development goals for the benefit of learners and employers, as well as the AET, who support and inform education professionals about autism. We also continue to be informed by the priorities of children, young people and their families through our Advisory Groups.

This year, AET will continue to offer their highly regarded and effective education programme for schools; ETF will continue to work mainly with the FE sector, including through their well respected Centres for Excellence in SEND; and WSS will continue to work mainly with schools, offering a range of professional development opportunities. Over the year, we will be drawing more closely together, as we share learning and understanding across the sectors; much of what we offer will be suitable for professionals both in schools and in FE. We hope that people who use our services will start to think about how we can all work together for the benefit of our learners with SEND, from school to FE and beyond.

So what support will we be offering? 
You may have seen our recently published online modules, ‘Ambitious About Inclusion’, four in-depth modules with differentiated routes for different roles, which focus on the ‘big picture’: inclusive ethos and environments, identifying learners’ strengths and needs, inclusive curriculum and preparing for the next phase. This year, we will begin to publish a suite of smaller, ‘bite size’ online units which will complement these modules really well – the new units will take a ‘knowledge of the learner as an individual’ and ‘barriers to learning’ approach, addressing the barriers most commonly observed in classrooms and other learning environments regardless of age, label or area of need, such as working memory, attention and so on. This may be familiar to you if you have used our Teacher Handbook: SEND. There will be a ‘PfA’ and ‘autism’ lens applied to all units, to ensure that these crucial areas are embedded effectively.

We know that engaging with online learning can be really helpful, but that lots of people will also want to be able to contextualise the learning for themselves, and have the opportunities to ask questions and discuss it – for this reason, we will also be offering lots of live sessions with our regional SEND leaders, where you can do just that – look out for more information in our WSS member e-newsletters and on our Webinars booking page.

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 impact on children too, including for example, accelerated progress in reading and reductions in negative behaviour points given out. We knew that this was something that we wanted to continue with and extend if possible and DfE agreed with us – so there will be further opportunities in each of the three years to apply to be a part of one of these groups.

WSS will be offering peer mentoring support to school leaders in schools which 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 we have in our team of Regional SEND Leaders, and that this will translate over time into improved provision and outcomes for children and young people with SEND.

Our SEND Leaders will continue to work across their regions to build and develop networks, including through working with local authorities, MATs and Teaching Schools Hubs, to share the expertise and good practice that exists in the system so that everyone can benefit from it. If you haven’t yet linked up with your regional team, now is the time to do so! They will also be looking to extend these networks even further this year, by joining up the whole community including young people themselves, FE settings, parent/family groups, health colleagues and all others with an interest in SEND in a locality.

Over the year, we also plan to facilitate action research and lesson study specifically for SEND, some of which will feed into our ‘innovation for SEND’ programme too, so that successful, small scale projects can be trialled more widely with the aim that everyone will be able to benefit from evidence-informed practice.

We have produced many resources over the last few years, and now have a large catalogue available to everyone at no cost; however, some resources will benefit from an update through this programme, others will be extended/added to, and others will have exemplification materials produced. This is all to add value to our existing resources, and to help you to contextualise them for your own settings.

For support from the ETF’s Centres for Excellence in SEND contact,  and find out about AET’s support for schools here.

We hope that you are as excited about how we can support you as we are, and that you will engage with as much of our offer as you can. We always welcome feedback, questions, comments etc – just contact if you would like to get in touch.