The Stoke-on-Trent Local Offer is continually being developed however this can only happen when we have input from parents, carers, young people, schools, partners, service providers and practitioners.
The SEND Code of Practice states:
“Local authorities must publish comments about their Local Offer received from or on behalf of children with SEN or disabilities and their parents and young people with SEN or disabilities.”
We did: At the beginning of the year we carried out a major exercise which involved updating information, pages, and links on the Local Offer website; it was a big refresh.
You said: “The Local Authority does not invest in the Local Offer”
We did: The Stoke-on-Trent Council decided to bring the Local Offer website ‘in-house’ to sit on a Council platform instead of an external one. Having the Local Offer on an internal platform means we can have more control when developing the website in the future, updates can be done timelier, and there will be overall more flexibility. The Council also appointed a Local Offer Development and Engagement Officer.
You said: “Nobody tells you about the Local Offer”
We did: During the first half of 2023 we sent comms to all our stakeholders (parents, carers, young people, schools, partners, service providers and practitioners) about the Local Offer. We also had articles in the foster carers’ newsletter, had a stand at the Together We Thrive event and have put together a communications plan to continue to raise awareness of the Local Offer. We are visiting other community events, schools and colleges.
You said: “Better information needs to be on”
We did: During the Local Offer refresh we uploaded a lot of new information, we are working closely with parents and carers to find out the information they really want to find on the website. We also want to hear from more young people.
You said: “The website is not multilingual / also does not provide an audio of contents”
We did: We now have a translation tool on the site, we are also looking at having audio for a lot of the pages so that users can have the option of reading text or listening/watching a video.
You said: “Not very interesting” said by a young person
We did: We have had feedback for a ‘young peoples area’ within the Local Offer which is tailored specifically for young people in design and content; we are looking into this and plan to launch the young peoples' area later in 2024.
You said: Parents wanted to know more about local activities available in the area for children with additional needs – especially during the six weeks holidays, and the cost.
You said: "There should be actual pictures of Stoke children and young people on the website"
We did: We are looking into this with PEGiS who are part of the Parent Carer Forum and Stoke-on-Trent IT.
You said: "It is hard to find the information we want about special schools."
We did: All special schools and colleges now have the ages of children and young people they educate clearly in the title of their listing. We are working with schools and colleges to tag their listings according to the needs they cater for so website users can search this way.
You said: "There should be a newsletter."
We did: We sent out our first professionals' newsletter in December 2023 and the first families' newsletter January 2024. Both are available for everyone to access and sign up for from our homepage.
You said: "It's hard to find the information you want on the website"
We did: We have tagged directory records much more accurately to help when you are searching for them. Our colleagues in IT are working hard behind the scenes to improve the user experience of someone visiting the website, which will make it much easier to navigate around.