Your Weekly Sector News 10/05/24

Keep up to date with the latest trends in education with Your Weekly Sector News. This week, we look at Ofsted reforms, plans for 16 new special schools, and proposals for unregistered alternative provision.  
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Ofsted to scrap subject deep dives

This week, Chief Inspector Sir Martyn Oliver delivered a speech to delegates at the NAHT conference, reflecting on the sector’s responses to the Big Listen and the changes Ofsted is making as a result. Following feedback from primary schools, Oliver announced that Ofsted will no longer conduct deep dives during ungraded inspections. 

Deep dives are carried out by inspectors to thoroughly assess a specific subject area or aspect of a school’s curriculum. This process usually involves talking to school leaders, teachers, and pupils, conducting joint lesson visits with leaders, and looking at pupils’ work. However, some primary school leaders feel that ‘inspection is designed for large secondary schools, not small primaries,’ as they are expected to have a deeper knowledge of subject areas than their setting allows them to. 

Therefore, deep dives will be removed from ungraded inspections from September. This will apply to all schools, but be particularly helpful to primaries – which make up over three quarters of the 3,000 ungraded inspections planned for next year. In place of deep dives, inspectors will instead use extended learning walks to evaluate the impact of the curriculum and pupils’ personal development. Oliver says this will help to promote professional dialogue between the inspection team and school leadership, whilst reducing the burden on subject leaders and junior colleagues. Ultimately, he aims for ‘ungraded inspections to feel more like monitoring visits.’  Paul Whiteman, general secretary at the school leaders’ union NAHT, welcomes the announcement, and says he hopes this is the ‘start of an ongoing process of reform.

Our School Improvement team has a proven track record of supporting schools and raising standards. If you’re preparing for your next inspection, our experts can help you stay up to date and compliant with the latest Ofsted requirements. Contact our team to learn more. 

Government announces locations of 16 new special schools

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced the locations where 16 new free special schools will open, providing dedicated support for over 2,000 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Locations range from Bury, Lincolnshire, and Stoke-on-Trent, through to Surrey and Hampshire. A competition for academy trusts to run the schools will be launched on Monday next week.

The DfE also confirmed the names of trusts who have been selected to run seven new special schools, creating an additional 1,000 places. These trusts are located in Merton, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Kent. 

This announcement follows the Spring Budget, in which the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed an investment of £105 million to open 15 new special schools and expand capacity over the next four years. The government has now increased that number to 16. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says that this ‘takes us one step closer to our commitment of a record 60,000 more places for children with additional needs.’

However, Pepe Di’lasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), worries that the government’s investment is ‘too little too late,’ as the new schools may take several years to open. Di’lasio points to the most recent government data, which shows that around two-thirds of special schools were already at or over capacity in the past academic year. He argues that ‘the pressure on places is happening right now’ and therefore the government’s plan does not adequately address the wider issue of the strain on special educational needs provision. 

Plans to introduce national standards for unregistered alternative provision

The government has launched a consultation on plans to regulate alternative provision (AP), with a view to position AP as an ‘intervention, not a destination’ to complement education in school. These proposals include limits on the amount of time that children can spend in unregistered settings as well as the introduction of new quality assurance frameworks underpinned by national standards.

This consultation has been informed by findings from a previous Call for Evidence, ‘Understanding the Use of Unregistered Alternative Provision.’ Responses revealed that it was not always clear how to commission and use unregistered AP, which put vulnerable children’s education and safety at risk. Specifically, the government aims to address the lack of effective local quality assurance frameworks and the problem of vulnerable children being placed in unregistered AP indefinitely, with little or no oversight from local authorities or schools. 

The government says its proposed measures will ‘prioritise the benefits of good-quality, time-limited placements in unregistered alternative provision,’ to supplement children’s education while they attend school regularly. Under these proposals, placements in unregistered AP would be limited to 12 weeks or less, and for up to five days a week, with pupils returning to their schools at the end of that period. There would also be the option for longer-term part-time placements, for up to two days, or four sessions, per week, with pupils spending the rest of their time in school. Moreover, local authorities would be required to quality assure unregistered AP operating in their areas against national standards. The government hopes this will strengthen the national and local oversight of unregistered alternative provision in line with the SEND and AP Improvement Plan published last year.

One Education truly believes that every child deserves the best education. Our highly skilled and experienced team works together with over 600 schools and trusts, improving the outcomes of thousands of pupils. 

To find out how we can support your school, please explore our services or get in touch.

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