The inspection you definitely want to have…

Sophia James, Policy & Campaigns Officer

Sophia James, Policy & Campaigns Officer

Why Ofsted & CQC should inspect the uninspected for deaf children

I will never forget the fear of a house inspection at university or the time that my local hospital’s underperformance became the talk of the town. Simply put, scrutinising the quality and standards of the services we use has become a key part of our lives.

InspectTheUninspectedDespite this, deaf children, teenagers and their parents have been missing out for a long time. Ofsted & CQC’s local area consultation into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), has given us a rare opportunity to have services for deaf children and young people monitored for the first time. We are asking you to take action and respond to the consultation to make sure this happens.

Ofsted and CQC are currently finding out what parents and young people think about new proposals to inspect SEND services. Inspectors will look into a ‘wide range of groups of children and young people’ with a range of disabilities and needs. Here are our concerns with the proposals:

  • The quality of support provided by Teachers of the Deaf will not be inspected
  • Inspectors will look at SEND overall and not the specific needs of each group
  • Inspections will not be graded, i.e. outstanding or good
  • We don’t yet know what will happen if a service is failing
  • With only 2 days’ notice, it will be difficult for working parents and young people in education to feed into the review
  • We want to ensure that children, young people and parents interviewed have experience of deafness.

When choosing schools and local services, we believe that parents and deaf young people should be able to make an informed choice. Having access to information about the quality of your local services is a crucial part of breaking down barriers facing deaf young people in education, health and wider society.

It’s time to tell Ofsted and CQC that their plans require improvement, we must demand outstanding services for our deaf children and young people.

Three ways to take action

  1. Join our Inspect the Uninspected campaign to call on Ofsted and the CQC to rethink their approach to SEND inspections.
  2. Get involved and respond to the consultation.
  3. Spread the message on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #inspecttheuninspected.

More information

The consultation will run until 4 January and you can find out more information about how to feed into it on our website.



Broken promises in education?

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Today is the first anniversary of the Children and Families Act 2014. This made lots of big changes to the education system with the Government promising that the changes would result in children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities getting better support.

But you may want to hold on before getting any birthday candles out…. when we asked parents of deaf children recently if they had noticed any improvements to the support that their child receives over the past year, we were pretty shocked that only 6% said they had.

This is one of many worrying stats in a new campaign report called One year on, being published today by the National Deaf Children’s Society. The report includes the results from our survey of parents of deaf children, as well as views from deaf young people and our analysis of the quality of information that local authorities are providing through their ‘Local Offers’ (one of the big changes made last year).

Some other shocking stats from the report include:

  • Only one in ten parents of deaf children were confident that their local authority is successfully implementing the changes.
  • Only 16% of families had seen the Local Offer for where they live.
  • Of those that had seen their Local Offer, 24% said it was easy to find the information they were looking for and 28% reported that the Local Offer gave them information about support for deaf children in their area.
  • Only 7% of parents said their child had been afforded a direct opportunity to help develop the Local Offer and give their views on it.

    Email your MP button about the broken promise in education

    Email your MP about these broken promises in education

  • When we looked the information provided within Local Offers, we found that in 41 Local Offers, it was hard to find information about special schools and resource provisions in the area. 93 local authorities didn’t provide information about specialist provision outside of their own area.
  • Where deaf children were undergoing an assessment for an Education, Health and Care plan (which are replacing statements of SEN), 29% did not feel that the local authority took steps to minimise disruption to their family during the assessment process and 58% had to repeat the same information about their child to different people – both things that families were told would change under the new system.

Overall, our analysis suggests that many local authorities are not doing a great job in implementing these changes and that some may in fact be acting unlawfully. For example, by law, the Local Offer must include information on special schools in the area and nearby, yet our analysis suggests that many are failing to do so.

You could argue that these are just teething troubles and that more time is needed for these changes to bed in. But it’s worth remembering that many of the above changes were piloted for over 2 years in advance of September 2014. Press releases from the Department for Education at the time trumpeted how many local authorities reported being ready for the changes. And the Department for Education has funded a wide range of bodies (including the National Deaf Children’s Society) to support local authorities in implementing these changes.

The National Deaf Children’s Society report makes a number of recommendations to help the Department for Education and local authorities keep their promises to parents of deaf children. At the top of the list is making sure that Ofsted hold local authorities to account. We’ve been long-promised a new inspection framework. But, one year on, there hasn’t yet been a consultation document on how this will work. And early indications suggest that any inspections will be fairly general and won’t have any specific focus on the specialist education services that deaf children rely and which are key to making sure these reforms work for deaf children.

You can support our campaign work in this area by emailing your MP and asking them to raise our concerns with the Government. And if you want to find out more yourself about these changes and your rights under the new system, take a look at the factsheets on our website.

The Government made a range of promises that children with special educational needs and disabilities would get better support. One year on, it’s time to hold the Government to these promises.

Getting deafness onto MPs’ agenda

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Have you heard of the Education Select Committee? They’re an influential group of MPs in the House of Commons who look at the work of the Department for Education and make recommendations for how they should do things differently or better. Their recommendations are usually well thought out and they can sometimes have quite a big impact on government policy.

Why am I telling you all this? Because you have an opportunity to shape and direct the work of the new Education Select Committee. The new chair, Neil Carmichael MP, is asking members of the public to suggest – via the medium of Twitter – possible future topics for the Committee.

So if there are any burning issues you think the Committee should be interrogating the Department for Education on, now’s your chance.

Here at the National Deaf Children’s Society, there are two things we think they should focus on when they get back from the summer holidays:

  • The quality of education support that deaf children and other disabled children get from local authority services. This would include the quality of support from Teachers of the Deaf. We know that Ofsted will be consulting soon on how they do this. But will Ofsted go far enough? And do they need to have a specific focus on deaf children as part of this?
  • Last September, lots of big changes to the special educational needs system came into force. Are those changes making a difference?

If you want to tweet your suggestions to the Education Select Committee, make sure you use the hashtag #TellCommonsEd. Suggestions can be tweeted to @CommonsEd.

And if you think there should be an inquiry into the two areas we’ve suggested, below is some suggested text for a tweet that you can send. Alternatively, you can go to our Twitter page @NDCS_UK and RT our suggestions.

#TellCommonsEd Should be an inquiry into Ofsted’s proposals for local area SEN inspections – will they go far enough for deaf children? @CommonsEd

#TellCommonsEd Inquiry into Children and Families Act – 1 year on, what impact is it having on SEN support? @CommonsEd

You may have other ideas and thoughts yourself so make sure you send them over. Get tweeting!

5 things to watch out from the new Government

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

So we have a majority Conservative government! Now the dust has settled on last week’s election results, we’ve looked into our crystal balls and picked out five things to watch out for from our new Government.

1) Education spending. In their manifesto, the Conservatives said they will protect funding for schools on a per pupil basis. This means that, if the number of pupils go up, schools shouldn’t lose out. But it also means that schools might get less money in real terms if inflation goes up. It also means that funding for early years education and post-16 is not protected. So what impact will this have on spending for specialist education services for deaf children? We know from the NDCS Stolen Futures campaign that local authorities have still been cutting services, despite the protection already in place over the past five years. Will that change?

2) Will Ofsted inspections make a difference? We know that Ofsted are planning to inspect local provision for children with special educational needs and that a consultation on how they will do that is due out later this year. What’s not yet certain is the extent to which Ofsted will take a proper, more focused look on how deaf children are doing as part of this. Will Ofsted, for example, inspect specialist education services for deaf children? Indications are that Ofsted are not keen to go into this level of detail. We may need to campaign to make sure they do. We may also need to campaign to make sure that inspections are carried out by inspectors with proper expertise in deafness.

3) Is Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for deaf children under threat? The Conservatives have indicated in the past they would like to look at reforms to DLA for disabled children, having already changed DLA for adults to a new benefit called Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The Conservatives have already pledged to reduce the welfare budget by £12bn, without specifying how they will do that.

4) Audiology services. How can we make sure that audiology services are delivering a good service? Our Listen Up! campaign has found that too many aren’t. Over the past 5 years, it was the government’s policy that audiology services should be accredited under a programme called IQIPs. Yet, to our knowledge, very few have to date. What will happen to those audiology services that don’t get accredited or don’t seek accreditation anytime soon? Will the new Government insist they be closed down or will they just allow poor audiology services to coast along? Will they improve transparency over which audiology services are seeking accreditation?

5) How will the Government halve the disability employment gap? This was one of their manifesto pledges. NDCS believes that many deaf young people will need support from Access to Work to make a successful transition into employment. However, we know that the Government are looking at ways to manage the Access to Work budget, with a new cap to be introduced later this year. Will this make it harder for the Government to support disabled people into employment?

Is there anything else we should be watching out for? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

The NDCS policy and campaigns team will be working to get answers to these questions. You can help us campaign for a world without barriers for every deaf child by joining our cool club, the NDCS campaigns network today.

MP speaks out about deafness!

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Arthur Thomas Campaigns Officer

Last night Alison Seabeck MP, a frequent supporter of NDCS, led a short debate on the educational attainment of deaf children and young people in the House of Commons.

In the debate, she spoke about her meeting with a member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, Renee, at party conference and discussed her own experiences as someone with a unilateral hearing loss as well as her support for the Plymouth Deaf Children’s Society.

Following a briefing from NDCS she also raised NDCS’s Listen Up! campaign to improve audiology services, emphasising the importance of quality audiology services she said ‘Good audiology services make a critical contribution to a deaf child’s success in life, as they are responsible for ensuring that a deaf child can use their remaining hearing to the fullest possible extent’

The Education Minister, Edward Timpson, referred to forthcoming changes to how Ofsted will inspect local authority services for children with special educational needs (SEN), stating that ‘Ofsted is now working up the details of the new arrangements’. This follows our campaign victory on this last month.

The Minister went on to reaffirm his commitment to making sure that the requirements of children with SEN are met and that Local Authorities ‘should prioritise vital front-line services for vulnerable children’

We’d like to say a big thank you to Alison for holding the debate and all the MPs who took part for their contributions. Short debates like this are a great way of raising awareness of deafness within Parliament but also of keeping government Ministers on their toes!

Campaign win! Minister recommends the inspection of SEN services!

NDCS - Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

Ian Noon, Head of Policy and Research

We are pleased to announce some Christmas cheer! Following a long-running campaign from NDCS, the Government has today announced that they are recommending the future inspection of local SEN services!

Many deaf children rely on support from local authority services for children with special educational needs (SEN). Currently, the quality of support that these children get from visiting Teachers of the Deaf and local authority SEN services has received virtually no scrutiny from Ofsted inspectors at all. It has been up to parents to police these services and report any issues.

Today the Department for Education released a statement saying that the Minister:

“has today also invited Ofsted to formally inspect local areas on their effectiveness in fulfilling their new duties. They will do this along with the Care Quality Commission and a local authority officer.

It is hoped that robust and rigorous inspections will ensure that parents and young people receive as much information as possible about what is being offered.”

NDCS has long been calling for greater scrutiny of these services as part of the Stolen Futures campaign. We’ve argued that it’s easier for local authorities to cut services for deaf children if they know they won’t be held to account for the impact of these cuts by Ofsted. Getting Ofsted to inspect services was one of the key asks in the Stolen Futures parliamentary debate last year – which only came about because 51,000 campaigners signed a petition calling for a debate.

However the hard work is not over yet. We still need to see the detail of how the new Ofsted inspections will work and make sure that proper attention is paid to services for deaf children. We won’t stop until local authority services for deaf children are properly held to account for failing to close the attainment gap between deaf and hearing children.

We will continue to keep you updated. In the meantime, we’d like to thank all of our members for their persistence and patience in campaigning on this issue. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

What Ofsted’s Annual Report for 2013/14 for schools says about provision for children with special educational needs

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns

Although almost 1 in 5 pupils in schools are recorded as having special educational needs (SEN), we are very disappointed there is not one mention of them in the main annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills issued this week. However, the supplementary Ofsted annual report on schools issued at the same time makes a small reference to how well schools are meeting the needs of children with SEN. Three of the document’s ninety five paragraphs contain a commentary on SEN. Below are the key points contained in these three paragraphs:

  • Many children with SEN come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Pupils who are eligible for free school meals are twice as likely as others to have special educational needs.
  • Pupils with SEN fulfil their potential when there are high expectations of what they can achieve and when there is an uncompromising drive by senior leaders to ensure that teaching is effective.
  • The best schools have a thorough understanding of their pupils’ needs and make sure that the right teaching support is available to them at just the right time.
  • Pupils with SEN do best when they are supported by excellent teachers. Unfortunately, however, they are often supported by staff with the least expertise in subject areas and teaching methods.
  • Teaching that is not tailored appropriately to pupils’ individual needs – for example giving them work that is too difficult or too easy – can have a severe, long-term impact on their progress and confidence.
  • Most schools monitor closely the progress that disabled pupils and those with SEN make in their academic subjects, especially in English and mathematics. However, less attention is paid to the progress they make in developing personal and social skills and in becoming more independent. Parents value these achievements highly and success in them can make a substantial difference to the young person’s future. More attention should be paid to supporting pupils in these important aspects of their personal development.

NDCS has recognised these and other factors as being critical in ensuring that deaf pupils make good progress in school and reach their full potential. NDCS guidance for schools on raising achievement include:

Given the significant reforms to SEN contained in the Children and Families Act 2014, we would expect the next annual report to comment on the effectiveness of education services in implementing these changes.