Leadership, strategy and EHCPs most significant weaknesses in England’s local area SEND Inspections (Part 1)

This article comes to you in two parts. The first, below, explores the statistics of Ofsted and CQC’s Area SEND Inspections from 2016-2021, and their subsequent revisits if an area failed— if they got a revisit. The second part, coming on Monday, gives a guide to the upcoming “new, improved” round of inspections that will start this year.

To go with today’s statistics, we have some maps so you can see at a glance

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LVS Oxford
ASDAN Realising Aspirations

How did the first local area SEND inspections pan out?

These started in 2016, to check how well local areas were implementing the 2014 SEND reforms. A local area consists of the local authority and the health services that operate within the LA’s geographic boundaries.

Check the infographic and the interactive map for more, but in summary:

  • Over half of the inspected local areas had SEND service weaknesses significant enough to trigger a formal improvement programme, known as a “written statement of action” (WSOA);
  • Inspection outcomes got worse over time: across 2021 and 2022, two-thirds of inspected local areas were told to put together a WSOA;
  • Measured by the proportion of formal improvement instructions given out, no other sector that Ofsted inspects performs as badly as local area SEND does.

In all, Ofsted & CQC inspectors identified over 440 individual areas of significant weakness in the local area SEND services they inspected between 2016 and 2022. The three most common areas of weakness were defective leadership & strategy, poor joint commissioning of education and health services, and flawed Education, Health & Care Plan (EHCP) processes.

Have revisits worked to improve SEND provision?

In late 2018, inspectors introduced a programme of “revisits” to local areas with significant weaknesses, to check whether things were improving. Many of these were delayed by the pandemic, and a significant number of revisits (23) won’t be happening at all.

At the time of writing, inspectors had reported on 56 local area revisits. The results of these were mixed:

  • 25 of the 56 local areas had sorted out all of their areas of significant weakness to inspectors’ satisfaction;
  • 31 of the 56 local areas still had at least one remaining area of significant weakness – in some cases, the same weaknesses were there three years after the original inspection;
  • If your local area didn’t get a revisit, then they’ll be prioritised for a slightly earlier inspection under the new system.

Who got a pass and who got slapped down?

You can click the images to enlarge them, and you can also click through to the links below each image for an interactive version, with names of local areas.

Image showing Map of inspection areas — click the link below 
for interactive version
Click image to enlarge. See the interactive version here
Image showing Map of inspection revisit areas — click the link below for interactive version
Click image to enlarge. See the interactive version here

Disappearing LAs

A note on local authority boundary changes: There are two LAs that no longer exist in the same form that they did when they were inspected:

  • Dorset: Dorset had a SEND inspection in 2017, but in 2019 a small bit of this LA was broken off to form a new LA, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council. BCP council got an LA SEND inspection last year
  • Northamptonshire: also inspected in 2017, but in 2021 this LA was split into two separate LAs. These two LAs haven’t been inspected, but will be under the new system. Ofsted don’t count these two inspections in their stats. I’ve included them, because they happened
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The infographic

If numbers leave you cold, our infographic by Tania will help you understand the inspection outcomes as a whole

Click to enlarge. Accessible PDF linked below

Download the infographic as an accessible PDF here

Also read:


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Matt Keer
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