December news from Local Offer in Northamptonshire
It's always strange to look back at the business of the run up to Christmas, with Carol concerts in John Dryden House, Christmas decoration competition and meeting the Chief Executive. (NPPS were more successful than us in the competition, so well done to them); we are now sitting in the calm of the New Year back at work. It’s all about looking forward, new resolutions, new plans, hopes for the future. However, December was a great month for the Local Offer in Northamptonshire.
We had spent hours planning and negotiating what we wanted our searcher to look like for users and we finally finished the testing and the amendments and the new look Local Offer went live on 10th December (having been delayed by the Ofsted Inspection. We were unable to take down the Local Authority website whilst the inspectors were using it so that the new site could be loaded.) But it gave us another week to test and pick and criticise to the developers. It’s interesting that it is very easy to always criticise, rather than be positive about things. Much easier to say what you don’t want or don’t like rather than what is good. One of my new year’s resolutions is to always look for the positive.
However, I really like the new search function on the Local Offer. We were of course, fully compliant with the legislation from 1st September 2014, and were advised as such by the Dept for Education when they audited all Local Authorities. There has been some confusion on social media criticising us for being late in managing things, but we weren’t at all. We could have left the Local Offer as a rather boring website, and expect users to read through all the information it contained, but we wanted to make it better for users and spent a lot of time and effort in planning and checking it. But as I said earlier, it’s always easier to criticise and complain rather than compliment.
The new searcher has a data base sitting behind it and a library of documents that exceed 2,300 entries; there should be something for everyone.
It certainly conforms to the law. However I want Northamptonshire’s Local Offer to be more than that so if you want to see something on the Local Offer, use the feedback choices, and let us know. If you like what you see please let us know. We will look at all requests,
Conferences and meetings
During December we attended the Senco meetings held in the evenings; We went to the final of the Early Years Conferences looking specifically at the code of practice in Early Years settings. It was held at the rather lovely setting of Towcester Racecourse and they made us very welcome on a frosty December morning. We had really positive feedback from the delegates at the conference and Kay Matheson was truly inspiring and very positive in particular about our Local Offer and how well we are supporting our users compared to other Local Authorities.
The Implementation Board met during December to continue to manage our progress from the Pathfinder project. The Local Offer was part of this. It was good to get updates from other work-stream groups and understand the challenges facing the transfer team from statements to plans – and good that the government also recognises that this is a much bigger task for all authorities than they anticipated.
We have a new work-stream group dedicated to our older children and the impact the code of practice will have on them and their providers and this includes working with the local college staff. There are also plans in place for the implementation of personal budgets. In Northamptonshire during the pathfinder project, parents indicated that this wasn’t something they felt was a priority, but our Local Authority is making preparations, in liaison with the health services and care services, for anyone who is interested in this in the future.
We went along to the NPPS – now known as IASS – to show off our searcher to them and to show them how to get the best out of it. We have published the notes from this on the searcher as it does help. Different people like different ways of searching . Vicki (on the team) likes to bring back a really big result and then narrow it down using the refiners at the side. I like to use the keyword search and then refine again, and I believe Becca uses the tiles first. We are really pleased that there are more ways to get results. We reported back to the developers that the results for documents in the information and articles weren’t showing the correct amounts. They have now fixed this. We showed our Customer Services team the site and how to search too and they are ready to take calls from anyone unable to access the internet.
EHC training day
We ended the team year with a training afternoon at Knuston Hall looking at one page profiles for the teams which will be produced and posted on the Local Offer during the year. In theory you should be able to see who to expect at a meeting and what each team does and need. We believe that one page profiles will be a tool used by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. The Local Offer’s contribution to the team event was to challenge our colleagues to a team quiz taken from the Glossary on the Local Offer. It was really hard, but the winner was one of the case workers who went home with a prize of all the marketing bits we had accumulated over the last six months, including the bottle of wine won in a free raffle and a box of chocolates won for getting involved in the Christmas decoration event .
Here’s to a positive, healthy and happy New Year.