Ofsted consults on plans for SEND local area reviews

Ofsted will join up with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to evaluate how well children and young people with special educational needs are cared for in local areas across a range of services, including schools.

Beginning next May, the two watchdogs will inspect all local areas at least once over the next five years.

Schools and the further education sector will be included in the evaluations alongside local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, and early years settings.

Inspectors will look at pupils’ academic files and gather information about their progress. Services such as speech and language therapy, and mental health services, will also be evaluated.

Local areas will not receive an overall graded judgement, but reports will include recommendations and priority areas for improvement.

Ofsted and the CQC are now consulting on the plan’s implementation.

Opinions are being sought on a range of issues including the possibility of using social media to obtain the views of children and young people about the meeting of their needs.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director for education, said: “We will want to see evidence that the children and young people are progressing well, to their next stage of education or employment. Effective local area support is crucial for these children and young people who really need them.”

Mr Harford said Ofsted will use the reviews to “highlight good practice” and “celebrate success”.

“I hope that other areas will be inspired by this good practice, which will lead to improvements elsewhere. I also hope the result will be better support for some of the most vulnerable young people in society, helping to give them the best possible start in life.”

CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field said: “Young people and children with special educational needs or disabilities can face a complex system comprising many different health and educational agencies. It can be a bewildering experience for families having to coordinate different types of support.

“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.”

Dramatic changes to the provision of special educational needs were brought in by the government last September. Statements of need for children aged up to 18 have now been replaced by education, health and care plans (ECHPs).

Views have been mixed on the success of its implementation. Parent and teacher Nancy Gedge told Schools Week earlier this year that she fear provision would be “patchy” but inclusion commissioning manager for Portsmouth City Council Dr Julia Katherine said it was “a lot better” than the previous system.

The consultation will close on January 4, and can be found here. The outcome of the consultation will be published in “early 2016”.

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