Strategic Planning

Review of the Special Educational Needs & Disability Strategy for North Yorkshire

“Having read the report, I have to say that it is a fantastic summary of a very complex issue. It also provides a clear pathway forward that seems sensible and achievable.”
— Primary school Headteacher and member of the North Yorkshire SEND Commission


The brief

North Yorkshire’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) strategy for 2011-2014 had played a key role in enabling the county to implement the national reforms of the SEND statutory framework. In order to inform the development of a new SEND strategy for the county, Isos was commissioned to:

  • support the establishment of a SEND Commission – as a genuine partnership of parents and carers, young people’s groups, education settings, and local authority and health leaders;

  • carry out a fast-paced diagnostic review – focusing on what is working well and how current support could be improved, and on informing a new, shared SEND strategy for North Yorkshire.

What did we do?

We formed a core review team with expertise in national SEND policy, leading reviews of local SEND strategies, educational improvement, and carrying out fast-paced reviews of key priorities. Our review focused on two core themes:

  1. current SEND support – whether North Yorkshire had the right offer of universal, targeted and specialist SEND support; and

  2. developing a new strategy – whether the previous strategy had contained the right principles and been implemented effectively, and how this could be built upon to inform a new SEND strategy.

We carried out an initial analysis of the national data-sets on SEND, published by DfE, and presented our initial findings to the newly-established SEND Commission in order to test and sharpen the hypotheses we would test and the questions we would explore during the review. We then set out to engage a wide range of professionals, including local authority and health leaders, and SEN Co-ordinators and leaders from schools, early years settings and colleges, as well as representative groups of young people, parents and carers. We then tested our emerging findings with members of the SEND Commission, and took on board their steers in order to develop a sharp, focused report that analysed current SEND support and set out clear actions in order to develop a new, more outcomes-focused SEND strategy. We constructed the report deliberately so that the key messages was presented in a way that could be shared with a wide range of stakeholders – from young people, parents and carers to schools and colleges.

What difference did we make?

We delivered a rapid review of current SEND support and services, highlighting existing areas of good practice that could be built upon, identifying key challenges, and setting out the framework for developing a new SEND strategy. Throughout the process, we engaged local authority officers, health services, school, setting and college leaders, as well as young people, parents and carers as partners in the review process. This helped to ensure that there was a broad consensus supporting our key findings and support for developing and implementing a new SEND strategy.

What did the client say about the work?

“Working with Isos really demonstrated the value of an external review. Isos brought knowledge and expertise of SEND and learning from other local areas, which was key to establishing their credibility with members of our SEND Commission. The style of engagement with school and college leaders, parents and carers, young people, and local authority officers was spot on, always supported by the evidence Isos had gathered, and conducted in a way that helped people to feel comfortable to explain their views. It was big ask to cover the range of issues in a county the size of North Yorkshire, but Isos handled this extremely well – they were always on the front foot, sharing information with us, working at pace, while always being open and response to people’s suggestions. It was a very well-handled piece of work.” 
— Andrew Terry, Assistant Director, Inclusion, North Yorkshire County Council

“Having read the report, I have to say that it is a fantastic summary of a very complex issue. It also provides a clear pathway forward that seems sensible and achievable.” 
— Primary school Headteacher and member of the North Yorkshire SEND Commission