SEND Transformation

Cambridgeshire SEND Transformation Programme

The SEND Transformation Programme is a highly aspirational plan for improvements to SEND across Cambridgeshire.

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 SEND areas need significant focus: special school places, EHCP processes, SEN Support, information sharing (Local Offer) and building confidence in the system.

Alongside these identified areas, the County Council has a deficit of £39.3m on its high-needs block funding. This is expected to rise to £120m by 2026-27 if we continue with this current growth. Our level of funding has not kept pace with our growth in demand for services. We have also 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 lowly 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.

In May 2022, Cambridgeshire was invited to join the Department for Education Safety Valve programme. This is a programme to provide additional resources to Local Authorities if 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 to 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 began in 2020/21 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 programme seeks to review all aspects of services funded from the High Needs Block (HNB), the element of funding allocated to support special needs, ensuring we deliver the same or better outcomes using the resources we have available.

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.
  • 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 & 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: 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 Education, Health, and Care Plans (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 retender 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. We have ‘scoped’ these out to understand what each project might look like. We are still in the process of identifying data, conducting deeper analysis, and ensuring we truly understand the current context for our children and young people. 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 well understood. Some of these will be co-produced including our new approach to descriptors of need and banding. This will include additional funding for children at an earlier stage. We have also begun to analyse parental feedback and complaints. This has provided a solid base for areas of improvement across the system.

The SEND Transformation Programme has been working with key stakeholders to get early feedback and to help design areas of work. We intend to engage much more widely as the workstreams emerge over the next 3 years.

Engagement with Parent Carers so far:

  • Introduced at the Pinpoint conference - keynote session from Jon Lewis on 21st June and SEND Support/Ordinarily Available Provision session on 22nd June.
  • Parents working with professionals’ participation sessions on the 27th, 28th April and 11th May.
  • Transportation participation session on 18th October.
  • Pinpoint’s regular ‘Meet the AD sessions’ (3 times each term) provide an opportunity to raise issues directly with the Local Authority on the 9th, 14th, and 24th June. Also on 27th September and 13th October.
  • Launch of a new SEND newsletter (Summer Term 2022) - inviting parents to sign up for regular SEND updates.
  • Ongoing Local Offer development.
  • EHCP Improvement – Pinpoint and SENDIASS have worked alongside the Statutory Assessment Team to begin reviewing various aspects of the system including a review of letters, and the development of a Statutory Assessment Parent Pack.
  • SEND Transformation webpage – currently being designed.

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.
  • The Local Offer is being re-launched and renamed as the ‘SEND Information Hub’ - Pinpoint have been heavily involved in this.
  • System Navigation – Links to Local Offer and parents’ experience of accessing information and support.
  • Parent/Carer attendance at various SEN Boards and multi-agency Quality Assurance audits for Education, Health, and Care Plans.
  • Planned focus groups for the Autumn Term including a face-to-face workshop.
  • EHCP Improvement Plan – initial focus on complaints and communications.
  • Termly Parent or Carer SEND Newsletter.
  • Partners in Commissioning presentations and progress updates.
  • Communications, Participation and Engagement Strategy in development.
  • Co-production through commissioning exercises.

  • Regular engagement with the Speak Out Council
  • Voiceability attendance at SEND Partnership Group meetings
  • Pupil surveys.

We have worked to shape the initial programme with our key stakeholders including Health, Social Care, the Department for Education, 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 effectively.

No, we are looking to avoid the need to go through the EHCP process but provide the 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.

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. DfE guidance states that safety valve programmes are “not a cost-cutting exercise.” Transformative improvements to services are our aim.

We have campaigned hard over the last 3 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 parents can best support us with this challenge we face. We have briefed Councillors and will be meeting MPs in the autumn 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, have a lobbying arm and can help anyone wishing to campaign.

Easy Read information

How to Get Involved

Participation sessions are advertised through the Pinpoint events pages.

SEND Newsletter

We have recently started a termly SEND Newsletter.  Sign up for SEND Newsletter.

SEND Transformation Needs You!

The following areas have been identified as requiring parental input and co-production:

  • Descriptors of Need
  • SEND Support and Ordinarily Available Provision
  • EHCP Improvement Plan
  • Preparing for Adulthood
  • Parental Portal for our new case management system (Statutory Assessment).

We know you have so many ideas and experiences.

We want to hear from you.

If you would like to get involved, please email: