The report looked at numerous areas across children’s services, including SEND, with a specific focus on the Ofsted and CQC SEND inspections of local areas.
Since 2016, Ofsted and CQC have carried out joint inspections of services for children and young people with SEND in local areas. To date, 116inspections have been undertaken and over half (59 out of 116) of the areas inspected have been required to produce and submit a written statement of action (WSoA).
This is an indication of significant weaknesses in the areas’ SEND arrangements.
During the 2019/20 academic year, Ofsted and CQC jointly completed16 inspections. Over half (nine areas) required a WSoA due to significant weaknesses identified in each case, ranging from two weaknesses in two areas to nine in another. The weaknesses varied across areas, however limitations regarding the consistency and/or quality of EHCPs were cited in all nine inspection reports.
Below is a graphical representation taken from the report, that indicates the number of inspections by region and the outcome of these inspections:
The aim has to be for all local areas across all regions to deliver a SEND offer that is compliant, ‘fit-for-purpose’ and meets the requirements of the SEND community. Currently this is not the case (as demonstrated by the above graph) and further work is required to improve standards and attain greater consistency of good practice across areas.
In May 2019, the Department for Education published their annual snapshot of statistics about EHCPs in England. The figures highlight that 3.3% of all pupils in schools in England have an Education, health and care (EHC) plan, a rise from 3.1% in 2019 and a further 12.1% of all pupils have SEN support, without an EHC plan, up from11.9% in 2019. The national increase in the number of EHCPs is placing increasing demands of local authorities who are operating within considerable budget pressures.
Ensuring effective provision and outcomes for children and youngpeople with additional needs that require an EHCP is central to a local area’s SEND offer.
The purpose of an EHCP, as set out in the SEND Code of Practice, is to:
· Secure the special educational provision assessed as being necessary to meet the SEN of the child or young person
· Secure the best possible outcomes for them across education, health and social care
· Support preparation for adulthood
· Establish outcomes across education, health and social care, based on the child or young person’s needs and aspirations
· Set out the provision required and how education, health and care services will work together to meet the child or young person’s needs and support the achievement of the agreed outcomes
· Confirm sources of funding for all aspects of required support, which may be through a personal budget or other resources.
In the 2019/20 academic year, nine areas (over 50% of all the inspections that took place in this period) required a WSoA due to significant weaknesses. All nine inspection outcomes cited the consistency and/or quality of EHCPs as a limitation.
So what solutions / support exits for local areas to address this area of recognised weakness?
Until recently there was no quality assurance system or tool that was utilised beyond one individual local area. This was an area that was identified by ‘Innovate Invision’ with the aim of developing a tool that can positively impact the outcomes of children and young people with SEND, by supporting local authorities across the country to quality assure their EHCPs through a consistent and objective approach.
Innovate Invision enables local authorities to ensure children and young people receive high quality EHCPs, by providing an online system that includes specific audit criteria (based on nationally recognised good practice documentation),step-by-step guidance to the auditor, sharing examples of ‘what good looks like ’for each section of the plan and delivering an automated data analysis to inform improvement cycles.
Invision has now been implemented in several local areas across England and everyday we’re seeing more engaging to explore the benefits of utilising the online audit tool. Those local areas utilising Invision have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback about the impact of Invision.
“Invision EHCP has given us the ability to utilise the skills and expertise across Birmingham City Council, NHS and Social Care. This has enabled us to improve the quality of our EHCPs to ensure they effectively meet the needs of our children and young people with SEND.” Vicki Robinson (Transformation lead for SEND and Inclusion for Birmingham)
Improving the quality and consistency of EHCPs is increasingly a key focus and priority for local areas, to contribute to a comprehensive and effective SEND offer. Ensuring a robust and insightful quality assurance framework is in place across all services is not an easy task; however, is integral to work collaboratively to get this right and ensure children and young peoples outcomes remain central to all we do.