Parental engagement is important to Ofsted. We have been looking at ways we gather parents’ and carers’ views on our inspections of local authority arrangements for pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (LA SEND inspections), which we carry out jointly with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
We want parents to play an important role in the LA SEND inspections and we want to hear their views. Inspectors cannot meet parents individually, but they can and do meet with groups of parents through the webinar, which they host during each inspection.
We listened to parents about the timings of our webinars during LA SEND inspections. They told us that the original times we used were inconvenient and did not allow parents time to think and respond. So we changed the system. We now run the webinars from midday on the day of notification until 4pm on day 2 of the inspection week. This gives parents much more time to make their contributions.
Parents can also email their contributions to LASEND.email@example.com. Inspectors do not respond to the emails, but they do read every contribution and this forms part of the evidence base used during inspection.
Seeking parents’ views
Parents’ experiences are important sources of evidence during our reviews. Are services working out for their children? Inspectors need to know. In particular, we want to know how:
- local areas work with parents to co-produce plans that lead to the best outcomes for the children and young people
- services take the views of parents, children and young people on board
When we’re carrying out LA SEND inspections with the CQC, we check how well those local areas communicate. Are they asking parents for their views? Are families involved in decision-making? Are their wishes and feelings taken on board? And are the educational settings, health services and social care meeting the needs of their children?
Every experience of parents and their children is valid and important. However, Ofsted cannot investigate individual cases. We do not have the powers to do so. Inspectors are also unable to comment on individual cases or identify them in reports. We appreciate that this can be a source of frustration for parents, but it's important that everyone understands this. Any parent that would like to raise an issue about an individual case can make a complaint.
Having your say
Inspectors want every parent to have their say. We currently have a range of ways of letting parents know that their services are being inspected.
First, we tell the local area partner services that our inspection is about to take place. We send details of our webinar sign-up page to them and other stakeholder organisations. The stakeholder organisations then distribute the information to their members. These organisations include organisations such as, the Council for Disabled Children, the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and the National Deaf Children’s Society.
What else? Ofsted and CQC also tweet out the webinar link from @ofstednews and @CareQualityComm and give the full details of where the inspection is happening.
We’ve also agreed with the popular website SEN Jungle, which is for parents of children who have SEN and/or disabilities, that they’ll help us promote the webinar by adding the details to their website and emailing it to subscribers. You can subscribe to the site to keep up to date. SEN Jungle covers the inspections in blog posts and news stories too.
You can also sign up to receive an email from GOV.UK that will tell you when we add information on inspections to the page. Have a look here – it’s very simple and you can choose how often you hear from us. Our press team contacts local and regional radio and newspapers to keep them informed too.
The momentum of these inspections has encouraged local areas to circulate information more quickly. If this isn’t the case in your local area, let us know by emailing us at LASEND.firstname.lastname@example.org.
We know that there is more for us to do at being better at capturing parents’ views. If you have any suggestions – let us know.