Happy New Year! Despite the challenges we all faced in 2020, we are continuing our custom of transitioning to a new year with a look at the positives and successes over the previous 12 months – read on for our 2020 Roundup.
We started the year with a focus on our supported charity of 2020, East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), by visiting one of their hospices and welcoming representatives from the charity at our team training session. We learnt more about the support offered to families of children with life-limiting illnesses and how we can help with the fundraising needed to maintain such crucial support. This became even more crucial following the impact of the pandemic on the charity’s income and the increase in requests for support, so we were pleased to be able to hold a small (virtual) Enhance team fundraiser later in the year, to continue to contribute to this inspiring organisation.
By mid-March, the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent national lockdown resulted in the closure of educational settings and a massive shift for many SEND teams and professionals to remote-working. We are hugely proud of our ability to seamlessly transition our office-based operations to staff homes, without any interruption to our EHCP support services. This meant that we were able to offer even more support to SEND teams, who were dealing with delayed assessment and review processes, changes to how they could continue to work, and staffing issues due to illness or self-isolation.
From May, we took our monthly team training sessions online, to ensure that we continued to support our team remotely. One of our key goals as a company has always been to create a positive working environment, and supporting the mental wellbeing of our team became an even more important pledge with the huge uncertainties that we all faced during the spring. So, when we asked our team to participate in an anonymous staff survey, we hoped that it would demonstrate how successful all of our work on the wellbeing of our team has been, and we were not disappointed! An amazing 100% of staff who responded stated that they would recommend us to others as a great place to work, 96.6% of our team members said that their role gives them the flexibility they need and 83.3% reported feeling supported with their wellbeing.
With steadily rising pressures on SEND teams, we also looked at how our support services have been helping our customers better adhere to statutory timescales. When the DfE released the SEND statistics for 2019, we were pleased to see that on average our customers’ improved delivery to timescale was 12 times the improvement of the national average compared to the previous year.
Throughout the summer, we worked hard on offering EHCP writing support to both existing and new customers to help ensure that, despite the temporary relaxation of statutory timeframes, there was not a build-up of new requests and reviews. We also released the 2020 edition of our Good Practice Resource Packs for Local Authorities and Schools, to provide updated guidance and recommendations on EHC plans and professional assessment advice, particularly in light of the concerns and aims set out in the Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry report.
Even more excitingly, the summer saw the launch of our much-anticipated CPD accredited ‘In-depth EHC Plan Writing’ online training course! We have been really pleased with the responses to this intensive plan writing course, along with our other SEND courses, and delighted with the range of organisations and individuals that we have been able to support with their training requirements.
September saw the five-year anniversary of the company’s change of ownership: back in 2015, Miriam and Corinna committed to maintaining and improving the valuable SEND writing services that the company has been providing since 1996. Since then, the company has also expanded the type of services on offer and extended the range of professionals and organisations that are able to benefit from our support.
As mentioned, one of our biggest achievements of this year has been the launch of online training courses. We have worked hard to address the lack of standardised training available for frontline SEND professionals, particularly in light of the significant changes in policies and procedures since the reforms. By October, our range of training expanded to handy ‘bitesize’ courses, to enable time-pressed frontline workers to upskill targeted areas, including how to write outcomes and review plans, in just a few hours.
Whilst it can be tempting to summarise 2020 as one disaster after another, we know that everyone working within SEND has worked extremely hard to maintain as normal a service as possible (under extremely challenging circumstances) and should be proud of their perseverance and commitment to supporting children/young people and their families. As a company, we are very proud of all that we have achieved this year: by the end of 2020, we had supported 32 Local Authorities with plan writing and quality assurance, and provided online SEND training to over 250 individuals from schools, charities, Local Authority SEND teams and other SEND-related organisations. We also finished the year by asking our team to vote for another well-deserving charity for our annual charity contribution in 2021 – watch this space for the chosen recipient!
As always, we look forward to continuing to support and collaborate with SEND professionals in what we hope will be an even more productive and positive year!