Exclusive: SEND omitted from some new Ofsted reports

Charity director raises concern after analysis shows 16 new school inspection reports make no mention of SEND pupils

John Roberts

Ofsted and SEND: A new analysis has shown that 16 reports published by Ofsted last term did not mention pupils with SEND at all

A charity director has called on Ofsted to ensure that school inspection reports always include provision for children with special education needs after finding 16 new reports in which SEND pupils are not mentioned at all.

Karen Wespieser, the director of operations at the Driver Youth Trust, has said it is concerning that in more than a dozen of the new reports produced last term there is no information for parents or school leaders about how a school is providing for children with SEND.

This omission has come to light in a new analysis of the first two months of inspection reports carried out by Ofsted under its new inspection framework.

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Ms Wespieser, who works for a charity that supports pupils with literacy difficulties, has also called for schools' overall Ofsted grades to depend partly on the quality of their SEND provision.

She found more than 30 reports in which a school was rated as "good" despite inspectors raising concerns about the education provided to those with SEND.

She said: “It is concerning that in some of these reports SEND is not mentioned at all. Especially when you consider that in some of the reports where there is a small number of mentions of SEND this can include statements about the proportion of SEND pupils a school has.

Is Ofsted focused on schools' SEND provision?

"These 16 reports didn’t even have that.  I am surprised that they have got through Ofsted’s quality assurance processes.”

She told Tes that it was important for all parents to be able to have information about how well a school provides for SEND pupils.

“Parents of children with SEND need this information but I think it's an issue for all parents because how a school provides for its children with SEND is a good marker in understanding the school." 

The research into 766 inspection reports has been funded by the special needs charity Nasen.

Ms Wespieser has presented her findings today in the style of an Ofsted report.

In her report, she says: “On occasion, the provision for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) is not good enough.

“Sixteen reports do not mention SEND at all. In these reports – one 'outstanding', two 'requires improvement' (RI) and 13 'good' – no comment is made about SEND provision.

“Ofsted should ensure that provision for these pupils is being addressed consistently well across all reports.”

Ms Wespieser found that, on average, reports contain 2.4 mentions of SEND provision. The figure is slightly higher in secondary (2.9) than primary (2.3).

Her report says that although parents will benefit from "a simplified tone and style of the new reports" they do not contain the detail required to meet the needs of school leaders.

Ms Wespieser recommends that Ofsted must ensure that information about SEND is communicated clearly and regularly in reports.

“Report authors must ensure that SEND reporting is not used as a platitude rather than as a meaningful judgement”, she adds.

And she says that Ofsted’s findings on SEND should be a limiting judgement

“If a school is found not to be meeting the needs of its pupils with SEND then in my opinion that is not a 'good' school,” she told Tes.

Her report highlights one case where a school was judged to be "good" but “teachers do not check what pupils know and can do well enough". "This means that too many pupils, including those who have fallen behind and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), do not catch up quickly,” it says.    

Other findings in her analysis include: 

  • One in 10 reports mention SEND only as an area for improvement. These include reports where the school is rated as "good" (31), as well as those that are "RI" (40) or "inadequate" (7)
  • Overall, there is no clear correlation between positive feedback on SEND provision and Ofsted grade.
  • Over two-thirds of reports provide only positive comments about SEND provision. These include 449 reports where the school is rated "good", 14 where the schools is rated "outstanding" and 58 that are identified as "RI".
  • SEND and "leadership and management" are also well covered. School leaders, special educational needs coordinators (Sendcos) and governors all participate in the inspection process. Comments and recommendations are often targeted at this group.

In response to the findings, Ofsted said: "Our school inspectors always gather and evaluate evidence about the quality of education for pupils with SEND, and make their judgements using the grade descriptors set out in our school inspection handbook.

"Our reports may not always specifically mention SEND provision, but they will always explain how well the school meets the needs of all its pupils, including those with SEND.

"It’s important to remember that our reports are chiefly written for parents; the evidence that supports the judgements is discussed in depth with the school during the inspection."

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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