In this series of articles, we look at Ofsted inspector’s comments regarding 80 schools which were deemed to be “good” overall.

In this article, we’ll have a look at comments relating to pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities (also known as SEND).

The Ofsted Inspection Handbook (as of September 2018) states:

Inspectors will consider the progress of pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities in relation to the progress of all pupils nationally with similar starting points. Inspectors will examine the impact of funded support for them on removing any differences in progress and attainment. The expectation is that the identification of special educational needs leads to additional or different arrangements being made and a consequent improvement in progress.

For groups of pupils whose cognitive ability is such that their attainment is unlikely ever to rise above ‘low’, the judgement on outcomes will be based on an evaluation of the pupils’ learning and progress relative to their starting points at particular ages and any assessment measures the school holds. Evaluations should not take account of their attainment compared with that of all other pupils.

Often in these Ofsted reports, SEND pupils are said to make good or strong progress:

Pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities are making better progress than in the past.

Current pupils’ work shows that disadvantaged pupils and those who have SEN and/or disabilities are making good progress across the curriculum.

Targeted programmes of support for disadvantaged pupils and pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities enable pupils to make strong progress from their low starting points.

The support that this group of pupils receives helps most to make strong progress, although a few who could catch up are not doing so quickly enough.

Only vary occasionally is this not the case for “good” schools:

The progress made by pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities is not consistently strong enough. Although pupils often experience success during interventions, pupils do not retain or use what they learn well enough to make stronger progress overall.

Frequently, the Ofsted inspectors will look at reasons why this progress is being made:

This is because teachers and other staff give them well-tailored support.

Their needs are now becoming better identified, and they are given precise support by teachers and support staff.

Staff work closely with parents and external specialists to increase pupils’ self-confidence and promote good progress.

Staff focus their support on those aspects of learning where pupils need greater practice or assistance.

…staff have high expectations of them. They carefully match interventions to the individual needs of each pupil. As a result, these pupils make good progress across each year.

Carefully planned support activities and monitoring of their progress enable them to achieve well.

Teaching assistants also ensure that these pupils are fully involved in classroom activities, such as discussions.

Teachers plan well for pupils’ needs and teaching assistants provide good extra support in lessons and at other times.

Skilled teaching assistants promote their independence by not giving more help than they need.

However, it is important to mention that the school provides a very inclusive learning environment. Staff are attentive to pupils’ needs, be these educational, medical or physical. Pupils, too, are extremely supportive of one another. Consequently, all pupils experience feelings of success and enjoy school.

Pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities make good progress, as great care has been taken and investment made in resources, both environmental and human, to meet their very individual needs.

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The SENCo or other leaders are sometimes mentioned by Ofsted’s inspectors:

The SENCo makes timely interventions to support their needs.

Pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities make generally good progress because of the staff’s detailed knowledge of their needs and teaching which breaks down tasks into manageable steps. The leader for this area of the school’s work has also identified areas for next steps in further improving the provision for these pupils.

Pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities make good progress, particularly in reading and writing. This is because the special needs coordinator clearly identifies their specific learning difficulties. She works closely with class teachers to plan work that helps them to overcome their difficulties. They regularly receive effective support in class from skilled learning-support assistants, and this helps them to keep up with their classmates.

Leaders and teachers track their progress closely and pinpoint their next steps in learning to ensure that they receive swift and focused support. As a result, most of this group of pupils make progress similar to that of their peers, and many make more, enabling them to reach the expectations for their age.

Teachers hold regular pupil progress meetings with senior leaders, where individual pupils’ needs and actions are noted on a ‘commentary sheet’. This analysis of needs helps all pupils make good progress and particularly those who have special educational needs (SEN) and/or disabilities…

Leaders monitor pupils’ progress carefully, adapting support and intervention according to need.

Ofsted’s inspectors also look at internal assessment data, a practice which will not be happening under the new Inspection Framework from September 2019:

Assessment information indicates that the small proportion of pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities are making good progress from their starting points because of the help that they receive.

However, staff do not track the progress that these pupils make from their starting point in each phase.

Detailed work scrutiny shows that pupils in all year groups are making strong progress. This includes those who have SEN and/or disabilities…

Strong assessment systems mean that these pupils are identified swiftly, and they benefit from personalised support that meets their needs.


We hope that you have enjoyed this article.

It was based on Ofsted’s Inspection reports from 80 “good” schools published in November 2018.

For the full set of articles on Ofsted Inspections – click HERE

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