Inspectors from OFSTED and the Care Quality Commission visited Sheffield between 12 and 16 November 2018 to assess how well our local area identifies and meets the needs of children and young people aged 0-25 years who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).
Our Forum worked hard to ensure that the views of parent carers were heard throughout the inspection. As soon as we found out that the inspectors were coming, we circulated information about opportunities for parents to get involved. This included access to a webinar, an open meeting and an email address to contact the inspectors. We did this through our email list, SMS list and social media channels, and we contacted all the parent support groups in Sheffield that we are aware of and asked them to pass on the information. The Local Authority also sent information to parent support groups and provided letters for all schools to send on to parents of pupils with SEND.
During the inspection week, the inspectors held 20 “focus groups” – meetings with officers, providers and professionals from across Education, Health and Social Care, which looked at specific topics chosen by the inspectors, such as early years or preparing for adulthood. Most of them were attended by one of our parent representatives. The groups were often quite large and fast-paced, which meant that everyone had to be succinct and concentrate on getting their key messages across. To ensure that we didn’t miss out anything important, we created an information sheet for each focus group, summarising the feedback we had received from parents over the past few years and citing key statistics from our survey. We left these sheets with the inspectors and have shared them with the local authority and CCG (health services).
There were several opportunities for parents to meet the inspectors face to face. One was an open meeting at The Circle on Rockingham Lane, which was attended by around 50 parents (click here to read our meeting notes). In addition, the inspectors visited 12 settings (nurseries, schools and colleges) across the city, where they met with groups of children and young people and with groups of parents. It was the responsibility of the settings to invite parents to these meetings.
Individual stories are very powerful, but we also wanted to give the inspectors some statistical data. To do this, we launched our State of Sheffield survey just before the inspection. The response from parents was phenomenal, and we received over 400 responses in the first week. Throughout the inspection week, we kept exporting the survey responses and sharing them with the inspectors and the local authority and CCG.
We are now waiting for the inspectors to publish their findings. This will be in the form of an “outcomes letter” – a written report that sets out what the local area does well, and where it needs to improve. We expect that this will be in early January 2019. If the inspectors have found areas of significant concern, they will detail these and require the local area to produce a “written statement of action”, setting out how it will address these weaknesses. The Department for Education and NHS England support the local area in this and monitor progress. Areas issued with a written statement of action will also receive another visit from the inspectors within 18 months.
Please note: If you didn’t have time to fill in our State of Sheffield survey during the inspection week, it’s not too late! The questionnaire will remain open until Friday 1st February 2019. Your feedback is very important, because it provides compelling evidence about the lived experiences of families in Sheffield. The inspection has helped to shine a spotlight on SEND, and we need to use this momentum to spread good practice and improve services and policies that are not working well.