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New Ofsted visits to understand children’s experience of alternative provision

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Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have today published guidance for the first series of thematic visits to be carried out under the new area special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) inspection arrangements. Beginning in February, the visits will take place across the spring and summer terms, with the findings to be shared in a national report published in autumn 2023.

Each academic year, the series of in-depth reviews will explore particular aspects of the SEND system. The first set of visits will focus on alternative provision (AP), given the large number of children and young people with additional needs in these types of provision.

The visits will not result in judgements about local areas. Instead, the overarching report will highlight examples of good practice and identify any systemic concerns.

Inspectors from Ofsted and CQC will explore how AP arrangements are currently working, including how partners work together to commission and oversee AP. These visits will enable the inspectorates to better understand and report on the increasingly varied reasons why AP is used. By sharing examples of good practice, Ofsted and CQC aim to highlight the positive role that AP can play in the education system.

All types of AP may be examined during the visits, which will consider how AP is being used and if it is meeting children’s needs. Evidence will be gathered from a range of stakeholders, including young people and their families, to understand the experiences and outcomes of those at the centre of the AP system.

Lee Owston, Ofsted’s National Director for Education:

“The current SEND system is not working for too many young people and their families, and we want to play our part in driving forward much-needed improvement.

“We know that the majority of children and young people in alternative provision have some form of SEND. But all too often alternative provision is being used for purposes that it was not originally intended to serve. These visits will help us to better understand how alternative provision is working for those who rely on it most, and support the sector in meeting growing demand. They will also highlight any areas that need to be improved.

“We hope that these thematic reviews will provide valuable insights as the government develops its plans for reform of alternative provision. They will also help support partners across education, health and social care to work together in delivering important improvements for children and their families”.

Dr Sean O’Kelly, Chief Inspector of Hospitals and interim Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services at the Care Quality Commission:

“All good services should start from an understanding of how to provide the best care for the people that use them. With a significant number of young people with SEND in alternative provision, this work with Ofsted is a critical opportunity to ask how local agencies are working together to recognise and meet the health and educational needs of children and young people in alternative provision.”

“Visiting these services with Ofsted – working together as we expect other agencies to do – will help to identify and share best practice, as well as areas for improvement.”

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