The following Q&A with Jonathan Jones, HMI, Specialist Adviser, was inspired by the blog written In September by OFSTED inspector Nick Whittaker, HMI, Specialist Advisor, SEND. High Standards and Highly Inclusive
Nick Whittaker, HMI starts his blog by saying;
“I was struck by a phrase someone used in a discussion back in the summer – ‘big-hearted schools who welcome SEND students and see their Ofsted rating drop’.
I’d like to unpack that a bit.
I believe, and Ofsted’s inspections of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in schools are built around this idea, that the experience of pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities is a bellwether of the school’s performance.
Children who have SEN and/or disabilities are part of the big picture that makes up a school; there is no division here. Academic excellence, and effective SEND provision, are all part of the same picture and a school cannot be truly outstanding if it’s letting some of its pupils down.
We’ve been told that some schools are refusing pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities because they are concerned that this will be reflected in their Ofsted rating.
Schools should be truly inclusive. And by that, I mean inclusive in the real sense, including children and their parents:
- in decision-making
- in setting targets linked to the child’s education, health and care (EHC) plan or SEN support plan
- as part of collecting information about what is important to the child, now and in the future, and how best to support them.”
Q&A with Jonathan Jones, HMI.
The recent OFSTED blog on inclusion was very much welcomed, especially at a time when so many children, young people and families are struggling to get appropriate education. However, there is a great deal of confusion around how ‘inclusion’ is assessed and ‘scored’, also which schools, approaches and evidence are targeted to provide the necessary information.
I have gathered questions from parents via social media, parent support groups and email. The following are a summary of these, as well as some suggestions from parents to aid the development of these inspections. (Jonathan’s responses are in red)
Will an inclusion rating be separate to an overall score? As can be seen in our EIF slides, a separate rating for inclusion is not being proposed in the EIF 2019.
How is ‘success’ measured? Do OFSTED consider NEETS, pathways into adulthood and exam data? Inspectors currently consider the impact of funded support on the outcomes achieved by children and young people with SEND, the expectation is that the identification of SEN leads to additional or different arrangements being made and a consequent improvement in progress. The grade descriptors for ‘outcomes for pupils’ include an evaluation of how well pupils are prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment.
As ‘inclusion’ as a concept can be difficult to define, what specific training do inspectors have in order to rate this accurately? In the common inspection framework, inspectors must evaluate the extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school including those with SEND. All inspectors receive specific training and on-going updates. Specialist inspectors receive an enhanced level of training.
How do schools evidence that they have considered all individual needs and reasonable adjustments throughout the school day? In judging pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, inspectors evaluate the experience of particular individuals and groups, such as . . . pupils with SEND, looked-after children, those with medical needs and those with mental health needs. The common inspection framework makes it clear that inspectors, ‘must look at a small sample of case studies about the experience of these pupils’.
How do they do this for special events such as school trips, sports day, seasonal celebrations? Rewards and motivators such as 100% attendance awards? Does this data include how many children are unable to attend these events, or how many parents are required to attend to provide support needed? To what degree are they included and is this appropriate? Inspectors are required to consider how well leaders and governors promote all forms of equality. Inspectors gather and evaluate a wide range of evidence, including evidence from discussion with pupils and parents, information provided by school leaders, and written comments from parents, including the free-text responses recorded on parent view.
How do inspectors gather information about non-official or unlawful exclusions, including sending children home for school events, only allowing them in for a small part of the school day, forced home education or off rolling? This is especially concerning as some parents don’t realise that this is unlawful and therefore don’t report it. Inspectors gather and evaluate a range of evidence about attendance and exclusions. This includes the scrutiny of the school’s attendance records and the reasons for non-attendance. Inspectors, ‘will assess the school’s use of exclusion, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion, as well as any differences between groups of pupils. Inspectors will gather the views of parents, staff, governors and other stakeholders’.
Seclusion vs Inclusion:
How do schools evidence when, how and for how long seclusion has been used, and will OFSTED be looking at this data? Can OFSTED comment on the use of small, closed or locked rooms and tents used to contain and seclude distressed CYP. Such as the use of ‘Blue Rooms’? Can OFSTED comment on the use of restrictive practices and restraint in schools? Will this data be inspected and impact on an inclusion rating? Ofsted published guidance for inspectors in March 2018. This guidance is called, ‘Positive environments where children can flourish, a guide for inspectors about physical intervention and restrictions of liberty’. This guidance applies to all social care inspections and to the inspection of schools.
Appropriateness of curriculum:
Some CYP with learning difficulties, significant language needs and functional difficulties, who attend specialist schools don’t have access to an adapted curriculum. Will OFSTED be looking at inclusion in specialist settings too? HMCI has made it clear that the effectiveness of the curriculum will be central to evaluating the quality of education in the new education inspection framework. This will include all specialist schools. HMCI has stated that the curriculum is the ‘substance’ of education and inspectors will consider the design and implementation of the curriculum and its impact on the outcomes achieved by all pupils.
Will they include specialist and mainstream schools rated outstanding? Currently, state-funded and non-maintained special schools judged to be outstanding are not exempt from inspection under section 5 of the 2005 Education Act. Mainstream primary and secondary schools judged to be outstanding are exempt from inspection under section 5. However, HMCI has powers to inspect at any time under section 8 of the same act. An exempt school may be inspected where, for example, concerns are raised about standards of leadership and management or HMCI, or the secretary of State, has concerns about the school’s performance.
The following are interesting suggestions which are useful in the thinking about how we gather the views of children and young people and their families. They will be welcomed as part of the formal consultation period beginning in spring 2019.
- Include outside professionals in inspections. Such as Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists. They can provide expert opinion on whether the school is inclusive in terms of their area of expertise and in relation to individual needs.
- Inspectors could look in home/school contact books of both SEND and non-SEND CYP around specific dates such as school trips, to compare attendance and success. Also, at e-mails, texts and home/school communication in its wider form.
- Inspectors could ask parents and CYP specific questions. Perhaps have a SEND panel made up of CYP, but arranged so they are encouraged to, and able to speak freely. Another suggestion is to have a ‘happiness survey’.
- British values such as peer perception of their disabled classmates. Do schools focus on teaching CYP about acceptance and difference? Do they monitor opinions and actions of peers? Some parents report peers saying things like ‘X can’t do that’ rather than ‘how can X join in too?’
- Comparing the % of SEND parents in PTAs, attendance at parent evenings, complaints, the spread of CYP with SEND across sets in subjects, but also compared against their needs and potential.
- Asking parents and schools about home-school communication and inspecting flexibility and effectiveness. Monitoring any key positive or negative descriptions given.
- Asking all members of staff, including caretakers and lunchtime supervisors about CYP with SEND to monitor their understanding and acceptance.
- Look at how many CYP are highlighted for support before they begin to fail.
- Look at the percentage of CYP with similar diagnoses and the levels of support they receive. Obviously needs will differ, but is it predominantly the CYP who outwardly express distress who receive support? Or do those who internalise distress have their needs recognised too?
How parents can be involved in OFSTED inspections: Parents, OFSTED & Local Area SEND Inspections.
Information on the new Inspection framework: Chief Inspector sets out vision for new Education Inspection Framework