News support feature: The key to maximising achievement in schools
This article was published in The Independent during Learning Disabilities Week (18-24 June 2012)
How do you inspect provision for children with disabilities and those with SEN?
Inspectors inspect mainstream, special schools and pupil referral units using the framework for maintained schools and academies or the framework for independent schools. Ofsted also inspects children’s homes including those for disabled children.
During maintained school inspections, Ofsted inspectors consider the extent to which schools meet the needs of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs (SEN) using the four key judgements of achievement, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety, and the quality of leadership and management.
Inspectors evaluate the progress of all pupils, including those whose needs, dispositions, aptitudes or circumstances require expert teaching and, in some cases, additional support. This specifically includes disabled pupils, as defined by the Equality Act 2010, and those who have special educational needs.
When judging the achievement of disabled pupils and those who have SEN, inspectors consider how much progress they have made since joining the school from their starting points. Many pupils with SEN are not precluded from attaining as well as their peers but for those who have a cognitive disability the inspectors do not compare their attainment to national benchmarks.
What does your inspection evidence tell us?
In September 2010, Ofsted reviewed SEN provision by looking at children’s case studies and making visits to nurseries, schools and colleges. In England, around 1.7 million school age children have SEN. These pupils achieve less well than their peers, are disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds and are more likely to be absent or excluded from school.
Inspectors also found that if the teaching was better in some schools, many of their pupils would not be identified as having special educational needs. The review identified that current systems focus too much on whether pupils receive additional services, and too little on the impact of their support.
Ofsted’s review therefore recommended that where pupils simply need better teaching and support, they should not be identified as having SEN. The review also recommended that inspectors should look more closely at the quality and effectiveness of services for children with special educational needs.
If schools have good provision for children with SEN, what does this look like?
Good and outstanding schools have high aspirations for all students, including those who have special educational needs. They focus on enabling pupils to make the best possible progress, and to increase their independence, so that they are well prepared for their futures. The most effective leaders in any school ask challenging questions about the progress and attainment of every pupil or young person. They use whatever information is available to compare their pupils’ progress against that of other pupils who started at the same level, at the same age, across the country. They do not make excuses for lower rates of progress. They focus on ensuring teaching is strong, that staff meet the needs of all pupils, and provide well targeted challenge in lessons. These schools also ensure those pupils in most need receive the most expert support.
Alongside high aspirations for high academic achievement there is a very well-understood view of how to help an individual become self-reliant and independent. Ambitions and views expressed by the young people are taken into account when devising the curriculum and style of support. Good attendance is also seen as a key to maximising achievement. The best schools that meet the needs of pupils with the most complex social and emotional needs understand and make use of the community in which the children live as well as the one in which they are educated.
Equally, what does less effective provision look like?
Less effective schools do not generally monitor and evaluate pupils’ progress robustly. There is often inconsistency in the identification of children with SEN, and the support provided does not meet the specific needs of each child. There are also weaker partnerships across education, health services and social care.
Although there is often a great deal of information gathered, this is not analysed to inform developments or to scrutinise carefully the academic, personal or social progress made by pupils. There can be a culture of excuses, and a lack of drive and ambition to ensure that pupils are given every opportunity to learn and reach their potential.
Has Ofsted published any reports specifically looking at SEN provision schools, early years and learning and skills providers?
There are a number of reports Ofsted has published on this – you can find them on the Ofsted website (links below).