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Local area SEND inspections: one year on

1. The former Minister of State for Children and Families commissioned Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to work together to develop and deliver a programme of 152 local area inspections over approximately a five-year period. Together, the two inspectorates designed a new framework to inspect the effectiveness of local areas in fulfilling their new duties in the ‘Special educational needs and disability code of practice: 0 to 25 years’ (the Code of Practice).1 The first local area inspections took place in May 2016.

2. The Code of Practice applies to England. It provides statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations. The duties came into force in September 2014. The Code places responsibility on the local area to identify and meet the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) aged 0 to 25. The local area includes the local authority, health commissioners and providers. These inspections are conducted under section 20 of the Children’s Act 2004.

3. The framework for these inspections sets out how Ofsted and CQC jointly inspect the local area’s effectiveness in three main aspects:

  • identifying children and young people’s SEND
  • meeting the needs of children and young people who have SEND
  • improving outcomes for children and young people who have SEND.

Inspectors assess how well local areas are preparing these children and young people to live as independently as possible and, where possible, secure meaningful employment as they move into their adult lives.

4. This inspection framework holds local area leaders to account for how they implement the Code of Practice and for their strategic leadership of services in the local area. In particular, inspectors evaluate how well the implementation of the Code leads to improvements in:

  • identification of SEND
  • providing for and meeting needs
  • outcomes for children and young people who have SEND.

Ofsted publishes an outcomes letter to the local area leaders after inspection. This letter gives the main findings from the inspection. It sets out the local area’s strengths and what it needs to develop against the three main aspects in the inspection framework.

5. The findings should enable local areas to learn from the good practice and strengths that we find nationally. Ofsted and CQC use these inspections to challenge poor practice and deal with any non-compliance with the Code.

6. In some cases, inspectors may have significant concerns about how effectively the local area meets its duties or secures better outcomes for children and young people who have SEND. In these cases, inspectors will judge that a written statement of action (WSOA) is required from the local area. Local area leaders must set out in the WSOA how they will tackle the areas of significant concern. They must explain the intended timescales for securing rapid improvement. Ofsted and CQC review the statement and make a judgement about whether it is fit for purpose. Ofsted’s relevant regional director will then write to local area leaders to inform them of the judgement and explain why it has been made.

7. The first local area SEND inspections took place in May 2016. By May 2017, Ofsted and CQC had completed 30 inspections. Just under a third of the local areas inspected (nine) were required to provide a WSOA. Of those nine local areas: two were in the North West region, two in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber region and one each in the South East, South West, London, East of England and West Midlands regions.

8. This report provides a summary of the main findings from the first 30 local area SEND inspections. It identifies the most common strengths and aspects that need improving. It also explains the main significant concerns in the nine local areas required to produce a WSOA.