Ofsted annual report deems improvements slow and inconsistent - especially around SEND support

Ofsted have published their annual report on the findings from their inspections, visits and research over the past year. Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, affirmed her commitment to raising standards for children and learners ‘regardless of their circumstances’.

Areas deemed to be meeting or exceeding standards included the early year’s sector, with 95% of providers securing a good or outstanding rating. This is a substantial increase of 21% over the past six years. 

Similarly, the number of local authorities (LAs) judged to be good or outstanding for their social care is rising, with two thirds of previously inadequate LAs improving their rating at re-inspection.

The good or outstanding rating was attributed to:

  • 86% of schools
  • 69% of non-association independent schools
  • 76% of general further education colleges

However, despite these gains and acknowledging the professionalism and dedication of education professionals, the report characterised improvements as regularly slow and inconsistent.

This was especially evident in regards to meeting SEND needs, with the reoccurrence of the following trends:

  • increasing exclusions of children and young people with SEND
  • regular failure to provide sufficient mental health support
  • delays of up to two years for diagnosing autism
  • a lack of coordination for 0-25 strategies
  • poor post-19 provision, which is leaving a vacuum of support for young people entering employment

The result? A widening gap in performance and outcomes for children with SEND between the best and the worst local areas.

Ofsted’s exposure of discoordination between 0–25 strategies and poor post-19 provision is a recurring trend that CDC is hearing across the sector. We are building up evidence through our Transition Information Network on what works to support children and young people through transition.  Through our role as a Strategic Reform Partner, we also work closely with the Department for Education to improve local SEND services through the 0-25 age range.

An additional concerning trend identified by the report is the ‘exceptional levels’ of pupils coming off-roll between Years 10 and 11. Off-rolling refers to the unofficial exclusion of children and young people, who effectively stop (or are asked to stop) attending schools. This trend is a greater cause for concern for students with SEND need, who are at a higher risk of being excluded or off-rolled.

CDC Director Dame Christine Lenehan responded to this observation:

“This has been on CDC’s radar due to our work with local areas, particularly around exclusions, and we are pleased to see it acknowledged by Ofsted. It is also good to see plans to make changes to the inspection framework, and we hope the exclusions review will help us to understand the scale of the problem”.