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Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) are to assess how effectively local areas are fulfilling their obligations towards children and young people with SEN, under new proposals announced in October.

A new form of inspection will begin in May 2016. For the first time, inspectors will evaluate how local authorities, nurseries, schools, further education establishments and health services identify children and young people with SEN. They will also evaluate how well they provide services to meet these needs, in nurseries, schools or further education colleges, and through specialist services, such as speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and mental health services.

Inspectors will look at a sample of students’ files and information about their progress. Inspectors will visit early years settings, schools and further education colleges to see how they are helping to meet the local area’s responsibilities.

Ofsted and the CQC say they want these inspections to act as a catalyst for improvement, so that some of the most vulnerable young people in the country benefit consistently from the high-quality services to which they are entitled.

The inspection reports will also highlight particular strengths and good practice in local areas, to encourage other areas to model similar practices. These evaluations will also include children’s and young people’s progress towards their next stage of education or employment.

The overall aim is to see all children and young people with SEN do well in education, be more independent, find employment and be an increasing part of their local communities.

Have your say

Ofsted and the CQC are currently “seeking the widest possible range of views from all those with an interest in disability and special educational needs”. The consultation asks for responses to the following proposals:

  • inspectors will evaluate how effectively the local area identifies disabled children and young people and those who have SEN
  • inspectors will evaluate how effectively the local area meets the needs and improves the outcomes of disabled children and young people and those with SEN
  • a wide range of information will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of local area arrangements, including the views of children and young people, parents and carers, recent inspection reports and visits to a number of local education and health service providers
  • a wide range of ways will be used during the inspection to obtain the views of disabled children and young people, and their parents and carers, including meetings, online questionnaires and social media.

“We will look carefully at how the local area identifies the needs of young people and scrutinise how well it meets these needs”, says Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director for Education. “We will want to see evidence that the children and young people are progressing well, to their next stage of education or employment.”

Professor Steve Field, the Care Quality Commission’s Chief Inspector of General Practice, believes that negotiating the various health and education systems can be very complicated for the families of young people and children with SEN or disabilities. “It can be a bewildering experience for families having to coordinate different types of support”, he says. “That’s why it’s important that we examine how well these different partners work together to meet the care needs of this often vulnerable group.”

While the consultation and proposed inspections have been broadly welcomed by many in the SEN sector, there are concerns about how the inspections will work. Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research at The National Deaf Children’s Society, says that Ofsted’s approach “treats SEND as if it were a single entity. SEND covers a wide range of needs therefore a general report about overall SEND provision will not be helpful to parents wishing to hold their local authority to account for their child’s specific disability.”

Mr Noon has called on Ofsted, the CQC and the DfE to rethink their approach.

The consultation will close on 4 January 2016. To take part in the consultation, or for more information, click here.

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