Learning Disability Today
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Like all frontline services, Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provisions are coming under increased financial pressure. An improving awareness of different educational needs, a drive for early identification, and an increasing pupil population has to contend with these budget cuts that will result in nearly a billion pounds of the deficit by 2021/22.
This is a problem that the country’s first Bi-Borough partnership for SEND has sought to solve through the implementation of technology. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council have some shared educational services.
Vik Verma, One SEND Project Director and Deborah Brooks, One SEND Culture and Change Lead, explain more.
The Bi-Borough recognised the need for more efficient processes and better business intelligence to proactively manage performance, plan for the future, and deliver the best outcomes for children with SEND. A digital strategy was at the heart of the business case to improve service delivery and replace multiple legacy systems.
One SEND project team sought to achieve the following aims:
Leading disruptive change on this scale needed action and quick decision-making. The Assistant Director and Project Director sought not to break rules but to strip back bureaucracy to make impactful and positive change.
The SEND sector is not currently well-served by technology. Some systems can solve some of the problems faced by SEND leaders but there did not seem to be a comprehensive solution.
The Bi-Borough chose ECLIPSE (OLM Systems Limited) because they approached the challenge flexibly and understood that we were buying a long-term solution that could grow and evolve with us throughout the life of the contract, adapting as our strategy and statutory requirements change.
The foundations of the project were built by understanding the current capabilities of the SEND service and the conditions needed for change. The Project Team was able to draw on the expertise of staff from the service who were able to represent different points of view and fully understood the unwritten ways of working.
The Culture and Change Lead spent time consulting and engaging with both the SEND Service and other internal departments, working with staff to understand their hopes and fears through about the project through focus groups and surveys.
The project aimed to allow the service to focus more on work that has a meaningful impact on children whilst maintaining full compliance with the SEND Code of Practice.
Tough conversations were had and challenging conventional ways of working was difficult. The Project Team was trusted by the service to deliver and co-design the future model, allowing the opportunity for staff to apply their experience and influence the design.
In the past, the SEND service relied on manual data management and reporting which is highly resource-intensive. By moving to a case management system with our software provider OLM Systems, the SEND service can now record and access over one thousand data points on a child including case profile, primary need data, financial information, attendance data, and progress against outcomes.
The vision is to make data available on-demand, proactively pushing reports out to staff at all levels to support them in strategic planning. These data points combined with national data will be used to create intelligent forecasting and business intelligence using Microsoft Power BI. This will enable the SEND leadership team to gain a deeper understanding of the cohort and inform place planning investments, resource planning, and performance monitoring.
This approach is breaking new ground in SEND. Data will not only be made available to decision-makers within the local authorities but it will also offer insight to our SEN Coordinators out in schools, NHS partners, and health practitioners to inform their own strategies to respond to the environmental challenges.
Assistant director of SEND Julie Ely said:
“The introduction of ECLIPSE has further enabled joined-up working and freed up time to focus on our children and young people. Introducing ECLIPSE has meant that the progress against timescales is more visible for our staff. The service is also better able to focus on proactive areas like SEND forecasting to inform investment decisions and workforce development to ensure the highest quality support to our communities”.