SENDCOs: 12 questions you’ll want to rehearse before OFSTED arrive

OFSTED last week announced that they’ll visit every school in England by summer 2025. SENDCOs will always be on the radar of a full (Section 5) OFSTED inspection, so what might inspectors ask you?

The following 12 questions link directly to all the references to SEND within the OFSTED Education Inspection Framework (EIF). Try out your answers to some of these with your line manager or a supportive colleague, so you can be as prepared as possible for the OFSTED call:

•How does your curriculum meet the needs of learners with SEND?

•What does the data say about how students with SEND are doing in your school (attendance, behaviour, progress/attainment)? What do you do with the data you collect about pupils?

•Are pupil outcomes improving as a result of the provision being made for them (including in terms of their SEND needs)?

•What steps are taken to ensure that minimal lesson time is lost for students with SEND?

•How do you identify and assess SEND in your school? How are parents involved in this process?

•What are you doing to address gaps in reading?

•How do you train and support teachers to be able to meet the needs of students with SEND?

•How do you prepare students to prepare for adulthood as they go through your school and eventually leave your school?

•How do you know that students with SEND are involved in school life?

•How do you know that learners with SEND in off-site provision are educated suitably and safely?

•How do you track the progress of students with SEND?

•Tell me about a child for whom a multiagency approach has been necessary.

It’s not possible for me to suggest answers to all of these in a blogpost. I do cover many of these topics in my book The Lone SENDCO: questions and answers for the busy SENDCO, which answers over 300 questions and covers OFSTED amongst many other topics.

That said, I’ve pasted the sections of the OFSTED EIF below, where they relate to SEND (my bold type), so you can see for yourself what they’ll be looking for evidence of. Look particularly at 353, which has the most direct relevance to SEND provision:

112. Inspectors will evaluate evidence of the impact of the curriculum, including on the most disadvantaged pupils. This includes pupils with SEND.

194. Before making the final judgement on overall effectiveness, inspectors will always consider the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school, and evaluate the extent to which the school’s education provision meets different pupils’ needs, including pupils with SEND.

195. Inspectors will take a rounded view of the quality of education that a school provides to all its pupils, including the most disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND.

198. There is high academic/vocational/technical ambition for all pupils, and the school does not offer disadvantaged pupils or pupils with SEND a reduced curriculum.

219. Disadvantaged pupils and pupils with SEND acquire the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.

237. Inspectors will evaluate the experience of particular individuals and groups, such as pupils for whom referrals have been made to the local authority, pupils with SEND, children looked after, those with medical needs and those with mental health needs. In order to do this, inspectors will look at the experience of a small sample of these pupils and consider the way the school is working with the multi-agency group to ensure that the child receives the support they need. For pupils with SEND, this will include ensuring that appropriate reasonable adjustments are made in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 and the SEND code of practice.

277. Inspectors must evaluate how well a school continues to take responsibility for its pupils who attend alternative or off-site provision. Inspectors need to be assured that leaders have ensured that the alternative provision is a suitable and safe placement that will meet pupils’ academic/vocational/technical needs, pastoral needs and, if appropriate, SEND needs.

353. All parts of the EIF apply to schools’ provision for pupils with SEND. However, as with all provision, SEND provision has some specific factors that should be taken into account. Inspectors will gather and evaluate evidence about:

  • whether leaders are ambitious for all pupils with SEND
  • how well leaders identify, assess and meet the needs of pupils with SEND, including when pupils with SEND are self-isolating and/or receiving remote education
  • how well leaders develop and adapt the curriculum so that it is coherently sequenced to all pupils’ needs, starting points and aspirations for the future
  • how successfully leaders involve parents, carers and, as necessary, other professionals/specialist services in deciding how best to support pupils with SEND, including agreeing the approach to remote education
  • how well leaders include pupils with SEND in all aspects of school life
  • how well the school assesses learning and development of pupils with SEND, and whether pupils’ outcomes are improving as a result of the different or additional provision being made for them, including any reasonable adjustments in remote education provision. This covers outcomes in:
    • communication and interaction
    • cognition and learning
    • physical health and development
    • social, emotional and mental health
  • how well pupils with SEND are prepared for their next steps in education, employment and training, and their adult lives, including: further/higher education and employment, independent living, participating in society and being as healthy as possible in adult life

354. Because of the often vastly different types of pupils’ needs, inspectors will not compare the outcomes achieved by pupils with SEND with those achieved by other pupils with SEND in the school, locally or nationally.

355. Pupils with SEND often have significant and complex vulnerabilities and can face additional safeguarding challenges. Inspectors will evaluate the ways in which leaders have made appropriate and effective safeguarding arrangements that reflect these additional vulnerabilities.

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