Way back in 2016, Bolton was one of the first areas to be visited by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to be inspected under what were the first SEND Local Area inspections. These inspections aimed to look at the whole area and consider how well the 2014 SEND Reforms were being implemented. The outcome of these inspections weren’t like school ofsted, where the setting is given a grading, instead, a report was published with an overview of the inspectors findings, including strengths and weaknesses. If there were any concerns, an area would receive a ‘written statement of action’ and a later revisit would have to be conducted, here in Bolton we didn’t receive one of these. To take a look at what was in the 2016 report, click here.

It took a long time to get around all the areas of England, and when covid struck, there were still areas to be inspected, many areas also still required a revisit, and it wasn’t certain if this would be an ongoing cycle of inspection, or just a one-off.

It has now been decided that, due to the high number of areas, roughly 50%, that did require a revisit and received a written statement of action, that the Local Area SEND Inspections would become a recurring cycle of visits, much like schools.

A brand new framework has been developed to ensure that inspectors take a good look at what really matters locally. This new framework has come into effect in January 2023. This time there will be more focus on children and young people’s actual journeys, as opposed to inspecting processes, with 6 random children selected for the inspectors to take a deep dive into their story. The breadth of the inspection will cover all SEND, including SEN Support, and those children in Alternative Provisions as well as those with EHC Plans.

Unlike in 2016 there won’t be as much interaction between parents and carers and the inspectors, which is disappointing. However there will be a questionnaire issued at the time of inspection and we will ensure that this is made widely available for families to complete about their own experiences. The Chairperson of the Forum will also be included in several of the strategic level meeetings and will have the opportunity to talk with inspectors, as will other groups that work with children, young people with SEND and parents and carers.

As we were first to be inspected last time round, we expect that it won’t be too long until Bolton will be inspected under this new framework. To ensure you know when this happens and to ensure you have the opportunity to complete a questionnaire at the time, please do sign up to our membership, as this will be one definite way in which you can be sure to be notified.  Click here to join as a member.

If you would like to read in detail about how our local area will be inspected, you can click this link for a rather lengthy description of the inspection framework.

Or, here’s a slightly briefer rundown of what will be inspected:


  • Whether childrens and young peoples needs are identified accurately and assessed in a timely and effective way.
  • Whether children, young people and their families participate in decision-making about their individual plans and support.
  • Whether children and young people receive the right help and support at the right time.
  • Whether children and young people are well prepared for their next steps asnd acheive strong outcomes.
  • Whether children and yong people with SEND are valued, visable and included in their communities.
  • Whether leaders are ambitious for children and young people with SEND
  • Whether leaders activiely enage and work with children, young people and families.
  • Whether leaders have an accurate, shared understanding of the needs of children and young people in their local area.
  • Whether leaders commission services and provision to meet the needs and aspirations of children and young people.
  • Whether leaders evaluate services and make improvements.
  • Whether leaders create an environment for effective practice and multi-agency working to flourish.

There will be new outcomes (results) for the area post-inspection.

  1. Where the local area partnership’s arrangements typically lead to positive experiences and outcomes for children and young people with SEND and the local area is taking action where improvements are needed, the area will be visited again for a full inspection within 5 years.
  2. Where the local area is found to have inconsistent outcomes for children and young people, and improvements are required, there will be regular engagement meeting to monitor progress and a full inspection within 3 years.
  3. And finally, where there are widespread failings, and significant concerns, there will be engagement meetings, an action plan will have to be submitted, a monitoring inspection within 18 months and a full inspection within 3 years.

As always, we welcome any scruntiny of our local area that could lead to improvements for families.