Oxfordshire is making strides in improving services and support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

This includes an increase in investment by Oxfordshire County Council, plans to expand educational capacity for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties as well as autism spectrum disorder, a review of children’s therapy services, and more regular engagement with families and communities.

Councillor Kate Gregory, the cabinet member for SEND improvement at Oxfordshire County Council, said: "We continue to make progress in our improvement journey but it will take time for real changes to be felt by all families.

"We are working together as a partnership to review, reset and rebuild services listening to what matters most to children, young people with SEND and their families."

She noted that the council-approved budget includes a £1.5 million injection into SEND service to provide the necessary responses for children within their educational, health and care plans.

This commitment also aimed at meeting statutory deadlines, as highlighted by news that all 568 children with such plans transferring schools had an updated plan issued by February 15.

The council also has plans for new SEND schools across the county, including in Didcot where funding was approved on January 23.

In addition, the council has committed significant funding towards early intervention work in both early years and primary school settings beginning in 2024/25.

Expansion plans for children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties include utilising existing school capacities, building three new special schools with around 350 places by 2027, and opening five resource bases in new schools providing up to 96 places by 2029.

Similar increases are planned for children with other needs, including plans for a new special school and resource bases.

A review into children’s therapy services by NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board ensures support is properly allocated to children with SEND across different need levels.

This includes a sensory occupational therapy pilot and speech and language therapy support in nurseries and early years settings.

Efforts are also in motion to manage increasing referrals and waiting times through offering more assessments, redesigning processes, and prioritising needs regularly.

Showing commitment to listening to and learning from children and families directly impacted by SEND, several events and sessions for information gathering and sharing have been scheduled.

These include public events for parents and carers as well as a conference for young people with learning disabilities.

Parents and carers can access these resources and get further information from the county council website.