Issue details

21/00023 - Extension of the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service (STLS) Service Level Agreement (SLA)

      Reason for the decision


The Specialist Teaching and Learning Service (STLS) is a specialist provision for Children and Young People (CYP) with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). The service is co-ordinated via 12 Special Schools (one per district) and two countywide provisions for Sensory and Physical Disability.  The expectations and quality assurance of the delivery of the service are outlined in a Service Level Agreement (SLA), which is annually renewed and due to expire at the end of March 2021.


The decision is required to enable the extension of the SLA for one year, within the existing annual financial envelop of £7.8M.




STLS was devolved to 12 Special Schools across Kent in September 2012. In January 2016, Kent’s Special Schools aligned the use of their outreach funding with the STLS to further develop the district outreach and training offer. 


STLS was set up to champion inclusive education, to fully harness and develop the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) knowledge, skills and expertise present in all Kent early years settings and schools in order to create a coordinated, equitable, and effective provision of additional support for children and young people with SEND.


KCC maintain an activity tracker which records the specific activities undertaken by the STLS, including referrals into the service, frequency of Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) meetings and number of school visits. Strategic oversight of the service is provided via the County-wide LIFT Executive Group.



A review of LIFT was undertaken in 2019 and found that whilst the STLS has been effective, there seemed to be a disconnect between the activity of the service and improved attainment outcomes for SEN pupils.


Furthermore, the OfSTED and CQC (Care Quality Commission) inspection of services in early 2019 highlighted that too many children and young people with SEND do not get the support they need in Kent.  The Written Statement of Action (WSoA) has identified the areas against which improvements need to be made, and the ambition is to develop this service alongside the delivery of the WSoA in a more joined up and effective inclusive practice for CYP with SEND in mainstream schools and settings in Kent.


An extension of the STLS SLA will allow a phased approach to the redesign of the service, whilst introducing a new set of KPIs, developed collaboratively with representative members of the Special Schools, Kent Special Educational Needs Trust (KSENT) , Kent Association of Head Teachers (KAH), Head of SEN and Commissioning, to measure progress against the Children and Young People’s Outcomes Framework, which has been developed with families and reflects what children and young people and their families have told us is important to them. It will also ensure future development of STLS will be aligned to the wider planned commissioning activity of inclusive practice, as identified in the WSoA.


Aside from commissioning activity, the extended period will be used to identify opportunities within the wider system, gain a better understanding of roles, responsibilities and interdependencies across the wider health, education and social care systems to achieve better outcomes with the investment and available resources.


      Options (other options considered but discarded)


The outcomes and KPIs are currently being revised in line with the Children and Young People’s Outcomes Framework. The performance of the service will be analysed as part of the new service from April 2022, including a detailed options appraisal.


      How the proposed decision meets the objectives of ‘Increasing Opportunities, Improving Outcomes: Kent County Council’s Strategic Statement (2015-2020)’


This supports Outcome One of the Strategic Statement “Children and young people in

Kent get the best start in life”


The Kent SEND Strategy 2021 – 2024 (currently in consultation) has been developed alongside the delivery of the Written Statement of Action and sets out how Kent will continue to improve the outcomes for children and young people into the future.


The Mainstream Core Standards is an operational document that sets out the expectations of all schools, according to the needs of the CYP, with or without any formal diagnosis. It also sets out the additional support required by some CYP with SEND across four broad areas of need are:


           Communication and interaction

           Cognition and learning

           Social, emotional and mental health difficulties

           Sensory and/or physical needs.


Decision type: Key

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Notice of proposed decision first published: 08/02/2021

Decision due: Not before 9th Mar 2021 by Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services
Reason: To enable the decision to be on the FED for a minimum of 28 days.

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services

Lead director: Mark Walker

Contact: Christy Holden, Head of Children's Commissioning.


The proposed decision will be considered at the Children’s and Young People Cabinet Committee on 9th March 2021.

Financial implications: The annual budget for the STLS is £7.8m per annum. This budget is funded from the High Needs Block of the Dedicated Schools Grant

Legal implications: The Specialist Teaching and Learning Service operates within a framework of national legislation and local strategies and standards. The Children and Families Act 2014 and SEND Code of Practice 2015 set out the responsibility to improve services, life chances and choices for vulnerable children and to support families. The Act states that “where a pupil continues to make less than expected progress, despite evidence based support and interventions that are matched to the pupil’s area of need, the school should consider involving specialists. Schools also have a range of duties under the Equalities Act 2010, including duties relating to disability. Sensory STLS is the only service with a statutory function.

Equalities implications: An initial screening of Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) has been completed and is attached. A full EQIA will be undertaken as part of the new service development expected to commence from April 2022.