Strategic Planning

Rapid review to inform a new strategy for supporting young people with social, emotional and mental health needs in Leeds

“Working with Isos has been extremely valuable in providing external facilitation of our review of targeted service delivery in Leeds.”
— Paul Brennan, Deputy Director, Learning Skills and Universal Services


The brief

Following the implementation of the special educational needs and disability (SEND) reforms in September 2014, Leeds City Council were in the process of developing a new strategy for addressing the needs of young people with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in the city. Isos was commissioned to carry out a rapid review of the current offer of targeted SEMH support and services available across the city. A specific focus of the review was on the support offered by six schools-led Area Inclusion Partnerships (AIPs), which receive devolved funding to support young people at risk of exclusion or who have been excluded from mainstream school. The review was intended to inform the development of a new SEMH strategy for Leeds, within the wider framework of the city’s SEND strategy and children and young people’s plan. The review aimed to explore how Leeds could ensure an effective and equitable city-wide offer of targeted support for young people SEMH needs across the city.

What did we do?

We formed a core review team with expertise in national SEND policy, leading reviews of local SEND strategies, school improvement, and carrying out rapid priority reviews. Our review focused on three main themes:

  1. the clarity of information about and the accessibility of targeted SEMH support;

  2. whether Leeds had the right offer of targeted SEMH services and support to meet the needs of the city’s young people, and whether this was consistent across the city; and

  3. the quality and impact on the targeted SEMH support available to schools.

We focused first on understanding the current offer of SEMH support and services, building on work the local authority had undertaken to develop the city’s SEND local offer. We then engaged the leaders of the city’s AIPs, and gathered feedback on the current offer of targeted SEMH support from a range of school leaders and SEN Co-ordinators across the city. This enabled us to build an in-depth picture of where support was working well and what the key factors were, what schools valued most of the support they received, the challenges they perceived, and how they would like to see targeted SEMH support improved. We developed and tested our findings in workshops with AIP and local authority leaders and produced a concise, comprehensive and practically-orientated report.

What difference did we make?

We delivered a fast-paced review of a priority area for school and local authority leaders in Leeds. The review has been well-received by leaders across the education sector in Leeds, who reported that it provided a concise and lucid analysis of the successes and challenges the city is facing, and a set of action-orientated recommendations for education leaders in Leeds to consider in order to shape a new strategic approach to supporting young people with SEMH needs. It has helped to put the issue of improving support for young people with SEMH on everyone’s agenda. As well as providing clarity about the issues to address, the review has led to widespread recognition of the need to confront these challenges and develop a new, collective approach to addressing them, and, in so doing, it has helped to create cohesion and the desire to work together between key services, agencies, and educating institutions.

What did the client say about the work?

“Working with Isos has been extremely valuable in providing external facilitation of our review of targeted service delivery in Leeds. It has brought a transparency to the process which stakeholders have really welcomed, and enabled frank and constructive dialogue amongst them. It has provided a ‘safe space’ to reflect together on our local strengths, weaknesses and past experiences, and to re-visit our objectives. A new sense of common purpose across the partners involved, supported by greater clarity on the shared outcomes we all want to achieve, is starting to emerge as a result. It has been particularly helpful to have insight into how other authorities are approaching the challenges we face, and to be able to draw on the expert knowledge and the local, regional and national contacts that ISOS can provide. The review has provided a strong foundation for us to move forward and has perhaps been most valuable in reinforcing relationships and reassuring partners of our commitment to working together.” 
— Paul Brennan, Deputy Director, Learning Skills and Universal Services