Free cookie consent management tool by TermsFeed Insights from Our Roundtable: How to Navigate a Grade 1 SEND Inspection | Tile Hill

Insights from Our Roundtable: How to Navigate a Grade 1 SEND Inspection

by Yas Din


Back to insights
staff photo

In our commitment to creating a sharing and learning space within the interim community, Tile Hill Senior Consultant Yas Din hosted a webinar on how to navigate Grade 1 SEND Inspection, diving into the unique leadership challenges that they hold.

The new SEND framework was only established in January 2023, to provide an independent, external evaluation of the effectiveness of the local area partnership's arrangements for children and young people with SEND and many leaders sought support from each other to share their experiences with the new cycle of inspections.

We were thrilled to welcome Amanda Davis, Corporate Director for Education and Learning at Dorset Council UK, and Simon Wellman, Director of Education and Skills at Telford & Wrekin Council, to talk about how they prepared for their SEND Inspection, the importance of having the right talent around you and how that contributes to successfully achieving a Grade 1. The session was led by Yas Din, a Senior Consultant at Tile Hill who leads on Education and Children’s Social Care Recruitment.

Here are some of the highlights of the roundtable on what to expect in inspections and tips for how leaders can adequately prepare for them.

Preparing for Inspection
According to Amanda, using their Quality Assurance framework as a guidebook was key to the Dorset Council’s successful inspection. Dorset Council’s QA framework utilises a range of tools that support their understanding of the quality of practice and the workforce needs. It has also received positive external validation from peer reviews and local SEND inspections.

The Dorset Local Area Partnership, which consists of strategic partners Dorset Council, NHS Dorset Integrated Care Board and the Dorset Parent Carer Council, aimed to improve Dorset Children's Services for people with SEND and increased vulnerabilities to achieve strong life outcomes. The strong working relationships outlined in the QA framework are at the heart of the work in Dorset, providing a system leadership to deliver services.

Similarly, Simon mentioned that Telford & Wrekin’s Outcomes Framework was approved with inspectors. The framework considered success measures for each outcome, which focus on supporting children and young people to develop their skills to live a successful and fulfilling life. They also utilised an outcomes dashboard which tracks indicators against outcomes measures.

Both speakers emphasised that preparation is important, and key documents must be prepared well in advance as it is hard to create quickly during inspection week. These include outcomes framework, JSNA, self-evaluation document, action plan and charter. Furthermore, teams must make sure to take the initiative to analyse their own data for insights after gathering feedback from the community.

Reflections on the Process
According to Simon, inspections can be an emotional roller-coaster. While some feedback can be generic in nature, there was a lot of learning to still be had. For example, his team learned that there was a strong voice from the official parent carer forum, although they needed wider reach by strengthening the relationships. Simon also learned that a multiagency case audit is important, with feedback from the audit leading the team to make swift changes to the risk register.

Amanda says that the most important value for her team was to remain hopeful and determined to achieve good outcomes for all. This is a sentiment born from the pandemic era, where hopefulness is important to keep us steady. The team at Dorset Council stayed true to their value of listening to the needs of families and creating the conditions of success for our children and young people. The partnership vision for Dorset laid out the need to work with families and communities, listening to their feedback and ideas of what is most crucial to them. Living out values means we have been doing a robust self-evaluation way before the inspectors come.

Another value for Amanda is having a clear practice model which invites and welcomes external challenges. For example, the Dorset Council’s locality model and partnership structure is evaluated independently by IPC Oxford Brookes, who gives feedback and pointers for change.

Simon and Amanda both agree that you don’t have to be perfect to get a good grade, as long as you have a good plan on how to improve.

My Reflections on The Leadership Challenge
It takes an experienced and caring leader to guide a team through the tough and intensive inspection period. Leaders must take care of their team as well as themselves when faced with external scrutiny, a challenge often faced by executives in the public sector.

According to Amanda, leaders must work on their resilience and attention to detail in order to be mentally prepared for the inspection. Leaders can find support by surrounding themselves with the right talent and right expertise. For example, it is important to have someone who understands the complexity of the education system to be able to link activities back to the established framework.

Furthermore, the inspection will test how close colleagues in Education, Social Care and Health are working together, which is a reflection of the work culture that already exists. Leaders need to set out clear expectations with staff, emphasising that they are not testing them as an individual but the system as a whole. It is also important to stress to colleagues to not be afraid to professionally challenge an inspector. It is also a chance to shine, so leaders should identify the key areas you want to showcase to inspectors.

From listening to Amanda and Simon, coupled with the conversations I’m having daily with Directors working in Education and Children’s Social Care, it highlights the importance of a strong workforce and how having the right skills in the right place at the right time plays a crucial part in achieving a positive outcome.

I  believe an important trait to have in any business is that of ‘self-awareness’ and in Local Government this is no different. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is a key part in leadership and we all know that great leaders don’t need to know everything, it’s almost impossible, but what they do, is surround themselves around people who do; allowing you to focus on the areas you are good at and delegate the parts that are better suited to colleagues.

We are proud to stand alongside local authorities as they navigate a challenging and complex landscape and having closely supported both Dorset and Telford & Wrekin Council along their journey, it was brilliant to hear their outcomes and knowing that the people we’d introduced them to had been instrumental through their inspections.

As Steve Jobs Said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do: we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

If you require any further information or would like to discuss the talent agenda within your organisation, please feel free to reach out and I would be more than happy to have a conversation.

Did you find this useful or would like to hear more? If so, please remember to follow Yas Din and Tile Hill on LinkedIn for more news, community, and support.

Share this blog