Friday, 29 August 2014

New information resource for families with children with special educational needs

Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families, are to be more involved in decisions made about their lives, through changes being implemented by Leeds City Council as part of national reforms.

From September, the council will launch of the ‘Leeds Local Offer’, a new resource to help families in Leeds find services for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

The Leeds Local Offer is one of a series of reforms to services in Leeds in response to the Children and Families Act 2014. This new legislation, which comes into effect from September 1 2014, will change how education, health and social care agencies support children and young people with the most complex needs and their families.

These agencies must work more closely with families and make sure they have greater choice and control over the services and support they access. They must also make it easier for families to find out what support is available by publishing a ‘local offer’ of all education, health, social care and leisure services in the area for children and young people aged 0 to 25 who have SEN and disabilities.

Leeds City Council’s complex needs service has been working with a wide range of partners, including schools, colleges, early years settings, health services, social care providers and voluntary groups to produce the new Leeds Local Offer, which will be available online from September.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children and families said:
“Through the Leeds Local Offer, we hope to make it easier for families to find information to meet a range of needs. We are also working with our partners to improve how we support the children and young people in the city who have the most complex needs. By reforming our systems for assessing those needs and looking again at how we support those children and young people we can help them achieve their best possible outcomes and prepare for adult life.

“From September, we will see Statements of SEN being replaced with new joint education, health and care plans, which will hopefully give children and young people with the most complex needs and their families a quicker, more stream-lined experience of assessing their needs and planning services and support to help them achieve their best possible outcomes.

“These new plans will be produced in partnership with families, giving them much more control over the services they access. Families can also take control of the budget used to pay for the services in their plan.

“It’s all about greater transparency, greater choice and more control for families”.

The Leeds Local Offer makes it easier for families to find out what services they are entitled to and what support they can find in their local community. It includes services to meet a wide range of needs, from children and young people who need a little extra support to access learning and leisure alongside their peers, to those who have very complex needs and may need to access more specialist services.

A Leeds Local Offer website is being created, working closely with parents and carers, who have helped to decide what information to include and how to present it in the most user-friendly way. The new website will be available from the September.

EPIC Leeds is the parent/ carer and families participation forum in Leeds. Members have worked closely with Leeds City Council to make sure local families have been involved in planning for the reforms.

Sara Smithson, chair of EPIC Leeds said:
"Involving families from the very beginning ensures that services are designed to meet their purpose, achieve their outcomes and suit the families. It is an additional bonus that this also saves money meaning there is more in the pot to go further to help other families”

The Leeds Local Offer is just one of the ways that the new legislation aims to improve services for children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

To find out more, visit the new Leeds Local Offer website at, call the Leeds SEND Information Advice Support Service helpline on 0113 39 51200, or email the complex needs service best practice team via

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Tasty treat for school’s VIP visitors - media opportunity

Children at one Leeds primary school are getting ready for some local VIP lunch guests next week, when they host the leader and deputy leaders of Leeds City Council.

The senior councillors are visiting St Nicholas’ Catholic Primary school in Oakwood to see for themselves how the council’s preparations for universal free school meals have been completed.

The council’s catering service, Catering Leeds, has helped 190 primary schools across the city get ready for all of the extra school meals they will need to prepare and serve as part of the new national scheme. The introduction of universal free school meals which will see all state-educated children in foundation, year one and year two, entitled to a free lunch every day, will mean Catering Leeds must prepare an extra 10,000 meals every day, on top of the 35,000 they already produce .

Media opportunity:
When: Tuesday 2 September at 12.15pm
Where: St. Nicholas’ Catholic Primary School, Oakwood Lane, LS9 6QY
Members of the media are invited to join the councillors and pupils when they try their first free school meal as part of the universal free school meal programme. Interviews and photography will be available.
Please contact Emma Whittell at Leeds City Council press office if you wish to attend, on 0113 2474713

During the visit, council leader Councillor Keith Wakefield, and deputy leaders Cllr Peter Gruen and Cllr Judith Blake, will be joined by senior officers to see newly installed cooking and service equipment, meet newly recruited and trained staff, and try a school dinner alongside pupils.

Councillor Judith Blake, deputy leader of Leeds City Council and executive member responsible for children and families said:
“A good quality, nutritious and tasty school dinner, is a key element to a child’s academic success, which is why it is so important that those children who are eligible for a free school meal, take up their entitlement.

“Schools across Leeds have been working closely with the catering service to ensure that they are ready for the new school year, and have come up with some innovative ways to serve the all the extra meals for the 44,000 children who are now eligible for a free lunch.

“For those families who have children who are older than six, I would encourage them to check if they are also eligible for free school meals, as it could save them £10 a week for each child.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, executive member responsible for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, said:
“The team at Catering Leeds have done a fantastic job making sure all the schools they cater for are ready for all the extra school dinners needed from September. They have really risen to the challenge, given the timescales and budget pressures they were under.

“For many children this will be the first time they have tried a school meal and I’m sure they will be delighted with the tasty food on offer, and their parents can be confident that they are eating a healthy and nutritious meal in a friendly, comfortable environment.”

Notes to editors:

As part of the new universal free school meal offer, an extra approximately 44,000 primary school children in Leeds will be entitled to a free school meal, however many families are still not taking up the offer.

Prior to the introduction of the new scheme, in 2012-2013, 13,835 primary school children in Leeds children were entitled to a free school lunch, but 3720 were not taking advantage of the healthy, daily meal.

Catering Leeds is committed to providing school lunches that are tasty and healthy, as well as making lunchtime comfortable and fun for everyone, but everyday children and young people across Leeds are still missing out on their free school meal.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Classical Fantasia ready to light up historic Leeds abbey

Caption: Classical Fantasia will be held at Kirkstall Abbey on Saturday 6 September.

In what promises to be a night not to be missed, the atmospheric surroundings of an historic Leeds Abbey are all set to host a spectacular outdoor classical musical event.

Held on Saturday 6 September, a fantastic line-up has once again being assembled to entertain the crowds at Kirkstall Abbey as part of a refreshed Classical Fantasia concert hosted by popular classical radio presenter Jamie MacDougall.

Taking to this stage this year will include tenor Noah Stewart, soprano Laura Wright and saxophonist Amy Dickson, who will be joined by one of the UK’s leading chamber orchestras, the Manchester Camerata. Conducted by Stephen Bell the orchestra will be performing a number of classical gems alongside some great sing-alongs from the musicals. The evening will begin with the overture from Mozart’s comic opera ‘Marriage of Figaro’ before setting off on an Italian operatic journey that will include performances by both Noah and Laura of La Donna e Mobile and O Mio Babbino.

This will be followed by Grammy-nominated saxophonist Amy delighting the crowd with show tune ‘Smoke gets in your eyes’ and Briccaldi’s ‘Carnival’, before the first half is ended in true operatic style by a wonderful performance of ‘Nessun Dorma’ by Noah. The magic of the musicals will then take centre stage in the second half as favourites from the Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma and West Side Story are performed alongside classics such as ‘Moon River’ and ‘Cinema Paradiso’. Bringing the concert to a close will be a powerful rendition of Tchaikovsky’s powerful 1812 Overture, before a now traditional amazing firework display lights up the night sky.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for digital and creative technologies, culture and skills said:

"Set in the amazing and historic surroundings of Kirkstall Abbey, Classical Fantasia remains one of the true highlights of our city’s cultural calendar.

"This year we have worked extremely hard to put together a line-up of world class talent, and we are delighted to welcome artists including Noah Stewart, Laura Wright and Amy Dickson to the stage, who will be supported by the fantastic Manchester Camerata.

"In what has now become tradition an amazing firework display will also round off the night, at an event, which perfect for all the family, is truly spectacular."

Gates for this year’s event, which is supported by media partner the Yorkshire Evening Post, are scheduled to open from 6pm, with the main performance set to begin at approximately 8pm.

Tickets for Classical Fantasia can still be purchased online at (until midnight Wednesday 3 September) or in person / by telephone from City Centre Box Office in The Carriageworks on Millennium Square (0113 224 3801) and Leeds Visitor Centre at Leeds Train Station (0113 242 5242). Tickets are also available to purchase in person only from the Abbey House Museum.

Tickets are priced at £10 for LEEDSCard, £8 for LEEDSCard Extra holders and £5 for Breezecard holders. General admission is £15 and there is also a special discount for groups of friends and family between 5 – 10 people for £10 per person. Advanced car parking tickets are also available to purchase at £5 per vehicle.

Selected hotels are also offering packages for Classical Fantasia which includes VIP tickets. For more details, please see:

Enhanced facilities for disabled attendees will also be available this year, including a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter and a hearing loop audio enhancement system within a designated accessible viewing area, a Changing Places high dependency unit and a new shuttle bus service for disabled customers to and from the blue badge car park to the event arena. Anyone requiring further details or have accessibility queries regarding the event should contact the council’s Access Officer on 0113 247 8102.

For further details visit or contact Leeds City Council’s events team on 0113 395 0891 or by email at

Notes to editors:
Artist information:

Noah Stewart:
Making his bow at Fantasia is one of opera's most talked about tenors, Noah Stewart. Born in Harlem, New York, Noah has also recently performed international debuts in Spain and Russia. His debut album, the critically acclaimed ‘Noah’, which mixing classical tracks with contemporary material, reached number one in the UK Classical Chart.

Laura Wright:
With over one million album sales to date, Laura Wright is one of the biggest selling classical artists of the decade. Still only 24-years-old, Laura, who is also the official anthem singer for the England rugby team, has toured with stars including tenor Alfie Boe, Russell Watson and opened for Andrea Bocelli. Her new album will be released in the autumn.

Amy Dickson:
Grammy-nominated classical saxophonist Amy Dickson, earned the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Classic Brit Award in 2013, after her album Dusk & Dawn released in the same year, achieved a number one spot in the UK Classical Charts. Amy, who is also an ambassador for the Princes Trust, will be releasing her latest album ‘A Summer Place’, in August.

A booking / transaction fee will apply to bookings made online or by telephone.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578