Since May 2016, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have been working together on inspections of local area services for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (LA SEND inspections). Catherine Leahy is a Senior HMI and special educational needs and disabilities inspection leader in the South West region. She explains how the dual-inspections work.
The Department for Education commissions these inspections to assess how well local area leaders are implementing the government’s SEND reforms, which were set out in 2014.
The inspections give Ofsted and the CQC a bird’s-eye view of education, health and social care services for children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities. We gather evidence from a wide range of sources, including from visiting schools, GPs and other health partners. We meet with local area officers responsible for education, health and social care, as well as some school leaders. Most importantly, we collect the views of local children, young people and parents.
With this information, we assess how education, health and social care services across the local area work together to identify children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, what they do to meet their needs and how they improve outcomes.
How the teams work together
One of Her Majesty’s Inspectors will lead the inspection team, assisted by a CQC inspector and another Ofsted inspector.
Ofsted recruited a new team of inspectors with professional knowledge and expertise of SEND specifically for this work. These inspectors only work for us part-time. The rest of the time they work in their own provision so they are able to take what they learn back to their other place of work. This, in turn, helps improve LA SEND provision across England.
Every local area gets five days’ notice before the inspection. This allows them to set up face-to-face meetings with children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities and their parents. We want to hear from as many children, young people and their parents as possible. We also host an interactive webinar and a meeting facilitated by the Parent and Carer Forum, which is open to any parent of a child who has special educational needs and/or disabilities.
Before the inspection, we review a range of information about the characteristics of the local special educational needs and disabilities community. This includes a local area SEND report and any strategic plans for improvement. Inspectors also look at information about the local area’s implementation of the government’s reforms and data on the educational attainment of pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities.
At the end of the inspection, we meet up and provide the local area with feedback on our findings. This is followed up with a written letter. Unlike our other inspections, we do not give graded judgements. However, the letter identifies the local area’s main strengths and areas for development in relation to SEND provision.
If the inspection team has significant concerns about the implementation of the reforms or pupil outcomes, then we can require the local area to produce a ‘written statement of action’. These statements set out how leaders plan to deliver improvements to their services.
Working together for SEND
These joint inspections have been vital in improving how education, health and social care services work together to put in place SEND reforms. They’ve also allowed Ofsted and the CQC to really understand how the help and support offered to parents and young people fits together. In this way, we can help ensure that young people who have special educational needs and disabilities get the support they need to thrive and reach their full potential.
Wiltshire’s inspection report
I’m pleased to say that in our region we’ve recently published a largely positive letter about SEND provision in Wiltshire. The letter says that while there is always more to do, Wiltshire is moving in the right direction, which is very encouraging.
If you want to find out more about SEND inspections, you can also watch our set of short films explaining some of the myths that surround them.