Joint SEND inspections reveal inadequate support in many areas

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

More than half of local areas in England are failing to offer acceptable levels of support for children with SEND, figures suggest.

Compiled by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), the figures show that 100 of England’s councils and healthcare providers have now had their joint services inspected – and 51 have failed to meet the required standard.

The charity has revealed the findings after analysing reports published since joint Ofsted and Care Quality Commission local area SEND inspections began in 2016.

When carrying out inspections, inspectors look for evidence of how children and young people with SEND are identified, how their needs are assessed and met, and how they are supported to move on to their next stage of education, the world of work and wider preparation for adulthood.

The five-day inspection includes meeting managers and leaders from the area’s education, health and social care services, looking at young people’s case files as well as visiting education settings.

When a local area fails its joint SEND inspection, a Written Statement of Action is required to outline how its “significant areas of weakness” will be addressed.
Common problems highlighted by inspection reports include concern about high exclusion rates, long waiting times for parents and families, poor academic outcomes for pupils, and low-quality Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).

So far, of the 51 areas failed by inspectors, 11 have since been reassessed. However, only five of these 11 have passed the re-inspection. Furthermore, a third of the 151 local areas in England have yet to be inspected, raising fears that more problems might be uncovered.

The NDCS is urging education secretary Gavin Williamson to “explain how failures will be addressed”.

As part of recent school funding announcements, the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that an additional £700 million would be going to SEND.

However, the general feeling in the sector is that this will not be enough. A report by the ISOS Partnership for the Local Government Association (LGA) identified an anticipated deficit in local authority high needs budgets totalling between £889 million and £1.2 billion in 2020 (Parish et al, 2018).

At the very least, the NDCS wants this money “delivered quickly” to the front-line. However, the current plan is for the funding to be made available from 2020/21.

Steve Haines, executive director at the charity, said: “These figures show that support for children with SEND is falling woefully short. This support isn’t a privilege or a luxury, it’s a legal right, but these children are now relying on a system where their chances of getting what they need are no better than 50-50.

“Make no mistake, this is a system in crisis and it’s completely unacceptable in a compassionate society. If more than half of schools, hospitals or fire stations were failing, there would be a national outcry.

“This shocking rate of failure simply cannot be tolerated and Gavin Williamson must now act on the promises he’s made … by getting the new funding straight to the front-line and demonstrating exactly how he will fix this broken system.”

Further information

Have we reached a ‘tipping point’? Trends in spending for children and young people with SEND in England, Parish, Bryant & Swords, IPSOS/LGA, December 2018:


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up SecEd Bulletin