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Regional Pathfinder Champions

The government has announced regional pathfinder champions to help prepare for the SEND reforms.

31 councils have been trialling the government’s reforms since October 2011, and now the new pathfinder champions will act as the first point of contact for other councils, ensuring each region is ready for the reforms due to come into effect from September 2014.

Alongside their regional support roles, certain champions will take on one or more national champion roles in areas where they have already developed particular strengths and expertise, including taking a leading role at national events.

The SEND reforms are part of the Children and Families Act, through which the government is:

  • replacing special educational needs statements and learning disability assessments with a new birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care plan.
  • requiring better co-operation between councils and health services to make sure services for children with SEND are jointly planned and commissioned, giving parents and young people the offer of a personal budget.
  • requiring councils to publish a ‘local offer’ showing the support available to all disabled children and their families in the area.
  • introducing mediation for disputes and trialling, giving children the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support.
  • introducing a new legal right for children to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education colleges.

More information, including details of the regional champions, is available on the Foundations website.


SEND pathfinder evaluation reports

Two new evaluation reports have been published on the SEND pathfinder programme:

Readiness for reform and effectiveness of Pathfinder Champions

This report assesses local areas’ readiness for reform as of October-December 2013 and is based on interviews, on-line surveys and focus group sessions.  It shows that good progress in preparing for the reforms was made been between February and October-December 2013 (for example, the percentage of non-pathfinder areas reporting being ‘very aware’ rose from 79% to 90%).

Findings about the pathfinder champion programme reveal that awareness of their support offer was high by October-December 2013: most areas had accessed support by that stage and it was generally perceived to be of good quality (65% of SEN respondents and 61% of social care respondents stated that support had met or exceeded their expectations).  The report also highlights some areas for further development at that time – including personal budgets, workforce development, IT and information-sharing, and joint commissioning.

Progress and indicative costs of the reforms

This report presents self-reported progress made by the 31 pathfinder areas against a Common Delivery Framework developed by the evaluators, SQW.  It uses data from quarterly monitoring returns to compare pathfinder progress between March and September 2013 and provides an updated analysis of the costs of developing the pathfinder approach.  The report shows that progress continued during the six month period covered and highlights areas for further development at that time, where pathfinders needed to focus their efforts.


Two-year-old demonstration project in schools

In the last year the DfE have been working with 49 schools to trial offering places to two-year-olds.

A baseline survey report published on 28 April 2014 shows that nearly 80% of schools in the project have successfully set up and started to deliver two-year-old places – with the majority of the rest aiming to do so by May 2014.  The research also shows that 75% of those offering places are full to capacity and in some cases offering waiting lists.  Over 80% are also offering places in both the morning and the afternoon with over 90% offering places 5 days a week – providing the much needed flexibility parents that we know they want.  The report suggests that having two-year-olds in school setting is clearly something desired by parents but it’s not just about starting school work at an early age.  It’s about developing the prime areas of learning such as language, communication and social skills so that children are ready to learn when they reach compulsory school age.

Background information about the two-year-olds in schools demonstration project can be found on the TES website.


DfE consultation on draft regulations around childminder agencies and the local authority role in early education

The DfE consultation seeking views on: a) the introduction of childminder agencies and specifically new draft regulations, including key requirements for those organisations who wish to set up agencies; b) draft regulations which make changes to the way local authorities discharge their duty under section 7 of the Childcare Act 2006 (‘the 2006 Act”) is still open and runs until 22 May.

The consultation can be accessed here

If you are interested in setting up a childminder agency please email [email protected]


Extension of Childcare Business Grant Scheme

The Minister for Women, Nicky Morgan MP, recently announced an extension to the Childcare Business Grant Scheme – applicants will now be able to apply up to and including 31 December 2014.  As the funds are limited, potential applicants are urged to apply as soon as possible to ensure they don’t miss out.  This scheme provides cash grants, worth up to £500, to people across England who want to start their own childcare business.  New businesses are also being encouraged to team up with a free mentor so they can access specially-tailored business start-up advice.

You can find more details on how to apply here


National College for Teaching and Leadership audit tool

Following the publication of new level 3 Early Years Educator criteria, new qualifications will be introduced from September 2014.  As part of this reform the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) has reviewed the early years qualifications audit tool and its use.  The NCTL found a number of technical issues and that only a small number of settings are using it and therefore the tool will be closed from 30 June 2014.

Some providers and local authorities use their own systems and we would encourage this approach to develop systems that work best for local needs.

Users will be able to extract their information from the tool until it closes.  More information, along with further detail about the audit tool closure, will be available on the existing website.

The tool can be accessed here

For queries, please contact NCTL


News from Government

Transformation Challenge Award

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has announced £410 million in funding to help councils transform the way they run local services to put the user first.  As part of this transformation package, the bidding process for the Transformation Challenge Award has now opened.  The bidding prospectus for the £320 million fund can be found here.

If you have enquiries about the Transformation Challenge Award, please contact the TCA team directly at [email protected].


Childcare and Early Childhood learning

The Centre for Community Child Health in Australia has published ‘Childcare and Early Childhood Learning: Response to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning’.  It restates the evidence of the importance of early years in shaping life-long health and outcomes, and calls for an increased government role to lead improvement in the early years.


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