44% of areas are failing young people with SEND

The Guardian is reporting that children and young people with special needs are being failed in almost half of areas in England inspected under new rules.

Under a system of inspections introduced in 2016, the education watchdog Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have so far visited 68 local areas to assess whether they meet the needs of those aged 0 to 25 with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Inspectors said they had “serious concerns” in 30 cases (44% of those examined), requiring those areas to produce a written statement of action to detail how they would address “significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice”.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities deserved a better deal.

“Since Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) began SEND inspections more than two years ago, we have shone a spotlight on strong and weak SEND practice across education, health and social care. The fact that we have identified significant concerns in so many areas shows there is still some way to go until children and young people’s special educational needs are being met.”

More than 1.2 million school pupils (about 15% of all those in England) have SEND, according to Department for Education figures.

The Children and Families Act 2014 placed new duties on the local health, social and education services to identify and meet the needs of those with SEND who were under 26. In response, a programme of 152 inspections of services in local areas was established to assess how well they were preparing children to live as independently as possible and secure meaningful employment when they left education.

The first inspections took place in May 2016 and will conclude in 2021. Ofsted said they tried to ensure a spread across the country when choosing which areas should be inspected in a given year.

Birmingham, the biggest local authority area in the country, was one of the 30 areas to be highlighted so far as failing to meet the needs of young people with SEND. In the inspection report, published in September, the area was criticised for “a lack of strategic and coordinated leadership”.

“Pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities make weak academic progress, attend less often and are excluded more frequently than other pupils in Birmingham and all pupils nationally,” the report said.

“Not enough young people who have SEN and/or disabilities are entering employment or supported employment. The proportion of adults with learning disabilities in paid employment is below the national average.”

A joint statement from the council and the Birmingham and Solihull clinical commissioning group said they were disappointed by the findings, but fully accepted them.

Source: Guardian