December 2021

The Chief Inspector of Ofsted has published her annual report to Parliament, giving a national picture of education and care for children and young people in England. 

The report highlights the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the disproportionate impact on children and young people with SEND. Many children were not able to access the support they rely on, and the report notes that children with SEND had a particularly difficult time both during lockdowns and on the general reopening of schools. Local services were also often not available. 

This confirms what IPSEA has heard from families throughout the pandemic. 

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission resumed their local area SEND inspection programme in summer 2021. They carried out full inspections in eight areas this year, and revisited eight areas where significant weaknesses in SEND provision had previously been identified. 

Of the eight areas inspected this year, seven were told they had to produce a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) – a document explaining how they will tackle weaknesses identified by inspectors and improve support for children with SEND. 

Furthermore, of the eight areas revisited this year which had previously been found to be doing an inadequate job of identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND, only two areas have made sufficient progress in addressing their weaknesses. 

Ofsted concluded that in most areas inspected this year, the quality of children and young people’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans is weak. The report says: “In too many cases, [EHC plans] had not been updated when a child or young person’s needs changed, or when they reached a transition point.” 

Many families contact IPSEA for exactly this reason; because their children are not getting the support they need and to which they are entitled to by law.

Ali Fiddy, IPSEA’s Chief Executive, said:

“The local area SEND inspection programme is one of the only ways we have of seeing how the SEND system is working for children and young people across the country. More than half of local areas inspected since 2016 are not supporting children and young people with SEND in the way they should – and this situation is getting steadily worse, not better. 

It’s shocking that nearly all local areas inspected this year have been shown to be doing a poor job of meeting their legal obligations to children with SEND, and that nearly all areas that have been revisited have failed to improve. This suggests that provision for children and young people with SEND is simply not a high enough priority for most local authorities. 

The Government’s SEND Review must tackle head-on the culture in too many local authorities that following the law is optional, and must introduce measures that ensure there are serious consequences for local areas that fail children and young people with SEND.”

Read Ofsted’s full report here.