It is one year since Ofsted and Care Quality Commission began the first joint local area inspections of provision for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).
At Ofsted, all of our work – whether it’s inspecting nurseries, schools or further education colleges – is fundamentally about making things better for children and young people. Inspection should be a force for improvement, as HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has said. The accountability that Ofsted provides is helping to raise standards in education and improve lives.
I am hopeful that, over time, the inspections of local area SEND provision across England will lead to the same tangible improvements for children and young people.
Our inspectors are seasoned professionals. But for an inspection to be comprehensive, their expertise must be complemented by evidence, including the views of parents and carers, and the opinions of children and young people who have SEND. Put simply, we need to understand your experience of the local area provision for education, health and care in order to make robust judgements.
How can you do this? Before we begin an inspection, we ask the local area nominated officers to inform local media that we will be arriving to inspect. We also organise and publicise webinars, which offer a forum for parents and carers to talk to inspectors during the five day inspection.
One of the things inspectors consider is whether the support for children and young people with dyslexia is effective. To do this, they talk to the young people themselves and their parents, as well as schools and professionals from care and health services.
According to the most recent statistics, there are more than 190,000 children in England who have speech, language or communication needs. Not all of these children are dyslexic, but it’s a reasonable assumption that at least some will have been diagnosed with this condition.
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission’s inspections of local area SEND provision are very thorough. For example, we focused specifically on dyslexia when inspecting provision in Leeds last December. Inspectors found that parents had raised concerns about the area being too slow in identifying dyslexia. Parents and young people were also worried about the impact of unmet needs stemming from dyslexia on their emotional health.
In the outcome letter published in February 2017, inspectors reported that leaders in Leeds had not effectively responded to those with specific learning disabilities – particularly dyslexia. The letter also stated that educational outcomes for secondary school students with SEND needed to improve. It is by highlighting issues like these that we raise the profile of SEND – and compel local authorities, health care services, and other providers to do something about it.
I am confident that, over time but not overnight, our inspections will bring about a cultural shift that will ensure all professionals working in SEND will provide an excellent quality of service right across the 0 to 25 year age range.
In the meantime, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission will sustain our focus on outcomes for children and young people. Crucially, when we inspect a local area we will consider the progress of pupils who have SEND in relation to the progress of all pupils nationally with similar starting points.
I hope you can contribute your views and experiences of provision when we are inspecting your local area.
By Joanna Hall HMI, Ofsted Deputy Director for Schools