Further to something I wrote a while ago about an ambitious plan, the latest stage of that plan was realised last week. Our new SEND/local offer pages are now live, and hopefully already making life easier for young people, parent carers and practitioners with a vested interest in these vital council services.

The fact that we were effectively merging two existing sets of content – information on Special Educational Needs & Disability (SEND) pages, and the Local Offer – made the job more complicated than the earlier migration of our Early Help team’s pages, but the outcome should be the same: a brief period of bedding in while people get used to the new structure, followed by a sense that the new pages have always been with us.

In fact, the process was complicated still further by the involvement of a third-party supplier, in this case hosting the majority of the old Local Offer pages. This meant that we were bringing content in from three sources, all written in different styles, and all forming a Venn diagram effect in terms of the blurring of the boundaries between the content of each.

However, the options available to us on new.shropshire.gov.uk (using the Umbraco CMS) also gave us greater scope and flexibility in terms of design, which allowed us to produce something that was simpler and more intuitive than any of the original sources of information.

The process itself ran similarly smoothly to that for Early Help, again thanks to enthusiastic buy-in from the client. Regular meetings ensured that we remained on the same page. A shared sense that we’d set ourselves a big task, and therefore that it was our own fault that it was at times irritatingly complicated, was somehow mutually reassuring. The client was further reassured by us confirming that, even where the existing content was edited or rearranged, none of the essence of it was lost, and that all forms/links etc had been retained.

The actual process of ‘going live’ is also often a source of some trepidation for the client. I always find it helpful to point out that it isn’t a question of jumping off a cliff, but a constant evolution. An edit can be made a second after the pages go live, just as one can be made a second before. I think this helped again in this case. Certainly there’s lots more we’ve got planned for these pages, but it wasn’t something that needed to delay going live with what we already had.

Redirects were set up so that people who had bookmarked the old pages wouldn’t experience any breakages. Often, when the switch is flicked and despite best-laid plans, something, somewhere is overlooked, and we have to respond immediately with some rapid remedial work, but in this case there were no such issues.

Stage 3 of the ‘ambitious plan’ is to bring the Early Help and SEND/Local Offer service areas together under the ‘Strengthening Families’ umbrella (the term all of our Children & Young People services come under), but that can wait until next year – I’ll report back when that work has been done.

It’s a rather nice present to finish off 2016 with, so all that is left for me to finish off this post by wishing a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017 to everyone ‘out there’!

Original source – Project WIP

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