Ofsted inspectors to receive mental health awareness training
In his new role as chief inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver has delayed inspections until late January, giving inspectors time to complete a full package of training on anxiety and mental health awareness in response to the inquest into the death of Ruth Perry.
Following the coroner’s ruling that Ofsted ‘likely contributed’ to the headteacher’s death, lead inspectors received emergency training last month on recognising and responding to signs of distress in school leaders during an inspection. Full training is to be extended to all inspectors this term, with Oliver set to lead the initial training. During his first week, Oliver has also arranged to meet with Ruth Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Walters, as he reflects ‘I think the really important thing now is to listen to the family and then listen to the sector.’
Additionally, Oliver has pledged to carry out the Big Listen ‘to hear directly from parents and professionals about the strengths and weaknesses of Ofsted’s current approach to inspection and regulation.’ This will include roadshows that will take place over the course of about 12 weeks. As a well-known critic of the current school inspection framework, Oliver has expressed the need for a thorough review of the inspection system, claiming that ‘nothing is off the table’ depending on the sector’s views.
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Digital GCSEs set to launch next summer
Last term, England’s largest exam board AQA announced plans to launch on-screen assessments beginning with GCSE Italian and Polish in 2026. OCR later announced that GCSE Computer Science will be assessed digitally in 2025. Now, Pearson Edexcel has become the latest exam board to release plans for on-screen assessments, with up to 125,000 pupils set to sit GCSE English Language and English Literature exams digitally next summer.
The on-screen English GCSEs are subject to Ofqual regulatory approval and pupils will still have the option to choose paper-based exams. However, Sharon Hague, Managing Director for Pearson Schools, says that on-screen assessments bring many benefits, particularly for young people who require accessibility adjustments. For example, she suggests that ‘students can zoom in to increase font size and choose colour filters on-screen during exams.’ Learners can also highlight and annotate, cut and paste, and make easy edits to their answers.
Pearson reports there is an increased demand for digital exams from students who have already taken international GCSEs online, with figures showing that ‘entries have doubled from year to year.’ In a drive to make assessment future-proof, accessible and inclusive, the exam board has plans to release on-screen options for all GCSEs by 2030.
Updates to guidance on multi-agency safeguarding
Recent updates to the Working together to safeguard children statutory guidance underscores the pivotal role played by schools in multi-agency safeguarding. This acknowledges widespread concerns amongst school leaders who have often felt excluded by other agencies when making safeguarding decisions. The guidance makes it clear that ‘the views and contributions of education and childcare providers [should be] articulated at the highest level of decision-making.’
Furthermore, the guidance encourages better information exchange between safeguarding partners. As a result, schools are expected to be proactive in sharing information, such as ‘increased absence or mental health problems, which may be indicators that a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering neglect, abuse and exploitation.’
There is also a greater emphasis on working together with families and engaging positively with parents in regards to safeguarding concerns. In cases where schools believe that parents or carers should not be informed of a safeguarding issue, they will need to be able to justify this to other agencies and, in all likelihood, those parents in the future.
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Updates to Early Years Foundation Framework Framework
Following consultation with the sector, the Department for Education (DfE) has published changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework with a view to increase flexibility and workforce capacity. Two separate frameworks have been released: one for childminders and one for group and school-based providers. Ministers have also created a new document setting out Early Years qualifications requirements and standards.
Notable changes include removing the requirement for Level 3 practitioners to hold a Level 2 maths qualification to count within staff:child ratios. Instead, this requirement will be limited to managers. Furthermore, it is permitted for students and apprentices to count in ratios at the level below their level of study, if the manager believes they are ‘competent and responsible.’ The framework now also states that settings may provide opportunities for children to develop and use their home language in play and learning. Previously, this requirement stated this ‘must’ be done.
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