Preparing for Ofsted and CQC area SEND inspection

It is very likely that East Sussex will soon receive an inspection by Ofsted and the CQC (Care Quality Commission) called a local area SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) inspection.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) was one of the first local authorities to be inspected under the old framework in 2016. A new inspection framework was introduced in January 2023, which is why we expect East Sussex to be inspected quite soon.

It’s vital that parent carers have their say as part of the inspection process. This page explains a little bit about what happens during an area SEND inspection and how you will be able to share your views.

There will be parent carer and children/young people surveys, which are the main way for families to have their say as part of the inspection. The surveys will only be live for a few days, so please do make sure you’re signed up with ESPCF as we will be emailing all of our members, and sharing on social media etc as soon as we hear it is happening.

The inspection process happens over three weeks and looks at education, social care, and health services across the county for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Specifically, it is evaluating the effectiveness of the local area partnership’s arrangements for children and young people with SEND.

‘Local area partnership’ refers to those in education, health and care who are responsible for the strategic planning, commissioning, management, delivery and evaluation of arrangements for children and young people with SEND who live in East Sussex.

What happens during an inspection

This information is taken from the handbook available online:

Week one
  • Notification. Inspectors tell leaders in the local area that there will be an inspection. This will usually be done on a Monday. The announcement is made 10 working days before the ‘fieldwork’ begins – this means meetings onsite at the local authority, and visits to schools, colleges, health settings etc.
  • Surveys for parent carers, children and young people with SEND, and practitioners will be distributed. This should happen on day one when the inspection is announced. Importantly, these surveys are only open for six working days. We understand that the surveys close at 9am on day six, so are really only open for five days.
  • Inspectors request information and the local area partnership shares information to support the inspection.
  • Inspectors select approximately six individual children and young people for tracking meetings. These are meetings with children and young people, their parents or carers (if appropriate) and the practitioners who are directly involved with them. The meetings are for inspectors to hear directly about children and young people’s experiences and outcomes. They will choose children and young people with a range of needs, who access a range of services, from a range of age groups and who are at different stages in their involvement with health and social care services. Inspectors will usually include at least one child or young person who is studying in alternative provision, and at least 2 children who are receiving SEN support. Inspectors will usually include at least one child or young person whose needs are in each of the 4 categories of need: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health difficulties; sensory and/or physical needs.
  • Inspectors carry out planning and pre-inspection analysis.
  • Inspectors will meet remotely with representatives from the Parent Carer Forum and/or other representative groups of parents and carers at the start of the inspection. Please note – this is what it currently says on the government website, however it is not consistent with what we are hearing from parent carer forums in other areas who have already had their inspections under the new framework. We are trying to find out more.
Week two
  • Inspectors and the local area partnership agree an inspection timetable
  • Inspectors hold tracking meetings and carry out pre-inspection analysis and review information.
  • Inspectors may meet virtually with local leaders, staff, representative groups and stakeholders.
Weeks two and three
  • Discussions with children and young people, and parents and carers, and tracking meetings will take place off site in week 2, and on site in week 3.
Week three
  • Onsite evidence gathering, including sampling of decision-making and oversight, sampling visits to providers and services.
  • Inspection findings are fed back to the local area partnership.

After the inspection

The local area will receive a draft report within 14 working days of the end of the inspection. This is restricted and confidential and not shared more widely or published. The local area has 10 days to comment on the draft report, inspection process and findings.

The final report will be shared with the local area within 30 working days of the end of the inspection. Once a local area has received its final report, relevant recipients of the report are required to publish it on their organisation’s website. The local area partnership should ensure that the parent carer forum receives a copy of the report.

The report will include:

  • the inspection outcome
  • what it is like to be a child or young person with SEND in the local area
  • what the local area partnership is doing well and what needs to be improved
  • recommendations for improvements that the local area partnership should act on
  • whether any areas for priority action have been identified and which area partners are responsible for addressing them
  • the likely type and timing of the next inspection activity
Possible outcomes

These local area inspections aren’t rated in the same way as schools and settings are – there’s not the same outstanding/ good/ requires improvement/ inadequate outcomes. Instead, the local area will be given one of the following three outcomes:

  • The local area partnership’s SEND arrangements typically lead to positive experiences and outcomes for children and young people with SEND. The local area partnership is taking action where improvements are needed.
  • The local area partnership’s arrangements lead to inconsistent experiences and outcomes for children and young people with SEND. The local area partnership must work jointly to make improvements.
  • There are widespread and/or systemic failings leading to significant concerns about the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with SEND, which the local area partnership must address urgently.

Find out more

Click on the links below for more detailed information:

Area SEND inspections: information for parents and carers

Information for parents and carers (easy read version)

Information about ongoing inspections (this page also includes links to easy read guidance for parent carers and children and young people, and British Sign Language versions)

Video explaining the parent carer survey

Area SEND inspections: framework and handbook (this link has detailed information about all the different parts of the inspection process)

If you’d like to read more about the inspection process, there is some useful information including British Sign Language videos and easy read guides here:

The more families who have their say, the better the picture that the inspectors will have on how things are working, or not working, for families. Please share details about ESPCF with other families in East Sussex with children or young people (aged 0 to 25) with SEND, to make sure we can reach as many people as possible.

Click here to become an ESPCF member