Cast a spell on the inspectors…

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

With the evenings darkening as winter creeps in, the inspectors aren’t wasting any time. Round two of the Ofsted and CQC inspections into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has kicked off faster than a Boxing Day sale (yes, the shops already have their Christmas stock in). Feeling the need for speed, the inspectors have visited five local areas in the first month.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Herefordshire, Bexley, Hartlepool, Plymouth or Surrey, you’ve already had a visit. We’re curious to know if you had any idea the inspections were taking place? Did you get involved? Give your feedback here.

Cast your spell

 If your area hasn’t been visited yet, you still have the chance to talk to inspectors about the support you get locally. All towns and cities will be inspected within the next five years, so don’t miss your opportunity to cast a spell. To find out more about what you need to do, check out The Buzz if you’re under 18 or have a look at our website.

 Trick or Treat

Reports from the first set of inspections were released over the summer holidays. Initially, in our view, the reports consisted of broad, general statements about SEND services across education, health and social care. Only four out of the seven reports released gave any specific mention of deafness, and even then, these were rarely detailed references to services.

That said, there are certainly some treats in these reports; they are the first ever focused reports into SEND services at a local level. In some reports, the inspectors have demonstrated they are listening to parents of deaf children and flagging up their concerns. Ofsted and the CQC are also making efforts to alert people to the fact these inspections are taking place on social media.

With Halloween fast approaching and reports soon to be released, it’s worth asking the question – will this next set of reports hold more tricks or treats for deaf children and young people?

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5 days to save the world! Ofsted and CQC inspections.

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Sophia James, Policy and Campaigns Officer, National Deaf Children’s Society

After a long period of waiting, the moment has finally arrived. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have begun inspecting special educational needs services across England.

It was all hands on deck last week when notice of two inspections landed in our inboxes. If you are lucky enough to live in Bolton or Brighton and Hove, you may have been aware that deaf young people and parents in that area have been asked to contribute. For the first two inspections, the method of choice has been online webinars. A webinar is an online meeting anyone can join where the lead inspector will give an overview of why these inspections are taking place and ask a series of questions about how children’s needs are being met and identified in that area.

When notice hits you have five days to take action. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to feedback about services for deaf children and young people in your area. In my opinion, this is your five days to save the world. Your feedback could be crucial at highlighting failings in local services. It could put pressure on local authorities and health services to bring about the changes needed to improve support for deaf children and young people.

We still have our reservations about the process and accessibility but we’ll be working with Ofsted over the coming weeks to ensure that these inspections are as open and effective as possible.

So when that email lands in your inbox, please attend the webinar or ask the lead contact at your local council to pass on your feedback to the lead inspector. You can contact us if you like but please, please take action. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a hero?!

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Click here for more information on the Inspect the Uninspected campaign or if you discover an inspection in your area, you can tell us about it here.

Why Ofsted need to inspect SEND services – a parent perspective

Matt Keer, member of NDCS, guest blogs for us on the Ofsted/CQC consultation on SEND inspections.

Dear Ofsted & CQC,

I’ve got two profoundly deaf boys. I’ve sent a response to your consultation about how to inspect special educational needs and disability provision in local areas. But there was something else that I wanted to say from the heart.

Matt Keer - FamilyAs a family, deafness has been part of our lives for over 15 years now. We got through the initial storm: dealing with diagnosis, learning how to help the kids develop, protecting them when they experienced social stigma, giving them a sense of self-worth and pride in who they are.

We managed all that. We’re not special people. Tens of thousands of other parents in our shoes do the same thing every day.

But the process of getting our kids the educational support they need? The support that they have a right to by law? Getting that nearly destroyed us.

Both our boys are now at a special school for the deaf – Mary Hare School in Berkshire. It’s a school that, educationally and socially, is transforming their lives – the ‘best possible outcomes’ that the new SEND legislation aspires to. It is a truly awesome place. But it took us years to get them there.

How did that come about? Pretty simple. Our local area fought us at every turn. None of its actions was in the best interests of our kids. None of their actions even aimed at giving them an adequate education. All of their actions were deeply unprofessional; many of their actions were unlawful.

We got there in the end, as a family. We went through Tribunal, some of us broke briefly, but we mended ourselves and the boys finally – finally – now have a full shot at life. It was worth it – but it never, ever, should have been this way. It never should have been allowed to be this way.

And the worst thing? There are thousands of families in the same boat right now. Still. Despite all the change in legislation last year. Families who coped fine with the stress of disability and severe illness, who now find themselves falling apart against the gruelling, life-sapping struggle to get their kids the support they need to get a few GCSEs, life skills, and friends.

My youngest child’s best mate? He’s deaf too. He’s tough as nails. He beat leukaemia at the age of 3. But this year, he nearly fell apart with the stress of knowing that an entire local area was trying to deny him a place at the special school he needed. His LA acted unlawfully. Repeatedly, without mercy, without remorse. Because it could. Because it can. Because it is not yet accountable in any meaningful sense of the word.

This is why you have to get this right. Because there is no-one else out there both willing and able to hold local area organisations like this to account. Parents and charities like the NDCS have been holding the ring here for far, far too long. And thus far, no-one else has stepped in.

We’ve tried the local area complaints process. It’s pointless. We’ve tried the Local Government Ombudsman. It’s toothless. We need expert, independent people to inspect these organisations, without fear or favour. We need them now. And that’s where you come in.

How do I know my local area’s actions were wrong? Because along the way, I have had to read, learn and inwardly digest several hundred pages of dense legalese and education jargon. I have had to argue, resist intimidation, fight my kids’ corner, do it again and again, year after year. Not for a Rolls-Royce education. Simply to get my bright, hard-working lads a shot at basic literacy, numeracy and a peer group.

We weren’t experts when we started out. We are now, and we’ve had enough. We’re sick and tired of being the ones doing the accountability. We’ve got kids with SEND to bring up, wider family to support, jobs to hold down. Frankly, life is busy enough.

Over to you, Ofsted & CQC. Please – please – don’t bugger this up.

The Ofsted/CQC consultation closes on the 4th January so there is still time to have your say. You can respond by going to the Ofsted website. Or you can respond using a NDCS template response for parents.