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Education and Inclusion services across Devon County Council Consultation

*This consultation closed on the 1 December 2020*


A public consultation is being held on the way Education and Inclusion services across Devon County Council are delivered.

We would appreciate if you could read the information provided on how services are currently delivered, what the options for future service delivery are, and have your say on these, using our online education and inclusion services questionnaire. (If you wish to review the proposals while completing the questionnaire, we recommend opening the questionnaire in a new window or tab).

The closing date for responding to this consultation is 5pm on 1st December 2020.


Babcock LDP (External Provider) currently provides the Education and Inclusion services (Services) on behalf of Devon County Council (DCC) through a service contract (Contract). The Contract is due to expire on 31st March 2022. However, there is the option to extend it for up to a maximum of 12 months if required. The total value of the Contract for 2019/20 is £8.8 million.

Below is a list of the services currently being provided to the Local Authority, schools or early years providers through the Contract:

  • Education Psychology
    Educational psychologists support schools and the Local Authority to improve children’s experiences of learning. They use their training in psychology and knowledge of child development to assess the difficulties children may be having with their learning. They provide advice and training on how schools might help children to learn and develop.
  • Early years support and advice
    Provide support, advice and challenge to early years settings and schools in relation to young children’s learning and development. This is done in line with Department for Education guidelines.
  • Children Missing Education (CME)
    This team monitor children who are not registered with a school or electively educated at home to ensure they get their statutory right to an education. • Multi-Sensory Impairment (MSI) services A personalised and specialist 1:1 wrap around support service for children and young people who are Deafblind aged between 0-25 years, to support with Communication, Mobility and Access to Information.
  • Physical and Sensory Support
    Includes a team of highly qualified teachers of Visual Impairment, Multi-Sensory Impairment and Teachers of the Deaf, who provide Early Help and interventions for children and young people from 0-25, where a visual, hearing or multi-sensory impairment is having an impact on their ability to access education. They also provide advice and guidance to schools for children and young people with complex physical difficulties to ensure they can access their whole curriculum.
  • Behaviour Support and Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH)
    Family Workers and Specialist Behaviour Support Workers who support the provision for young people with Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs within schools and settings.
  • Communication and Interaction
    This team provide support, advice and guidance for children and young people with Autism and/or Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).
  • Elective Home Education (EHE)
    This team provide information for parents and carers who are educating their child(ren) at home and ensure that the child is receiving their right to an education.
  • Teaching and Learning advisory support
    This team provide curriculum, teaching and learning, and specialist support (for example in Science teaching, or with special educational needs) to schools and settings.
  • Education Welfare Service
    This team provide advice and guidance on any problems that may prevent a child sustaining an acceptable level of attendance in education. This includes welfare issues, behaviour and special educational needs. They also monitor school attendance and persistent absence.
  • School Improvement and Quality Assurance
    This team provide advice and challenge on school improvement and school leadership. They also provide bespoke support, advice and development to schools, colleges, organisations supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities, employers and training providers.
  • Governor support and Quality Assurance
    This team provide support, advice, training and school finance services to governors, headteachers and clerks so that they can fulfil the role of an effective governing body and take action as part of the Local Authority role where this is not the case.
  • Ethnic, Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) and English as an Additional Language (EAL)
    This team provide advice and support to schools and families to support the education of ethnic minority or Traveller children.
  • Safeguarding
    This team provide accurate, up-to-date resources, advice and guidance, in line with national and local regulations. They also monitor school compliance with safeguarding regulations.

DCC has been looking at the options for how best to deliver all these Services in the future. A Project Board including school and governor representation is overseeing this work. Over the past 12 months we have sought the views of DCC senior managers who are accountable for each of the service areas and consulted with schools through a design workshop, two surveys and a consultation event held in three locations across the county. Feedback from families and other stakeholders has been used to inform the process.

The work underway by DCC to transform Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services (the SEND transformation programme) will also inform the options for delivery of some of the Services outlined here. There is a strong commitment to develop a truly transformative SEND service where Education, Health and Care work as one team. An overview of this transformation work can be found in the separate document containing the links.

Our rationale for the future delivery options being considered for the Services

We have looked at the way these Services work together and connect to other services outside the current Contract. We have also considered the whole system of support to schools, children, young people and their families.

An options appraisal allows different delivery model options to be explored and evaluated. Our options appraisal has been informed by engagement with key stakeholders, as described above, to ensure that we achieve the best way of meeting the objectives, which are to:

The proposed option currently being considered would involve bringing in three of the Services – Children Missing Education (CME), Early Years and Educational Psychology (EP) – to be directly delivered by Devon County Council (DCC). This is a change from the current approach where the Services are delivered on behalf of DCC by the External Provider.

The remaining Services in the current Contract will continue to be delivered through a service contract(s) with an external provider who will be selected via a tender process.

We have set out below the reasons we are considering this option. This consultation invites views on this approach from the public, parents and children and young people, staff and stakeholders.

2.1 Children Missing Education (CME)

The current CME service delivered by the Contract is considered to fit well with the current DCC Inclusion services, who support children who are unable to attend school for medical reasons or who have been excluded from school. The statutory responsibilities for this area lie with the Local Authority and DCC are undertaking several areas of work in relation to this aspect already. It is considered that to merge this work into a single service will realise efficiencies by reducing duplication in the current model as well as opportunities to improve timeliness in response to this group of highly vulnerable children and young people by reducing the number of handovers. It would also provide closer joint working with the DCC Special Educational Needs 0-25 team to support children through Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). The risk identified is the separation from the Elective Home Education (EHE) team. If the proposal is put forward and approved, the identified risk will be reduced by ensuring a strong connection between the CME team and the EHE team through the contracting arrangements.

2.2 Early Years Support and Advice

Early Years Support and advice is currently delivered through the Contract in addition to a service delivered by DCC. It is considered that there are benefits to be realised by a service delivered solely by DCC. These include greater consistency, one place to access support, less confusion for early years providers and opportunities for shared continuous professional development for staff, thereby improving the offer made to the early years sector. It may also support a more flexible offer across the early years sector, targeting those that require the most support more effectively. There would also be opportunities for closer join up between the early years teams and the Early Years Complex Needs Service, and alignment to the wider SEND transformation integrated delivery. Risks identified are the possibility of greater fragmentation from the wider school improvement system which could impact upon schools. If the proposal is put forward and approved, the identified risk can be mitigated via the future service design and contracting of these wider commissioned services.

2.3 Educational Psychology (EP)

Since this service was contracted to the External Provider in 2012, the SEND reforms introduced in 2014 have bought about significant changes in legislation and a new SEND Code of Practice. One of the biggest changes introduced was to increase the age range so that it covers young people between the ages of 0-25. The new code of practice also strongly promotes close co-operation between education, health and social care services; something that was not a feature of the previous statutory system. The code also added guidance relating to disabled children and young people as well as those with SEN. Section 25 of the Children and Families Act 2014 also places a duty on local authorities to ensure integration between educational provision and health and social care provision. The above changes and how they are implemented have formed a key element of our considerations for future delivery of the services which support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The SEN 0-25 team, the disabled children’s service, children’s social work, health visitors, school nurses and the early years complex needs service all currently sit within DCC direct delivery. Within the SEND Regulations, the role of the Educational Psychologist is a statutory requirement of the Education Health and Care (EHC) assessment process, providing advice about the needs of all those who are being assessed for an Education Health and Care plan. The service also plays a critical role in a wider advisory capacity prior to such assessments.

The statutory assessment work undertaken by the DCC SEN 0-25 team and the Educational Psychology input to the process are interdependent. Both parts of the system being delivered as an integrated service would reduce the number of external handovers during the process and could provide a better experience for parents. Therefore, we are considering bringing Educational Psychologists under direct delivery of the Local Authority. This will bring the Educational Psychology service closer to other services currently delivered within the local authority as above.

Additional benefits will be a combined assessment of need which would aim to meet the SEN needs of children earlier, not just at EHC assessment stage, further ensuring children’s, young people’s and schools’ needs are met in the right way, at the right time by an integrated service.

The Local Authority’s ability to ensure the management of this resource, aligned with the wider transformation work outlined in the transformation plan, could drive best value whilst improving support for children and schools.

There is a well reported, national recruitment issue for Educational Psychologists. National research reports that 2/3rds of Principal Educational Psychologists are experiencing difficulty in recruitment. Research has shown where Local Authorities employ Educational Psychologists, recruitment and retention can be favourable and attractive. This is partly due to Local Authority employment terms and conditions, but also because it can add diversity to the role and provide more opportunities for engagement in training, research and service improvement projects. The proposal to bring this service under direct delivery of the Local Authority could therefore support recruitment and retention of this much needed resource.

The risk of any disconnect between the remaining special educational needs and inclusion services and the Educational Psychology service would be mitigated via future service design and contracting if the proposal is put forward and approved.

The remaining services

It is proposed that the remaining services will continue to be commissioned through a new service contract, provided by an external provider or providers who will be selected via a competitive tender process.

These services have been commissioned for 8 years. This delivery model has, and can continue to, improve outcomes for children and be beneficial for schools and the Local Authority.

The work of the Safeguarding, Governor Quality Assurance and Support, School Improvement and Advisory teams (curriculum, SEND, Gypsy Roma Traveller and English as an Additional Language) are connected, sharing intelligence and working together to realise the best outcomes. Therefore, it is proposed that they will remain together as a joint service. For these services there is an increasingly competitive market which will encourage innovation, improvements and flexibility to meet the different challenges within schools. It is our understanding that the provider market has an ability to be much more agile and responsive in this, ensuring the ability to remove or add additional services as demand, funding, legislation and developments in policy require.

Social Emotional Mental Health, Behaviour Support and Communication and Interaction service would continue to be commissioned externally. Any risk of disconnect between the SEN, Inclusion and Educational Psychology service, in the event that the proposal is put forward and approved, would be mitigated through future service design and contracting.

It is proposed that the Multi-Sensory Impairment service and the Sensory Impairment Support services will continue to be commissioned together, as the connections between these services are important and deliver better outcomes for children. The Local Authority ROVIC (Rehabilitation Officer for Visually Impaired Children) service is directly delivered by the Local Authority and already has in place good joint working arrangements with the Multi-Sensory Impairment service and the Sensory Impairment Support services. These would be further developed through a future contract.

The Education Welfare Service (EWS) is closely aligned to Safeguarding and Elective Home Education services. EWS also provides a good traded offer to schools and already works closely with DCC Inclusion teams, therefore it is proposed that this service will continue to be commissioned externally.

Social Value

There is also an opportunity to build additional ‘social value’ into commissioned services through external providers. This enables the Local Authority to realise wider benefits to the local communities without additional costs. The provider market also opens opportunities to provide service benefits and efficiencies which can be realised through a competitive process. The services to be contracted can be designed to include clear descriptions of what social value will be expected from the contract and the measures that will be used to monitor it.

Whilst there are risks associated with delivery of services by external organisations, these can be mitigated by effective contracting and service design.

Most importantly, if the proposal is put forward and approved, both commissioned services and services directly delivered by the Local Authority will be designed, implemented and managed to be a true partnership; an approach of joint accountability that will work alongside each other and Local Authority services, health services, schools, children, young people and their families.