UK/December 23, 2022/Source: https://www.gov.uk/
Message from the National Director, Education
Welcome to the autumn term edition of the schools and early education update. As we approach the end of term and the Christmas break, I would like to thank you all for your hard work, dedication and professionalism in carrying out your inspection work.
The term started with a huge loss to the nation and to us as civil servants, with the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I would like to thank you for ensuring that inspection work continued through this sad time.
In her September blog, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, highlighted the importance of helping struggling readers as they start secondary school. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the reading level of most pupils. Supporting pupils who are behind with reading has always been our focus, as set out in the education inspection framework and handbooks. Post-pandemic, we will continue to look at how well reading is prioritised to allow pupils to access the full curriculum.
In October, we also published ‘Now the whole school is reading: supporting struggling readers in secondary school’. This report was based on our findings from research visits to 6 secondary schools in which a higher-than-expected proportion of poor readers got a grade 4 or above in English language at GCSE.
We have continued to run various webinars for schools this term, following the positive feedback we received on the webinars carried out earlier in the year. Thank you to those who attended. At the start of this term, Chris Russell published a blog that addresses some of the queries raised during the question and answer sessions at the earlier webinars.
In this edition, we include the following guidance and information:
- clarification of ‘Previous inspection grade’ on a graded report and ‘Date of previous inspection’ on graded and ungraded reports
- review of tutoring in schools
- relationships, sex and health education in schools that have sixth-form students
- clarification of Ofsted’s use of data during inspections
- early education updates:
- early years focus in our strategy
- early years research series
- early years curriculum roadshows
- safeguarding updates:
- the report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
- updated Department for Education (DfE) guidance on searching, screening and confiscation at school
- Child Safeguarding Practice Panel review of domestic abuse
- DfE attendance guidance
- DfE updates on national leaders of governance and the trust and school improvement offer
I wish you all a lovely Christmas.
Lee Owston HMI
Acting National Director, Education
Clarification of ‘Previous inspection grade’ on a graded report and ‘Date of previous inspection’ on graded and ungraded reports
Previous inspection grade: Inspectors are reminded that the ‘Previous inspection grade’ judgement field on the front page of a graded inspection report is pre-populated with the school’s most recent inspection grade, or with ‘Not previously inspected under section 5 of the Education Act 2005’. Inspectors must not remove this entry unless an academy converter school has received an ungraded inspection since conversion (but no graded inspection). In these cases, the lead inspector must insert the grade confirmed by the most recent ungraded inspection and remove the phrase ‘Not previously inspected under section 5 of the Education Act 2005’.
Inspectors should note also that the standard text that is manually added to the front page of a graded inspection report for formerly exempt outstanding schools must appear below the ‘Previous inspection grade’ field.
Date of previous inspection: Inspectors are reminded that the ‘Date of previous inspection’ field on graded and ungraded inspection reports is pre-populated with the date of the most recent graded, ungraded, urgent or monitoring inspection that has taken place, or states ‘Not previously inspected’. This field will also include whether the most recent inspection took place under section 5 or section 8 of the Education Act 2005. Inspectors must check that this field does not include the date of any autumn term 2020 interim visit, or any spring term 2021 additional monitoring visit, that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. If it does, inspectors should manually replace this date with that of the most recent graded, ungraded, urgent or monitoring inspection.
Review of tutoring in schools
In October, we published our independent review of tutoring, which was commissioned by the DfE. His Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) carried out research visits to 63 schools between September 2021 and July 2022, to explore schools’ tuition strategies and how well they had integrated these.
We found that:
- tutoring requires a well-constructed curriculum to be in place to work well
- tutoring is usually strong, but is too often poorly planned
- stronger schools prioritise who receives tuition
- schools generally prioritise English and maths for tutoring
- tutoring is generally perceived as positive, but few schools have yet assessed the impact of tuition on progress
- sessions by qualified teachers tend to be of higher quality
- tutors and teachers must work together for effective provision
- schools are more likely to choose school-led tutoring
- some schools are reluctant to extend the school day for tutoring, mainly due to pupil attendance concerns
We encourage inspectors to read the report. The findings are summarised in the executive summary. This research reinforces the approach already in our handbooks: that tutoring is best considered as part of the wider implementation of the curriculum. The report sets out useful good practice on how schools have identified the best way to do this, including how to prioritise which pupils receive support.
Relationships, sex and health education in schools that have sixth-form students
As set out in the ‘School inspection handbook’, relationships and sex education is compulsory for all secondary school pupils. Inspectors are reminded that this includes schools that have sixth-form students. Health education is also compulsory for pupils in state-funded schools only. See paragraph 297 of the handbook.
Clarification of Ofsted’s use of data during inspections
In September 2019, we introduced the education inspection framework (EIF). The EIF refocused Ofsted inspections on the real substance of education – the curriculum – and what children, young people and adults actually learn.
The heavy focus on data in a previous framework, through a separate outcomes judgement, diverted schools from the real substance of education. What children and young people learned was too often coming second to schools’ focus on performance data. The data focus also led to unnecessary workload for teachers.
Under the EIF, we look beyond data and test results to understand how schools, nurseries, childminders and colleges are preparing children and young people for the next stage in their education or lives. We want to make sure that good results flow from a broad, rich curriculum and reflect learning, not just intensive preparation for a test.
In evaluating the quality of education, we form a top-level view of the curriculum through conversations with senior leaders, using data as a starting point. While we take account of the performance data presented in the official inspection data summary report, inspectors want to see the quality of education as experienced by pupils first hand. We want to understand how well leaders know what it is like to be a pupil at the school. While we do not look at internal progress and attainment data during graded and ungraded inspections of state-funded schools, or during inspections of independent schools, that does not mean that schools cannot use data if they consider it appropriate.
Recently, statutory outcomes data has not been available. Many datasets are now becoming available to inspectors once again, but our approach to data is unchanged. Data will continue to be used as a starting point for discussion and as one indicator of the impact of a school’s curriculum. Inspectors will use 2022 outcomes cautiously. They will not compare 2022 data directly with previous years, because we know the pandemic has affected schools differently.
Early education updates
Early years focus in our strategy
July’s edition of the update mentioned the publication of our strategy for the next 5 years (2022 to 2027). One of the key strategic priorities – ‘the best start in life’ – focuses on early years and education. You will be familiar with our curriculum research reviews, which have helped to develop conceptions of high-quality education in different subjects. We would like to build the same level of evidence for early years. This includes developing the evidence base around the early years learning and development curriculum, through our research and insights programme. It also includes a focus on raising awareness and promoting a better understanding of education and care in children’s early years.
Early years research series
It is on this basis that we have developed and published Part 1 of a 3-part research review series focused on early years. This first review outlines the current context of early education for children aged from birth to 4, and examines the factors that contribute to a high-quality early education. In Chris Russell’s recent blog, ‘Giving children the best start in life’, he explained some of the intentions and thinking behind this work. We hope that this research series will be helpful, and will encourage leaders and practitioners to think about what they want children to learn and the different ways that they may teach their curriculum.
Early years curriculum roadshows
During June and July this year, we held a number of early years curriculum roadshows, aimed at early years providers and practitioners across the country. The roadshows focused on why communication and language are so important, as well as how children make progress in this area of learning.
During the autumn term, we held face-to-face roadshows for maintained nursery schools and schools with pre-Reception-age children. We have also produced a live webinar for childminders, which we recorded and made available more widely. These have been received positively by attendees. In the spring and summer terms of 2023, we look forward to holding another round of roadshows for early years providers and schools on the importance of communication and language.
The report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
The final statutory report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (the Inquiry) was published on 20 October 2022. The Inquiry took 7 years to complete. The report sets out the main findings about the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation, and makes recommendations for reform.
The report makes a number of powerful recommendations. The government has 6 months to review the recommendations and decide what action to take.
Three recommendations form the centrepiece of the Inquiry’s work :
the introduction of a statutory requirement of mandatory reporting. In effect, it requires individuals in certain employments (paid or voluntary) and professions to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the relevant authorities. Failure to do so in some circumstances could lead to the commission of a new criminal offence of failure to report an allegation of child sexual abuse when required to do so
the establishment of a national redress scheme for England and for Wales, to provide some monetary redress for child sexual abuse for those who have been let down by institutions in the past
the creation of a child protection authority (CPA) in England and in Wales. The CPAs will have powers to inspect any institution associated with children. They will not replace current inspectorates in relation to the statutory authorities, but may require inspection of those authorities by existing inspectorates. The CPAs over time will become centres of expertise and may extend their child protection functions to other forms of harm experienced by children. They will also, in due course, monitor implementation of the Inquiry’s recommendations and report regularly on progress.
We will be reviewing the implications of these recommendations over the coming months, although it is not yet clear how the government will respond.
Updated DfE guidance on searching, screening and confiscation at school
The DfE’s guidance on searching, screening and confiscation at school has been updated in response to the case of ‘child Q’, which received a great deal of media attention earlier this year.
In 2020, child Q, a black female child of secondary-school age, was strip-searched by female police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service. The search, which involved the exposure of child Q’s intimate body parts, took place on school premises. No appropriate adult was in attendance; teachers remained outside the room and child Q’s mother was not contacted in advance. No drugs were found during either the strip-search or a search of the room in which child Q had been waiting beforehand. A child safeguarding practice review into this case found that:
- child Q should never have been strip-searched
- the professionals’ approach did not focus on safeguarding – the response was disproportionate and harmful to child Q
- school staff should have been more challenging of the police
The review was also critical of the DfE’s guidance for schools on searching, screening and confiscation.
The updated guidance published this term provides a much stronger emphasis on safeguarding. The DfE makes clear that it wants safeguarding to be the first concern when a search is to take place.
The updated guidance explains the screening, searching and confiscating powers that schools have. It informs schools of the process that the police must follow during a strip-search, as well as the aftercare a pupil should receive following a police strip-search.
The updated guidance also provides advice on what to do if a child refuses to be searched, and guidance on record-keeping, and on when and how to inform parents.
There is no expectation that inspectors should ask questions about searching pupils as part of routine inspection. You may, however, come across instances where this has happened, and it is important to be aware of the updated guidance.
Child Safeguarding Practice Panel review of domestic abuse
The Child Safeguarding Practice Panel (the Panel) has published its key findings from a thematic analysis of rapid reviews and local safeguarding practice reviews where domestic abuse featured. These are reviews that take place when a child has died or been seriously harmed, and neglect or abuse is known or suspected. The Panel’s review summarises the most common themes that emerged in relation to multi-agency safeguarding for children who are victims of domestic abuse, and includes examples of practice and recommendations.
Key findings include a lack of detailed understanding by professionals of the full implications for children of domestic abuse. The review found that professionals sometimes name the issues as ‘domestic abuse’ without fully exploring, assessing or understanding the nature and impact of abuse on the child or family. The Panel also concluded that an overemphasis on physical violence meant that some other aspects of abuse, such as controlling and coercive behaviours, were seen as ‘low level’. This meant that they were not responded to effectively by professionals.
The review references ‘Operation Encompass’, an information-sharing system developed and championed by the charity Operation Encompass. The Operation Encompass system now operates in all police forces across England, although schools sign up to the scheme voluntarily. The Operation Encompass system ensures that, when the police are called to an incident of domestic abuse, and there are children in the household, they will inform the key adult in school (usually the designated safeguarding lead (DSL)) before the child or children arrive at school the following day. The intention is for schools to be aware of what is happening at the child’s home, and to give the child emotional and practical support following an incident of domestic abuse. Operation Encompass does not replace statutory safeguarding procedures. When appropriate, the police and/or schools should make a referral to local authority children’s social care if they are concerned about a child’s safety or welfare.
The Panel found that, although the reviews it looked at referenced Operation Encompass as ‘good practice’, these did not explore what the expectations were for schools to respond to children and young people. The information on expectations for schools is available from the Operation Encompass website.
Domestic abuse is prevalent within society and we know, for example, that parental domestic abuse is the most common factor identified through children’s social care assessments. It is, therefore, important that all professionals, including DSLs, have a good understanding of the different forms of domestic abuse, including controlling and coercive behaviour, and their impact on children. The Panel’s review highlights the need for better multi-agency responses to children who experience domestic abuse, and a better understanding of the different forms of domestic abuse and its impact on children.
Working together to improve school attendance
New DfE guidance on school attendance came into effect in September 2022. The guidance sets out new expectations for schools, local authorities, trustees and governors, which are summarised in a table. It also sets out an expectation that all bodies will work together to support pupils and families, and remove barriers to attending school.
The guidance aims to improve the quality and consistency of attendance support across the country, recognising that regular attendance is an important prerequisite for children’s attainment, well-being and wider development, particularly for the most vulnerable, and makes an important contribution to safeguarding children. The guidance is informed by our report from February 2022.
Key expectations for schools are to:
- develop and maintain a whole-school culture that promotes the benefits of high attendance
- publish a clear school attendance policy
- appoint a senior lead for attendance
- have robust day-to-day processes for accurately recording, monitoring and following up absence
- build strong relationships with families, to understand barriers to attendance and work with families to remove them
- analyse data forensically and regularly to prioritise pupils and cohorts who need support and put effective strategies in place
- share data with the local authority of all pupils who do not attend regularly
- work with local partners, such as children’s social care, and health and housing services, to remove out-of-school barriers
- work jointly with the local authority on an agreed plan for every severely absent pupil
- work with the local authority to formalise support through the use of legal intervention where voluntary help has not been effective
National Leaders of Governance
On 12 November 2022, the DfE published the National leaders of governance reform: evaluation.
This evaluation reviews the first year of implementation of the new contract with the National Governance Association (NGA) to deliver the reformed National Leaders of Governance (NLG) programme. It assesses recruitment, deployment and capacity of the NLGs, quality of delivery, and process efficiency to make sure that the reformed programme is meeting its aims.
The main findings of the research were:
- The first year of the NGA’s contract to deliver the reformed NLG programme was successful in terms of recruitment, deployment, capacity and quality of support provided by NLGs.
- Commissioners, school leaders, and governors and trustees were positive about the quality, rigour and challenge provided by NLGs on a range of themes, including: the composition and structure of the board; financial management; and trust vision and growth, and the expected impact it will have.
- Suggested areas for review related to more signposting to ongoing support; extending the 3-month time frame from deployment to action plan and review; and greater consistency across commissioning routes in their referral and targeting approaches.
The DfE and NGA will work with the sector to implement these wherever possible and appropriate, to make sure the reformed NLG programme continues to have a positive impact on the governance of schools and trusts.
Further information about the NLG programme
NLG support is available to trusts that are eligible for the Trust and School Improvement Offer and local authority maintained schools that have a current single ‘requires improvement’ (RI) Ofsted judgement, with RI in leadership and management. In addition, DfE regional teams may offer NLG support to the trusts that would most benefit from support to improve governance. All designated NLGs have been assessed as meeting the reformed NLG standards.
Eligible multi-academy trusts (MATs) will receive 5 days’ support, and eligible single-academy trusts and maintained schools will receive 3 days’ support. The NLG will work with the board to review governance and recommend actions for improvement. A progress review within 4 months of the initial report is included. The DfE has published guidance on how to request NLG support.
Trust and school improvement offer
On 2 September 2022, the DfE launched a new trust and school improvement offer for the 2022/23 academic year. It will be offering up to £3.75 million worth of support to underperforming schools and trusts nationally.
Eligible schools and trusts will be offered up to 10 days of support and advice from a system leader. This will normally be a chief executive officer (CEO) from a MAT, supported by their wider leadership team, or a national leader of education if a MAT CEO is not available. They will help school/trust leadership teams identify and implement sustainable improvements to help drive their development journey forward.
The DfE’s trust and school improvement offer sets out the full eligibility criteria and details of what improvement support schools and trusts can get in the 2022 to 2023 academic year.