Ofsted HMI 2452 July 2005”
I reproduce here the executive summary and recommendations, some specific points concerning delegation, outreach from special schools, good practice and continuing professional development. Finally I reproduce the Annex to the report which includes the standards used in the survey which led to the report.
1. This report reviews the quality of external special educational needs (SEN) support for schools and provides an analysis of good practice based on visits by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) to six local education authorities (LEAs) and reports from the inspection of schools and LEAs in 2003 and 2004. The report focuses mainly on LEA support services and outreach services from special schools, but refers to other agencies where they work alongside LEA managed provision.
2. Many of the services visited provided useful support to improve the achievement and inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools. However, the quality and quantity of services available to schools were too variable across the country. Pupils with similar levels of need received different levels of support depending on where they lived, which is unacceptable. In part this was because LEAs choose, in consultation with their schools, whether or not funding for support services is delegated to mainstream schools.
3. Where the funds were delegated, schools had the option to buy services or to use the money in other ways. Positively, this increased the flexibility for schools; negatively, it disadvantaged groups of pupils with complex special educational needs who did not have access to specialist support because funds had been used for other purposes. In addition, delegation of funding to schools reduced the LEA’s capacity to provide targeted support for school improvement where the standards achieved by pupils with SEN were too low.
4. Since 1999, when additional funds became available from LEAs and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to pilot approaches to outreach support, more schools have begun to develop such services. There was a clear steer nationally that many special schools should develop these, but too little guidance was given as to how the services should be developed or how they could fit into local provision. Properly planned outreach services, therefore, were still at an early stage of development. A few special schools, however, particularly those for pupils with physical and sensory impairments, had well established outreach services.
5. The most effective services worked effectively with school improvement services to target their resources, were planned coherently within an LEA to avoid overlap with other work and had written agreements describing the level of services which should be delivered.
6. The LEAs visited all undertook useful evaluation of their services through seeking the opinions of schools, pupils and parents. However, only one service had agreed clear performance indicators to provide a more objective analysis. Overall, too little was done to link the progress the pupils made to the work undertaken by support services. No LEAs had robust systems to follow up the progress pupils made after the intensive involvement of support services had ceased.
7. The quality of the staff and their commitment to inclusion were always crucial in delivering an effective service. Most services provided very high quality advice and support based on extensive specialist knowledge otherwise unavailable to the mainstream school. The best support often included coaching for teachers through demonstrating effective strategies.
8. This report concludes that the generic standards proposed by the DfES could provide a useful basis for improving external services further. Annex A includes a contribution to the development of standards for these services. Greater clarity is also required about what services should be available as an entitlement for pupils, regardless of where they live.
Delegation of funding
9. Until 2000, support for pupils with SEN was provided almost exclusively by LEA support services but, over the last five years, it has been common for LEAs to delegate much of the funding for these services to mainstream schools. This has had benefits since schools can choose support from a wider range of providers. However, buying in services relies heavily on schools recognising that there are others who could help them support certain pupils more effectively.
10. Where schools were unaware of how to improve their provision, for a number of reasons the delegation of funding has had a detrimental effect for pupils with the most complex needs.
11. First, where LEAs delegated funds for small services, the schools received too little money to buy sufficient support when they needed it. Others received funding even though they might not have any pupils who required support. The funding, though sufficient to run a small central service, when divided between many schools was inadequate to ensure pupils with the most complex needs had access to sufficient specialist advice.
12. Second, where resources had been delegated, the LEAs lacked the capacity to monitor adequately the progress of pupils with the greatest needs or to target resources on helping schools to improve where the standards achieved by pupils with SEN were unacceptably low.
Third, in the past, pupils’ statements of SEN described their entitlement to specialist support services. Such services monitored the support and ensured each school was aware of the provision it could make. In the LEAs visited, the services usually responded to referrals made by the school and the provision made for pupils depended too heavily on the school’s identification of the problems.
17. Irrespective of how services are funded, LEAs need to ensure that their development planning includes adequate provision for inclusion.
Outreach from special schools
18. The DfES report of the Special Schools Working Group maps out a programme of change for the special school sector, including the development of outreach services. However, it is unclear what this actually means in practice and LEAs have not received enough guidance about how this might be achieved.
19. In most LEAs, support and outreach services had developed in an ad hoc fashion. As a result, there were significant overlaps in some services and tensions developed between LEAs and special schools. For example, in one LEA four separate service providers supported pupils with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties (EBSD).
21. Ofsted reported in a recent publication, SEN and disability: towards inclusive schools, that special schools are often not in favour of inclusion; for example, one head teacher expressed a view that the development of outreach services could ensure their schools remained full.
Good and not so good practice
26. In one early years’ support service, health and social workers and teachers met regularly to discuss and solve problems, helping to promote a strong team spirit.
31. The evaluation of special school outreach services was particularly weak since they had very limited access to LEA-wide data and most of the services were relatively new.
Continuing Professional Development
40. Most services visited ensured a high level of expertise by encouraging staff to obtain nationally recognised qualifications in specific types of need. One LEA developed an accredited course in consultancy skills. The continuing training of staff teams was crucial to maintaining a successful service.
Evaluating support and outreach services
The following standards have been adapted from those used on the survey visits. They are intended to contribute to the development of standards for these services with a strong focus on strengthening inclusion.
1. The service has a clear purpose which takes into account other provision in the area and the needs of particular schools and pupils. Supporting criteria:
2. The service has suitable staff to deliver a high quality service.
3. Services are led and managed to promote change within schools.
4. Pupils and parents are fully involved in the development of services.
The DfES should:
Paul Simpson, Secretary, August 2005