Well! There I was, checking my email before I set off for home, and what should I find but a reply from the Man From Ofsted. Here it is. (Just this once I am breaking a rule and putting someone else’s words in a post, but bearing in mind that this is an important issue to me, I thought I may as well. Normal service will resume shortly.) There is a link at the end to the consultation, but please feel free to use the comments below.
Thank you for your letter. You raise many important points.
Firstly let me explain that the inspectors who will carry out these inspections will have a depth of expertise in disability and special educational needs. The team will include a HMI who is a specialist in disability and special educational needs and has received additional training in this area of inspection work. The CQC inspector is similarly a specialist in evaluating specialist children’s services. The third team member will be a local authority officer who is working at a senior strategic or operational level in special educational needs. The local authority officer inspectors will be recruited and trained specially for these inspections and, of course, will not inspect in any areas where have any connections.
Inspectors are clear that they will look for high expectations for disabled children and young people who have special educational needs from all involved. The consistent finding of Ofsted’s inspections and surveys is that this is the singular, most important feature for making the most progress. However it would not be right to say that having high expectations for progress and providing high quality health and social care are contradictory. High quality care contributes well to meeting a young person’s special educational needs and maximising their progress.
You raise the topic of identification of special educational needs. It is crucial that this is done well. The new inspection consultation paper explains that effective identification includes:
* the timeliness of the assessment from when concerns were raised; as you explain the identification of special educational needs is not simply a matter of a young person having low attainment for their age.
* the usefulness of the information provided by the identification, in terms of how it helps to plan effectively to meet the young person’s needs
* how well different teachers and professional work together during assessments
* the involvement of and understanding by the young person
* the involvement of and understanding by parents and carers.
All of these aspects are so important and will form the basis of the inspectors’ evaluation.
Inspectors will expect to see how the local area has identified the area’s needs, based on a careful analysis of information about the special educational needs of their young people. They will then look at how well this analysis is matched by the area’s provision, in its mainstream and special schools, by specialist services and, where appropriate, through social care. This picture is the Local Offer and inspectors will ask parents about how useful they have found the published offer for their area.
Thank you for raising these matters, however, I must be very clear that it would be wrong to expect these inspections by themselves to right all of the concerns of all parents. The reforms are new and will need time to be implemented. The inspections will provide a rigorous evaluation of the whole local area, however we must be realistic that they cannot look at every concern raised by every parent. They will highlight key strengths and aspects requiring development and the inspection reports will provide a catalyst for change both in the area being inspected and to other local areas.
You included the link to the consultation in your open letter and I repeat it again here and ask as many as possible to respond:
Sean Harford HMI
National Director, Education