Landmark report is a damning indictment on the state of special educational needs services in England

26 October 2017

 A landmark report from Ofsted paints a damning picture of the state of services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The report catalogues numerous failures across local authorities in England, and highlights how parents are being ignored and children are not being given the support they need, and so subsequently failing to achieve their potential.

The National Deaf Children’s Society is calling on Justine Greening to immediately invest in improving the system, and to increase the oversight and accountability of local authorities and schools who support children with SEND.

Ofsted concluded that:

  • 30% of councils were found to have “significant areas of concern” and a ‘written statement of action’ was demanded from them immediately.
  • 50% of councils have poor senior leadership who are not properly evaluating how well children and young people with SEND are achieving.
  • 70% of councils were found to be acting illegally, and not following the law in how they assess what support children with SEND need.
  • Over 50% of councils were not giving parents clear information about what support is on offer to them. 
  • At 30% of councils, it was found that elected councillors were failing to hold the leaders of SEND services to account, with no scrutiny of what was going on.

It also highlighted how too many local authorities are seriously failing the parents of children with SEND, all too often ignoring their views and concerns. The report notes that “many local area leaders were unaware of the depth of frustration among local parents”.

Jo Campion, Deputy Director of Policy and Campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society said: “This report shows that the biggest education reforms in a generation for children with special educational needs have been a huge disappointment.

“Ofsted paints a bleak picture of a system in crisis. Parents are not being listened to, councils are acting illegally, elected councillors are failing to scrutinise what is going on, and as a result, the most vulnerable children in this country are being let down and left behind.

The charity also warned that in spite of these widespread failures, councils across England continue to make huge cuts to services for deaf children. Since 2011, specialist teachers have been reduced by 12% and councils have been closing specialist units in mainstream schools – cutting support at the same time as numbers of deaf children are increasing. Crucially, one of the interventions that can make a real difference to the life chances of deaf children, specialist Teachers of the Deaf, is an area that has taken on deep and damaging cuts.

Jo Campion went on to say: “In 2014 when the then Government passed the reforms, it trumpeted them as being a ‘landmark moment in improving the lives of children with SEND and their families’. Ofsted has shown that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reforms have clearly been a colossal failure for some of the most vulnerable in society.

“This report is a watershed moment that needs immediate action from the Department for Education. Justine Greening must invest heavily to make the system work, and put in place proper oversight, accountability and a long term inspection system to closely monitor how local authorities are supporting children with SEND. This government has just been put in special measures by its own watchdog, and we need immediate action.” 

 Notes to editors

  • The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and their families.

  • There are more than 50,000 deaf children in the UK. The National Deaf Children’s Society helps deaf children and young people thrive by providing impartial, practical and emotional support to them and their families, and by challenging governments and society to meet their needs.

  • The National Deaf Children’s Society believes that every deaf child should be valued and included by society and have the same opportunities as any other child.

  • For more information visit  For further support, parents can contact the National Deaf Children’s Society Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email, or chat online at