An incredible peer-reviewed resource for SEND-related practitioners and organisations.

Introduction

Delivering a highly engaging and credible source of research and evidence-based practices for key decision makers working to improve the lives of children and young people with disabilities, and their families.

The Council for Disabled Children (CDC) is a subsidiary of the National Children’s Bureau, a charity that identifies the most serious risks affecting children and young people, driving change, and bringing people and organisations together to help improve children’s experiences.

CDC’s membership consists of over 300 voluntary and community organisations that work with a network of practitioners spanning education, health and social care. As leaders in their sector, they work hard to assist in providing help to disabled children and young people, including those with special educational needs, in order for them to live full and happy lives.

The charity’s management team supports decision makers in education, health and care, striving to enable service improvements and create system changes that will have an effect on both a local and national level. The What Works in SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) programme is an ambitious system of learning and innovation delivered by an expert partnership experienced in:

  • Research and evidence
  • Systems change and service improvements
  • Practice development
  • Learning facilitation
  • Sector-wide collaboration

The programme uses peer-reviewed evidence to improve the design and delivering of public services: a strategy that aligns with the principles of the ‘What Works’ Network. The charity’s practice teams also deliver a wide-reaching programme of bespoke interventions in local communities to positively impact the lives of children, young people and their families.

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The Problem

CDC’s What Works in SEND team approached us to create a website that could showcase their most up to date and relevant evidence, providing resources for system leaders, researchers and practitioners. This project was funded by the Department for Education, and as such, there were tight time constraints to work towards when delivering it. We planned our time well, working efficiently with the team to bring their resource-filled website to life.

Through a number of discovery sessions, we gained valuable insights into the user types the website would facilitate. It had to present their peer-reviewed evidence and best practices in a way that demonstrated proven methods of success, that they’d be easily replicable, and were also inspiring to those who might implement them.

“From inception through to completion The Idea Bureau were fantastic. The tech and follow up support after completion of the project has been great. Thanks Ben and Tash!”

Digital & Communications Officer
Council for Disabled Children

Our Solution

CDC are leaders in their field of expertise, and as such, the design of the website and layout of its content had to reflect that. They wanted it to be a place where key decision makers working across the SEND sector could access the most relevant and up to date research and evidence. It was also imperative it was built to be accessible for anyone using it.

Client:
Council for Disabled Children
Project Type:
Website Build
Link:
whatworks-send.org.uk/
Tags:
Website Design, Third Sector, Charity, Disability

How the website works

The What Works in SEND website provides access to a large number of resources supporting change makers in implementing practice modifications that will benefit children and young people within the SEND group. This website was a new offering for them, and as such, needed to be easy to manage, particularly when adding and editing content.

For the platform build, we used WordPress as a framework and implemented its Gutenberg block manager to give the CDC team control over their content. We also implemented a resource centre that worked with the group’s 3 ‘key phases’ for evidence and research: ‘Effective Practice,’ ‘Research & Evaluation’ and ‘Evidence Store.’

These phases house pieces of evidence for users to engage with, and are demarcated by their various stages, as well as the text and colour schemes we used to reflect the status of content – as the pieces of evidence and research are tested, new findings are sometimes discovered that require them to be moved into a different phase, for example: a piece of evidence may start in the ‘Effective Practice’ stage, and as it’s used by more practitioners, move up to ‘Research and Evaluation.’ However, if the evidence has been rigorously tested, it could begin its life in the ‘Evidence Store,’ as it’s already been proven effective in practice.

Working together

We wanted to make the design and build processes as smooth as possible for the What Works in SEND team. To assist with the tight deadlines, we provided a platform for them to input content ahead of launch so they wouldn’t have to wait for build completion to upload it. This afforded them valuable training, as we could demonstrate how WordPress works.

We also collaborated with the team during remote discovery workshops to categorise all content appropriately. This allowed us to create a navigation that was simple and effective, and would cater to a variety of audience types.

Feedback was given by both the team at CDC and the Department for Education, as the latter provided the funding for the project. To demonstrate our commitment to remaining on deadline, we established key milestones within project planning to minimise any potential delays.

“We collaborated by attending interactive sessions to brainstorm on things including key elements for the website, content, considering key stakeholder audiences and the user journey and more.”

Digital & Communications Officer
Council for Disabled Children

Building in accessibility as a standard

Accessibility was something we focused on heavily, implementing tools during the design and development stages to check we complied with accessibility guidelines. We also used OhDear.app to monitor the performance, accessibility and SEO scores of the website over time, alerting administrators to any regressions in these areas as changes are made to the content and structure of the website.

Alongside the core features in CDC’s brief, we delivered a number of additional features that we conceived in our discovery workshops. One of these was a ‘sign up’ feature that we built using the popular Gravity Forms plugin, which provides updates for users about relevant pieces of evidence and key areas of the resource centre. That way, if a page has been edited or moved, users will be made aware this has taken place. A Mailchimp integration also allows users to sign up to wider site updates and the organisation’s newsletter.

A further idea we brought to the team was to use Imgix – a popular image optimisation and manipulation service – to dynamically generate shareable social images. We designed these images to systematically categorise evidence by colour with the use of icons, as well as highlight the evidence title and site section it belongs to. This suggestion was well received during our kick-off workshops, and has since been very successful in delineating evidence items.

Conclusion

We’re incredibly proud of the What Works in SEND website: a resource that could potentially have an amazing impact on the lives of children and their families nationwide. Our work not only conforms to strict accessibility standards, but adhered to the original time estimate and budget.

The ongoing relationship we have with the team is a testament to our core value of collaborating with our clients to create something innovative and that has lasting impact.

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