Ofsted will begin revisiting areas where “significant concerns about SEND provision” have been identified from next month, ahead of a return to full inspections of local areas from June.
Area SEND inspections have been paused since March 2020 due the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
However the inspections, which are carried out jointly by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission(CQC) and focus on local authority provision, are due to restart as part of phased return from April.
The two inspectorates have conducted a series of interim visits since the pause, but from next month will re-visit local areas that had been required to produce a written statement of action (WSOA) due to significant concerns.
The purpose of these visits is to “determine whether the local area has made sufficient progress” on addressing concerns, and will be conducted “remotely if required” due to the pandemic, according to new guidance.
Re-visits will explore leaders ‘understanding of the impact of the pandemic’
Area leaders’ understanding of the impact of the pandemic on young people with SEND and how that understanding has been used to adapt plans to address areas of significant weakness will be explored during the re-visits.
As the visits are occurring “during a period of disruption caused by the pandemic”, new guidance states area leaders should also be prepared to discuss how they have “understood” the needs of SEND children during the pandemic, involved SEND children and their families in decisions about how best to support them and “worked collaboratively” to adapt services.
Local area SEND inspections focus on how education, health and care services interact to serve pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. They are separate from school inspections.
Areas selected will be given 10 working days’ notice ahead of a revisit, and while they can request a deferral, Ofsted says it does not expect re-visits to be deferred “other than in exceptional circumstances, such as an extreme weather event or other major incident”.
The re-visit inspection team will be led by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors, accompanied by a CQC inspector. Where possible they will be the same people who carried out the initial inspection.
Next steps from Ofsted and CQC
If inspectors identify any other significant weaknesses during the re-visit,they will be highlighted in the re-visit letter and may be used to determine the timing of the local area’s next inspection.
However, the guidance states Ofsted will not require a new WSOA “because the re-visit is not a new inspection”.
Re-visits usually occur within 18-months of the WSOA being declared fit for purpose, but Ofsted says it will “take account of the length of time that has elapsed since a local area was required to produce a WSOA when deciding which areas to re-visit”.
If the local area is found to have made “sufficient progress” in addressing all areas of significant weakness, the DfE and NHS England will stop their formal quarterly support and challenge visits.
However, if an area is found to be making insufficient progress, possible next steps include the secretary of state Gavin Williamson using his powers of intervention.
Full return of area SEND inspections
Ofsted and CQC plan to restart full area SEND inspections in June at the earliest.
While a new area SEND inspection framework is currently being developed, these visits will be to areas that have not yet been inspected under the current framework.
Ofsted said the exact restart date of full inspections will be kept under review and is “subject to government guidance and any Covid-19 restrictions in place at the time”.