The latest session for the Education Committee focused on the joint local area SEND inspections and how problems in the system are currently being resolved.

We were particularly interested in the discussion around the increasing number of local areas being requested to submit a Written Statement of Action following inspections, which has risen from 25% in 2016 to 60% in 2018. Whilst these statistics suggest that the performance of local authorities is decreasing, Gill Jones, HMI at Ofsted explained that actually this increase reflects changing expectations, saying that “initially, it was about giving local areas time to implement the new way of working and the educational healthcare plans. As we have gone further down the line, three years into these reforms, the expectation is that the local area would not be on the way to introducing the reforms, but that they would be in place.”

However, other reasons behind the ongoing issues were also highlighted during the session. Gill Jones noted the lack of “national consistency” for EHC plans and how this is resulting in inconsistency both across different local areas and within a local area. This struck a chord, partly because we have always been advocates of a national EHCP template, but also because this highlights the absolute necessity of having robust quality assurance procedures to identify weaknesses and inconsistencies throughout the EHCP process. Indeed, Ali Fiddy from IPSEA took the words right out of our mouths when she flagged the problems with professional advice submitted as part of the EHC needs assessment, which is used to write an EHC plan: she said that “if the quality of the advice and information […] is not good, that will translate into a poorly drafted plan that lacks the necessary level of specificity, which is absolutely crucial in ensuring that children and young people’s needs are met.”

Many local area SEND inspections (and some re-inspections) have raised similar issues relating to the quality and consistency of both EHC plans and the education, health and social care contributions, and some have specifically highlighted a lack of oversight and quality assurance. This is something we are keen to address through our Quality Assurance (QA) services, which are designed to provide both a qualitative and quantitative feedback on the quality of the EHC plans, the EHCP template and the professional advice submitted as part of the EHC needs assessment, so that issues at different stages of the process can be identified and addressed more effectively, and progress towards improvement can be measured. If you would like to find out more about how our QA services could support your SEND team, click here or get in touch for details.