Ofsted's autumn SEND 'visits' could prompt school inspections

Inspections of local area SEND provision could prompt emergency visits to individual schools if “serious concerns” emerge, Ofsted has said.

In July it was announced that full SEND inspections, normally conducted across whole council areas by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, would not go ahead in the autumn. Interim visits would be carried out from October instead.

The watchdog has now published guidance on how these visits will operate.

Inspectors will meet with education, health and care leaders and talk to children and their families, but will not inspect individual schools.

However, Ofsted told Schools Week that serious concerns flagged during a visit could prompt an emergency inspection – or a full inspection next year.

“Our local area visits are about understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the SEND system, and supporting improvement,” a spokesperson said. “They are not school inspections, which remain suspended. 

“However, if very serious concerns about a school came to our attention, we could choose to carry out an emergency inspection using HMCI’s discretionary powers. 

“And in some cases we may prioritise the school for a full inspection once they resume.”

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.

Ofsted is now developing a new SEND inspection framework. Schools Week revealed in February that the number of town halls given a second warning over failing SEND services had almost doubled in less than six months.

Full inspections of schools were suspended in March and won’t resume until January at the earliest.

However, inspectors will visit some schools to look at how they are returning to their normal curriculum following Covid closures (see story left).