Matthew Barnes, HMI Specialist Adviser, SEND, on local area SEND inspections

Last May Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) launched the joint local area SEND inspections. In April 2016 we published the framework and handbook that set out the inspection framework and process.

The announcement of the new inspection framework was well received by many and Ofsted and CQC are keen to ensure that local areas, parents and young people really understand what we inspect and how. There are still some key questions about how these inspections work and in a subsequent blog I will clarify a few things that we are often asked.

Who are the inspection teams?

One of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) leads the inspection team, which includes a CQC inspector and an Ofsted inspector (OI). On occasion there may be two CQC inspectors.

We recruited a new team of specialist OIs to work with us for these inspections. They bring expert, professional knowledge of special educational needs and disability. What they learn about on inspection they take back into their work, including in local areas, ensuring improvement continues.

We will inspect all 152 local areas over a five year period. Each local area is notified five days before the inspection to give time for the crucial engagement with parents and young people to be set up.

What we inspect

Inspectors will review a range of information before the inspection to help them plan, and to determine the issues to pursue on inspection. This includes:

  • a local area SEND report which has information about the characteristics of the SEND community
  • data in relation to the local area’s implementation of the reforms
  • the attainment of pupils who have SEND
  • data about preparation for adulthood
  • data that reflects the experience of the system for families.

Other important information is reviewed including the local area’s planned spend on respite care, admissions to residential and nursing homes and area inspection outcomes from inspections by Ofsted and CQC.

Jointly, inspectors will review any strategic plans for improving provision for children and young people who have SEND. For example, inspectors will look at the area’s ‘Joint Strategic Needs Assessment’.

The lead HMI inspector ensures that the team gathers a range of evidence from field work, meetings and listening to parents and young people’s views. Our field work includes inspection activities such as:

  • visiting providers across education, health and care
  • holding meetings with elected members and key local area officers from health, education and social care. We also often meet leaders of early years settings, schools, colleges and specialist services
  • assessing health and social care services and looking at how they contribute and work collaboratively to meet children and young people’s needs
  • collecting views from a range of children, young people and parents.

How we report

During, and at the end of an inspection, we provide the local area with feedback about our inspection findings. The lead HMI writes a report letter identifying the main strengths and areas for development. There are no graded judgements for our local area SEND inspections.

If the inspection team judge that there are significant concerns in the local area, the area may be required to produce and publish a Written Statement of Action (WSOA). To August 2017 we have published 39 report letters and issued 13 local areas with a WSOA. We will be completing another 10 LA SEND inspections this term.

Written statement of action

At the final feedback meeting it is made clear whether a WSOA is required and the reasons for it are explained in the report letter. The final findings are subject to moderation by Ofsted and CQC.

If a WSOA is required, the local area and clinical commissioning groups must submit this to Ofsted within 70 working days of receiving the final report letter.

Ofsted and CQC will review the WSOA within 10 working days of receiving it. If it is considered not fit for purpose, the local area must re-submit the WSOA within 20 working days. If the second statement is still unfit for purpose, the Department for Education will decide whether any action needs to be taken.

We recognise that in some local areas the strategic leadership and joint commissioning is strong. Leaders have an accurate understanding of the impact of commissioning and they gain important insights by frequently evaluating the impact of their services. But, in other areas the lack of evaluation across education, health and care is of concern.

Feedback so far on the joint working has been positive. Working together, Ofsted and CQC are holding local areas to account and their joint working is helping to improve outcomes for children and young people.

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