Serious incident notifications in England 2015/2016

Key findings from Ofsted’s analysis of its data about child deaths and serious harm

Ofsted were notified of 379 serious incidents to children from 1 April 2015 – 31 March 2016. This includes 171 child deaths and 208 incidents involving serious harm to a child. We have summarised the key issues from their statistics on serious incident notifications, which give us an insight into what is happening to vulnerable children in England.


In Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PDF), the Department for Education requires all local authorities in England to inform Ofsted and the relevant Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) when a child dies or is seriously harmed, and abuse or neglect is suspected.

They also need to tell Ofsted when a child in care or a regulated setting dies. Ofsted has analysed the data from the notifications which were made between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016.

This is experimental data as it does not yet meet the quality standards set by National Statistics.

Key findings

    • Between 2013/14 and 2014/15 there was a large increase in the number of serious incidents reported to Ofsted, but in 2015/16 the number decreased by 2%. This may suggest the number of notifications has levelled out.
    • Over the last 3 years the number of incident notifications relating to child death has reduced, while those relating to serious harm have increased.
    • 56% of the notifications received in 2015/16 were about incidents involving boys (44% related to girls). This is a change from last year when only 47% of notifications related to boys and 53% related to girls.
    • Ofsted was informed that a serious case review (SCR) would be carried out for 134 (35%) of the incidents.
    • Over the last 3 years, the number of SCRs which Ofsted has been informed of has decreased. There has also been a reduction in the number and proportion of SCRs relating to the death of a child.
    • 25% of the SCRs which Ofsted was notified about were begun following non-accidental injuries caused by a parent or carer and an additional 13% concerned neglect by a parent or carer.
    • 34% of the SCR notifications were about children under one and 27% concerned children aged 11-15.


    • For the notifications about child deaths, the main causes were:
      • unknown/unascertained (28%)
      • natural causes including life limiting disability and illness (25%)
      • dangerous behaviour including substance misuse (16%)
      • killing or non-accidental injury by a parent or carer (11%)
      • accidental (11%)
      • killing or non-accidental injury by unrelated person (5%)
      • neglect (5%).
    • For the notifications about serious harm, the main causes were:
      • non-accidental injury by a parent or carer (36%)
      • sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation (CSE) by somebody who was not related to the child (18%)
      • other causes of harm including harm which was unknown or unascertained (14%)
      • neglect by a parent or carer (13%)
      • non-accidental injury by a person not related to the child (7%)
      • self-harm or dangerous behaviour (6%)
      • sexual abuse by a family member (5%)
      • accidents (2%).
    • The number of notifications about child deaths due to killing or non-accidental injury by a parent or carer has decreased significantly in the last 12 months (there were 39 notified cases in 2014/15; and only 19 in 2015/16).
    • The largest age group in notifications about serious harm was children under 1 (28%). This is a change from 2014/15, where children aged 11-15 had the highest number of serious harm notifications.
    • 41% of the notifications about child deaths were about young people aged 11 or over. 26 of these were suicides (15 boys and 11 girls).
    • Just over a fifth of all the incidents which concerned children aged over 11 were about sexual abuse or CSE by a person who was not related to the child.
    • 13% of the notifications about serious harm to a child were about children who had a child protection plan when the incident took place, and 23% were about children in care.
    • Of the notifications about young people who were victims of sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation (CSE), 45% were in care at the time of the incident.
    • 17% of the notifications of child deaths were about children who were subject to a child protection plan.
    • 16% of the SCRs which Ofsted was informed about involved a child who was subject to a child protection plan at the time of the incident and 7% involved a child in care.
    • The number of notifications Ofsted received in 2015/16 may not be the same as the number of incidents which took place during that time. This is because Ofsted are not always told immediately when an incident takes place.
    • From 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, Ofsted was notified of 396 incidents by local authorities, however 17 did not meet the criteria in the statutory guidance so they were not included in the statistical data.
    • Local authorities are not obliged to update Ofsted on the outcomes of ongoing investigations into incidents of serious harm or child deaths. Therefore the data may not be complete.

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