‘Visits’ replace local area SEND inspections in autumn term

Local area inspections of arrangements for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are to remain paused. The inspections, which are carried out jointly by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) were originally suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. They will now not resume straight away in the autumn term, according to the Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, who has also said a new framework will be developed for the inspections. Ofsted and CQC began inspecting area SEND arrangements in May 2016, and have inspected 117 local areas to date.

In an HMCI commentary published last week, Ms Spielman acknowledged that the lockdown period had been particularly disruptive for pupils with SEND, but that it would not be appropriate to resume the local area inspections straight away. ‘The current levels of disruption to education, health and care services, as well as changing expectations of local areas during the pandemic, would make it impossible for us and CQC to make fair, valid and consistent inspection judgements.’ she wrote.

Instead, in the autumn term Ofsted and the CQC will conduct a series of visits to establish how well the system is working, and assess when local areas will be ready for full inspections to restart. The visits will not be formal inspections, and no formal reports will be published from them. However Ofsted/CQC will publish ‘insights’ from the visits, together with good practice and case studies, in national reports.

Ms Spielman also said that Ofsted and the CQC intend to develop a new framework for the inspections, which will launch after the current cycle of inspections is eventually completed. The revised framework will seek to address weaknesses in the inspection process which have been identified during the current cycle. These include that there has been too much focus on the implementation of the government’s 2014 SEND reforms, and not enough on the quality and impact of provision on children’s lives. The new framework is intended to improve the current arrangements by: introducing a continuous cycle of inspections; focusing inspection more sharply on the experience of children and young people with SEND and their families; featuring more prominently in inspection the quality, integration and commissioning of education, health and care services for children and young people with SEND.

The full HMCI commentary can be read here: https://tinyurl.com/y9ewodme

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