Ofsted has released the latest findings from their recent ‘interim visits’ to six local areas to hear from children and young people with SEND, their families and practitioners and leaders who are supporting them about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the central findings were:
- Parents raised concerns that, like many pupils, their child/ren appeared to have regressed in their learning following the first national lockdown.
- The quality and quantity of online teaching and work provided when schools were closed or pupils were absent varied considerably. Many parents praised practitioners who had gone ‘above and beyond’, though there were others who felt the level of support they received had deteriorated considerably.
- The strength of the relationships between families, services and practitioners was highlighted as playing a key role in determining how well families felt they were supported whilst schools were closed, or their child was absent. This finding emphasised the importance of support services and practitioners ensuring close collaboration with young people and their families.
- Some services were significantly impacted by the lockdown restrictions, notably short-breaks, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
- Whilst there has been an increase in face-to-face meetings and appointments there were some positives that came from a switch to remote working. Notably that multi-agency meetings were more consistently attended by all agencies and as such these sessions were greatly improved. The possibility for this to continue might be considered although barriers such as access to technology or English not being a first language would need to be addressed.
The report concludes by highlighting three issues that the local areas visited by Ofsted are seeking to address moving forward, some of which were identified as priorities before the lockdown and may resonate with other areas:
- Addressing the rise in fixed term exclusions for children and young people with SEND
- More comprehensive and systematic planning for adulthood for children and young people with SEND
- Increasing capacity and reach of respite care