It goes without saying that this has been a very strange year for us all.  Our whole lives have been affected by COVID-19. Offices, hospitals, schools, places of worship, retail stores and more have been unable to escape the effects of the pandemic, either closing or changing their way of working to accommodate our new way of living. Some progression has been made with the opening up of some industries, but how has SEN been affected?

On the Wednesday 13th May, the ‘Roadmap Out of Lockdown’ was published with the Prime minister urging people who could not work from home to go back to work, maintaining social distancing. From the Monday 1st June, the government reopened schools for Reception, Year 1 and year 6 students, despite concerns from teachers who were backed by teaching unions. As steps are taken towards reintroducing children into mainstream classrooms, where does that leave our children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) and the many valuable community services that support them?

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will be visiting areas to support and strengthen special educational needs and disability services. This initiative commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) aims to give further insight into how the SEND system is working. Aims of Ofsted and CQC are to “work with local areas to understand the experiences of children and young people with SEND and their families during the pandemic, and to support local areas to prioritise and meet their needs.”

The article also highlights the introduction of a new SEND inspection framework to be developed by Ofsted and the CQC and commissioned by the DfE with the support of the DHSC. At present, the current SEND inspections have been put on hold. This will continue to be the case until provisions are ready. Following this, they hope to return to complete the inspection cycle which will help determine readiness.

The government admits that many of the issues affecting SEND provision precede the pandemic. The Public Accounts Committee, found that there are failures in the SEND system that need to be addressed. So, what are your thoughts? As a parent, what kinds of support have you been offered during COVID-19? As a SEND provisions, what kinds of support have Ofsted and CQC offered your setting? More importantly, how would you like to be supported?