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Celebrating the launch of the new SIAG service with Emilie Warren

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, understanding the challenges and solutions in special educational needs (SEN) is crucial. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach and here at SPT we’re lucky to have lots of brilliant staff with specialist knowledge which some mainstream schools haven’t had the chance to experience. This can lead to gaps in knowledge and schools struggling to meet the needs of all their young people.

To help bridge and fill these gaps - and support with the rising numbers of children on our SEND registers, - the Government announced the ‘Delivering Better Value’ funding. SPT has secured some of this funding and, as a result, is offering a new service to support mainstream schools in meeting the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs in their settings. This service is designed to complement and integrate with existing SEN services.    
Emilie Warren, the SEND Outreach Operations Manager at the SPT, is heading up this new initiative bringing a blend of passion and pragmatism to the new role.

We caught up with Emilie, who shares her journey from classroom teacher to her current role, shedding light on the current challenges in SEN and her drive to enhance SEN provision for all across Cornwall and beyond.

Emilie, could you start by telling us about your career journey and how it led to your current role?

Absolutely! It began about 15 years ago when I entered the educational field as a science workshop provider, which I absolutely loved. This experience sparked my interest in teaching, leading me to complete my PGCE and become a primary school teacher in Swindon and Bristol. My focus soon shifted towards understanding behavioural issues, which often masked underlying SEN issues. This realisation propelled me towards specialising in SEN and SEMH, eventually steering me out of the classroom to start tutoring children with additional needs.

Leaving teaching just before the COVID-19 pandemic, I ventured into family work with the council and later a role in the civil service, as a learning and development consultant. The position I'm in now perfectly suited my passion and skills.

What are the current challenges in special educational needs (SEN) provision in the UK?

The challenges are significant and there are growing numbers of children needing support in the classroom. There is an increasing need for specialist provision and training in schools that can be difficult to embed into whole school practice. Many children enter educational settings without their additional needs being recognised early by their families, which can escalate difficulties as they age.

There is a persistent challenge in addressing the educational needs of children. While schools aim to meet these needs, they sometimes lack the necessary resources or time to embed them longer term. In SPT, we’re fortunate to have excellent specialist provisions and a staff team to deliver this, and now is a great time to be able to share this knowledge. It can be challenging to ensure that the right resources are available at the right time so our new service is here to support and work with mainstream schools in Cornwall. 

Could you explain more about the SPT’s SIAG offer?

Our new initiative, funded by the LA as part of the Delivering Better Value/ SEND Transformation Plan, is known as SIAG—Specialist Information, Advice, and Guidance service. This service sends SEN specialists into mainstream schools to support and complement existing services. We work with the school to understand the challenges and work to bring together their knowledge and ours to enhance the school's SEN provision. This means that schools not only understand these needs but also have practical resources and guidance to address them. My role involves overseeing the operational aspects of this service, ensuring that our team can provide the necessary support effectively and efficiently.

If a school needs additional support they can submit a request - typically through a head teacher or SENCO. This can be done via our website or through the council. The request might be for growing numbers of children on the SEND register, or to embed training and practices to support whole school SEND provision

Once submitted, the request goes to a panel which includes our team at SPT, as well as representatives from the council.

The panel reviews all support requests to determine the best team for each case. If approved, I will coordinate an initial meeting to assess the school's needs, and our advisors will then work with the school for three days. If it’s felt a request can’t be supported by SIAG, not to worry, it's not the end of the road; other teams within the council may be more suited to the specific needs, especially if the request is more for individual children. Additionally, we offer a wider outreach service tailored to individual student needs, so there are several options available.

It’s very early days, but what is your vision for the future of SPT outreach and what drives you?

My vision is to support creating a seamless, well-known resource for SEN support across all mainstream schools in Cornwall and beyond. I hope for a system where expertise in SEN is a standard element of educational support. Essentially, I want to see a transformation in how SEN is approached, making inclusivity a core aspect of the educational framework rather than for a few children in each classroom.

We are really excited about the new SIAG service. We are really happy we have the funding to implement this as it enhances our existing offer and we are now able to support more mainstream schools.

Everyone on this team is really aware of how difficult it can be to meet the really individualised needs of the children we work with in a system that can often be very prescriptive. My own journey has led me to SEN and this role has given me the opportunity to  make a broader impact, beyond just my own classroom, to support more children and educators. If teachers need more support and training to meet the individualised needs of the children we are here to help them identify and address what training and support they need. Being part of the SIAG team means I can support in making a real difference to children with SEN.

What excites you most about this new service and the future of SEN?

That's a good question. I'm really looking forward to seeing better connections between schools and all the available services. There's already positive movement in this direction, and I believe we don't celebrate these successes enough. Despite the sense of doom and gloom, and the fragmentation and frustration that often accompany it, there's actually a lot of incredible work being done.

As part of this service, I would like to see more integrated working relationships—ensuring that more people can access the services they need, when and where they need them. This includes professionals and parents. Additionally, it would be beneficial to have a way to celebrate the amazing achievements in the field and shift the perception of SEN provision from a challenging and complex area to one of success and innovation.

SIAG provides us with another opportunity to show how mainstream and specialist schools can work together to meet the needs of children in mainstream schools. We are really proud that Cornwall is taking some great steps towards making this happen. 

Even though it’s in its infancy, what has the impact been of the new SIAG offer so far?

We recently had our first panel, where we reviewed applications from eight schools, and we will work with those who are best placed for this service moving forward. These schools are currently being contacted, and we plan to start our interventions in the spring term. We recently attended a conference with SENCOs where the feedback was really positive. Many expressed a strong interest in having our team come in and consider the schools SEN provision, not just offer specific advice on individual pupils but on embedding resources that could improve learning for all.

The word about our service is spreading, and we're starting to receive emails from SENCOs who are excited about this opportunity.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this new initiative unfolds, gathering more feedback, and evaluating our impact. This is an exciting time as we move forward with these new developments.

And, finally, what’s your message to people out there who might be thinking of accessing this service?

We're all in this together, working toward the same goal. Our approach is strengths-based; we focus on what's working well and build upon that to create a positive narrative. We're here to collaborate, support and work with you.

We encourage as many schools as possible to make contact if they want some support. Often, the things you want support with may have straightforward solutions—quick wins that can significantly benefit all students in your school, not just those with special educational needs.

So, we invite you to reach out to us and have a chat! Let's work together to enhance your school's support system.

You can find out more about our Specialist Information Advice and Guidance Service here.