Julie Jennings examines key themes from your feedback on upcoming Ofsted and CQC SEND service inspections.
After the Children and Families Act 2014 became law, Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families, invited the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to inspect the effectiveness of local areas in fulfilling their new duties to children and young people (CYP) who are disabled or have special educational needs (SEND).
Ofsted regulates and inspects the care of CYP, and the education and skills for learners of all ages. CQC is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. Ofsted and CQC gathered views on how they propose to carry out the inspections. The consultation closed on 4 January and the results are due to be published early this year, with the inspection framework expected to be in place by May.
To prepare our response, RNIB sent out a call for views to parents and practitioners. We participated in SEND forum discussions and shared emerging themes with other voluntary sector sensory impairment organisations. Here are the key themes relating to the inspection of local authority (LA) sensory services:
Proposal 1: How effectively the local area identifies CYP with SEND
RNIB welcomes the emphasis on timely identification leading to effective support. Vision impairment (VI) creates unique challenges to learning which can only be addressed by specialist knowledge and understanding. However, the combination of a numerically small but diverse population means that CYP with VI are at risk of being subsumed within larger SEND groups. It is important that inspectors recognise this.
We also want the LA inspection to scrutinize the referral processes that follow identification by eye health professionals. There should be a clear referral process and pathway from health to education. CYP who are eligible should be certified as sight impaired/severely sight impaired by an ophthalmologist, which would trigger a care assessment, leading to registration with social care services (if the parent wishes).
Proposal 2: How effectively the local area meets the needs and improves the outcomes of CYP with SEND
We welcome the focus on specialist support, such as qualified teachers of learners with vision impairments (QTVI) or habilitation specialists, for both CYP with and without education, health and care plans. It is important that mobility, independence, every day living and social skills are given equal priority with academic attainment, to ensure CYP with VI are fully included with their peers and adequately prepared for the transition to independent adulthood. We therefore want outcomes from the ‘additional curriculum’ to be evaluated, as well as educational attainment.
Proposal 3: The range of information to evaluate the effectiveness of local area arrangements
A key source of data about the number of CYP with VI is the caseload of the LA VI education advisory service. We have evidence that currently other administrative data sources under-represent the population at both local and national levels. In order to identify CYP with VI, inspectors should contact the LA VI education advisory service.
Proposal 4: The range of ways to obtain the views of CYP with SEND, their parents and their carers
While the proposal commits to looking at a wide range of groups of CYP, we have concerns that the specific views of blind and partially sighted learners will be overlooked, as the focus of the inspection will be on a larger group of children with generic SEND.
In any consultation and resulting inspection report, parents and professionals will want to see explicit information about CYP with VI, so information should be broken down by area of need. This is a challenge that the inspections should seek to address, so that processes in general and the local offer in particular, can be improved for specific groups of children, such as CYP with VI.