5 days ago
5 days ago
Ofsted has published three new subject reports evaluating the common strengths and weaknesses of different subjects in a sample of schools. The new reports cover geography, PE and music.
We talked to the leads for each report to get a quick preview of what they found and what teachers can take away from each report.
Hi, I'm Shreena Kotecha, Ofsted's head of strategy. This week we're talking about our subject reports.
The reports evaluate the common strengths and weaknesses of different subjects in a sample of schools that we've inspected. They build on our research reviews, which identified factors that lead to high quality curriculums and each of the national curriculum subjects. We've already published reports on science, maths and history. And last week on geography, PE and music.
You can find all of our reports on our website or by searching 'Ofsted subject reports.' And just to pique your interest in these, I've spoken to leads for each of the new reports to get a preview of what they found.
First up, is Mark Enser who is Ofsted subject lead for geography. Mark, what did you find in this new report?
I think one of the most important messages is just how much of an improvement there has been in recent years. When you look back at the report in 2011, the previous subject report, you can see that geography wasn't in a good state, across the country. It pointed out that, in too many schools, geography had been removed completely. Children weren't getting a geography education. And even when there were lessons that were called geography, the geography content had often been removed and replaced with more generic competencies.
But what we see in the report now, is that geography is very much back, it's alive and kicking. And much more thought is being given to what children should learn. So I think that's a really key message.
But there's also some really important messages on where we need to go next. We know particularly in primary schools, that there's been a lot of work on progression within a topic. So pupils learning more say about a topic on rivers, and the knowledge on rivers is built in a sequential and meaningful way towards an endpoint. But once they've finished studying that topic, they never come back to that body of knowledge. It just sits in isolation, they're not using it, they're not building on it in the future.
And then when we look at secondary schools, we find a similar problem at Key Stage 4, less so at Key Stage 3, but at Key Stage 4, the exam specifications have often become a de facto curriculum. So one of our main messages not just for people in schools, but for policy makers, for our subject associations and others, is that we really need to think carefully about how we turn an exam specification which prescribes content into a curriculum, which orders it in a logical, meaningful way that teaches pupils about the geography that sits behind that content. Simply working through an exam specification is not the same as teaching our subject and recognising the potential that our subject has.
And what messages would you like geography teachers to take away from the report? What can they take back to the classroom?
There's a number of things that I'd really like teachers to take back. We've subtitled the report, 'getting our bearings.' And I think that's the first thing that I'd like teachers to take away is that it's a moment to pause, to look at where we've come from. And then to think about where we want to go next, as a subject community. It's an invitation to have those conversations and to have those discussions.
A couple of areas that I think a lot of work could be done is around skills, geographical skills, the body of knowledge about how we do geography. And one thing we see in the subject report is that's not often taught well. There's been a lot of curriculum thinking about the more substantive knowledge, about those different geographical concepts, and so on. And people thinking about how they want to teach that content in a logical way.
But not when it comes to geographical skills. They're not considering when to introduce those skills and how there should be progression over the years in them, and even less so when it comes to field work. There were very few schools in which there's a curriculum for developing field work. For how are pupils going to get better at carrying out field work over time? What pupils are getting are a number of individual experiences where they go out of school and experience some field work, but no sense of a sequence that's going to lead to them getting better.
Another thing that I think teachers can take away is around how places are used in geography. Quite often, when we talked to pupils, we found that they had a very fragmented knowledge of the places they'd studied. But they could remember isolated facts, little bits and pieces, but they couldn't use them in any meaningful sense. They couldn't tell you how those places had changed, or why they had changed or why they were the way that they were. They could just remember a rundown of some key information. They couldn't use them to do geography.
And when you look at the curriculum in the schools where pupils were struggling, what you see is they're being taught in a very fragmented way. They're doing a topic on say, a named country but with no particular intent behind it, of what that country is being used to demonstrate or to show. Which geographical themes or processes are being shown through the study of that place? Which geographical questions they want pupils to be able to answer about those places? It just becomes little more than a fact file.
So I think there's something there. When are they teaching certain places? When are pupils returning to those places? How are they layering up knowledge about those places? And what questions are they going to answer about those places?
Thanks Mark, very interesting, and lots to think about.
Next up, we have Hanna Miller, who's our subject lead for physical education. Hanna, what did you find?
Just before I talk about the main findings, I just want to say a really big thank you to all of the schools who really welcomed us into conduct the research visit.
I think in terms of the key areas of strength, the extra curricular programmes that were in place were really broad and ambitious, and that provided opportunities for lots of pupils to develop what they were being taught in lessons.
I think another real key strength was in secondary schools that we visited, where qualification PE was taught at Key Stage 4, or 5, or both. Most schools had thought really carefully about what to teach and when, and why. And many of those decisions were really quite carefully informed by some really positive work with the qualification specifications, and using them to inform the structure of the curriculum. And in all of the qualification lessons that we visited, there were strong teacher subject expertise.
There was some variability across the schools as well. So obviously, a couple of those key strengths were coming through. But there were also some areas of development that leaders had spoken to us about as well. And what was really clear in a lot of those schools was that leaders really wanted to provide a range of sports and physical activities for pupils through the PE curriculum. But what we found in some cases was, although the curriculum was incredibly broad, there were times when it didn't match the ambition of the national curriculum.
And there were also times when the curriculum was very tight, it had a lot packed into it. And I think assessment was also an area that schools spoke to us about. And leaders often explained that it was an area that they wanted to work a bit more on, to really ensure that the methods that they were using to assess pupils were effective, and how they use that information that they gathered to inform their next steps as well was really effective.
And I think just to kind of round that off, what was particularly interesting was some of the barriers that leaders had shared with us and they'd identified. Particularly around COVID-19, and the impacts that that had had on the PE curriculum when returning from partial closures, but also the implications of some of that now. But also some, some real positives, were coming out around building links with other schools and building local links within the community as well. So really positive messages coming through as well.
And is there anything in particular you think PE teachers should take away? What are the key messages for them?
Yeah, I think these will link really closely to what I'd said about the areas that leaders had identified themselves, things that they wanted to improve in schools. And obviously, what we'd found on the visits as well.
One of the first things is around breadth and depth. In PE that's always been a really interesting debate. And there isn't necessarily a magic number of how many sports and physical activities could or should be within a curriculum.
But I think what is really, really important to carefully consider is, if all pupils have enough time for the high quality instruction, practice and feedback that is absolutely needed to get better. For some pupils, that might be the first time that they're exposed to some of that content. So really ensuring that there is that time, so that pupils learn the curriculum, not just cover it.
And I'd probably say my third thing would really be just that point that PE is for all pupils. So thinking really carefully about lessons, the support that some pupils might require. So, some pupils will have gaps in their prior knowledge. And obviously, the support that they will need to access the curriculum will need to be precise, and it will it will mean meeting them where they are. And that might mean for example, practising and refining some fundamental movement skills. And sometimes that can also be pupils with SEND. Some of those pupils with SEND might need another demonstration, they might need some more practice time, they might need slight adjustments to the task, for example.
So those kinds of things are really, really important to think about within lessons. Because although sometimes it can feel like there's an awful amount to get through, there's lots that you want to get through in lessons, it's really ensuring that you're bringing all pupils with you on that journey so that all pupils know, and can do more in PE.
And I think that's also where assessment is incredibly important. Really identifying what pupils know, and can do, and what they don't yet know or cannot yet do. And then using that information to really guide those decisions about what's taught next, and why that's taught next.
Thanks so much Hanna really useful.
Finally, let's hear from Chris Stevens, who is the lead for music report. Chris, what can you tell us about the report?
So this report highlights really the significant variation in the quality of music education in the schools that we visited. We visited 50 in total.
Nonetheless, since the time of our previous subject report which was in 2012, many school leaders and particularly in primary schools have taken really important steps to give music and more prominent place on the taught curriculum. And many pupils now have regular opportunities to learn music.
However, despite the significant improvement, several of the concerns that we raised in that report in 2012 remain. Particularly around Key Stage 3 music, where a proportion of the schools we visited really didn't give pupils enough time to learn the curriculum as they'd set out. And that meant in some cases, pupils were not well prepared for the next stages of their learning, or if they wanted to go on for further musical study.
And I suppose concerningly in some schools, pupils were only well placed to continue their musical education and achieve well after Key Stage 3, if they have access to paid instrumental or vocal lessons. And there is a clear divide between children and young people whose families can afford to pay for music tuition, and those who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. So that inequality of opportunity, which we highlighted in our previous report still persists.
And is there anything that you would like music teachers to take back to help their students?
Well, I think the schools we visited wanted pupils, it was quite evident, to develop a real love and passion for the subject.
But our evidence shows that music was stronger and pupils achieved more in those schools where leaders had gone beyond those broad curriculum aims of developing a love and passion. Leaders had in these schools identified specific endpoints and the building blocks of knowledge and skills they wanted pupils to achieve at various points throughout the curriculum.
I suppose in a way what these leaders had done is they asked themselves the question, 'what can pupils realistically learn, rather than just encounter in the time available?' They'd crucially considered ambition in terms of pupils' musical development, rather than the range of musical opportunities on offer.
So, one of the things I'd be saying to teachers and to leaders is to be really clear about what it is precisely you want pupils to do as a result of your curriculum. And also, to make sure that pupils get regular and repeated opportunities to be able to practice that knowledge and those skills in the time available.
Fascinating. Thank you very much, Chris. And thanks again to Mark and Hannah.
There's a lot to digest there and 3 fascinating new reports to read. Do look out for them on the website and Ofsted's social media or by searching 'Ofsted subject reports.'
That's all we have time for on this short episode of Ofsted Talks. Remember to subscribe or follow us wherever you get your podcasts.
Thanks for listening.
Thursday Sep 21, 2023
Thursday Sep 21, 2023
Thursday Sep 21, 2023
In this episode, Mark Leech (Acting Director, Strategy and Engagement) talks to Matthew Brazier (Project Director, Supported Accommodation) and Rachel Holden (Senior HMI, Supported Accommodation) about the development of our plans for regulating and inspecting supported accommodation.Alongside the podcast, you can learn about the following related topics on our YouTube channel:
Notice of inspection for supported accommodation
What makes effective supported accommodation?
Supported accommodation inspection outcomes
We have also published guidance detailing what providers need to know about registering with Ofsted and running or closing a supported accommodation service.
Hello and welcome to another bite sized episode of Ofsted Talks. My name is Mark Leech [Acting Director, Strategy and Engagement]. Today we're going to be talking about supported accommodation. This is accommodation for 16 - 17-year-olds who are in care or who have just left care, and who may need a place to live where they're supported by responsible adults. Despite the need for support and guidance at this stage in their lives we know for many young people this is an uncertain time, and they've sometimes been placed in poor quality accommodation, which is why the Department of Education has asked Ofsted to start regulating the sector and make sure standards are high enough, to help young people feel safe and supported as they make the transition into adult life. Earlier, I spoke to Matthew Brazier, our Project Director for Supported Accommodation and to Rachel Holden, our Senior His Majesty's Inspector for Supported Accommodation about our plans for regulating this sector. We talked about what we think good supported accommodation looks like, what young people have had to say about their needs, and why this new area of our work is so important. So Matthew, hi, I think we should start by talking about the children who are placed in supported accommodation just to get a sense of who we're talking about.Matthew Brazier
Yeah, of course Mark. We think there's around 7,000 children in care or care leavers aged 16 to 17 in supported accommodation, that's what the data from last year tells us. And they'll have a range of different backgrounds, the needs can really vary, it's really important not to see them as an homogenous group. And when we inspect, we'll be focusing on how providers understand and meet those different needs. But generally speaking, they'll be children who are in care and care leavers who are able to manage an increasing amount of autonomy, or independence in their lives, while they still get the kind of help and protection that all children should expect. And as I say, there's around 7000, we think, which is a not insignificant number, it's pretty similar to the number of children in children's homes. So you can tell from that comparison that it is a large number of children but all with with different needs.Mark LeechThat's really helpful. Thank you. Rachel, in terms of the accommodation itself, obviously, supported accommodation is rather different to children's homes. It's a pretty varied sector. So what sort of thing are we looking at?Rachel Holden
You're right there Mark, it is very varied. And the regulations split it into four different categories. So the first category is like when you have a spare room in your house, so it's a family home. It's called supported lodgings and they're host families who're hosting a young person. And they share all your other living facilities that you have in your house, your kitchen, and they become part of a family really. So there's that type, then there's more like self contained flats. So like a bedsit or a studio, that type of accommodation. And then there's shared houses. So you might have three or four young people living and sharing the same house, but having, obviously their individual bedrooms. And then there's accommodation, which is a little bit more like a house of multiple occupancies. So it could be that you're living with other people that are maybe age 22-23. They come from a different background than you, they haven't been in care or care leavers. And that's the fourth category that I was speaking about. So even though we split them up within those categories, there's quite a lot of variation, and quite a lot of variation between the housing throughout the country as well. So we've seen a lot of difference in the sector. So I'll just point out the difference between supported accommodation and children's homes. So for children's homes, they're looked after by staffing within the home, they're cared for, they're parented - if you like - by staff in the home, whereas supported accommodation, [they] are supported, and they're supported on their journey to independence. So they may not have staff there 24/7. They may not have staff to handle the time, but actually they know who to contact in an emergency they are supported to proceed into college or an apprenticeship. So there there's lots of different models out there of supported accommodation.Mark Leech
So given that it is such a varied sector, then, I suppose our role is going to be a bit different in terms of the sorts of inspections that we can do. We're going into, as you say, Rachel, really different types of places. Matthew, what are we going to be looking for when we start to inspect from April next year, April '24.Matthew Brazier
Well, we started consulting on a number of things in July, for the way we'll inspect from April and one of those proposals was about the main things that we should expect for children in a strong supported accommodation service. So some of the examples of the criteria that we'd be looking for is that children should feel safe and settled where they live. There should be strong support for their emotional, their physical health, and good help with their education, training and employment. We'd want leaders and managers to have high ambitions, high expectations for children. And fundamentally, the accommodation itself should be of good quality, but it should also meet children's individual needs. So we've set out those criteria that were very broad criteria that will help us develop the final evaluation criteria. And we've based those proposals on lots of discussions that we've had, in the last year or so with commissioners, providers, children's advocacy groups - their views have been really helpful to help us develop those proposals - but most importantly, we've worked really hard to speak to the care-experienced community - care-experienced people who were young and old - we wanted to learn from their lived experience and make sure that the things that we look at when we inspect are going to be the things that are most important to them.Mark Leech
Yeah that's a really important group isn't it? So what have we heard in particular from young people, or as you say, from people who've been through the care system themselves?Matthew Brazier
Yeah, some of the things that are coming out loudly and clearly from them is about feeling safe, fundamentally. They agree that the support should match their individual needs. So wherever they live, that support is tailored to them as individuals, but a common theme was about how they should be allowed to move towards increased independence at a pace that suits them. And it's important to remember these are children and that we shouldn't expect them to be fully independent at the age of 16, or 17. This is about a path towards adulthood and a path towards independence. So the pace that they move out towards that independence is going to vary and the support they get should reflect that. We are quite clear that supported accommodation should not mean an absence of care. And children were particularly clear that they want the opportunity to have the growing independence as they get older. But they also want safety nets, they want to have financial security - so they're not really worried about the financial or money issues unnecessarily. They want the support of adults who care for them and who they can trust. But they also want to be able to enjoy the kinds of things that all children and all young people should expect and deserve. So their insight has been really, really helpful. We think we've got to a point where the proposals that we'll make for what we look at on inspection will reflect a consensus. It'll strongly reflect children's views, it will take into account the views of professionals and other interested parties. But we've also looked at research - the available research on supported accommodation - and that's been helpful, too. So we think we'll have an evidence-based inspection framework that will focus on the right things and hopefully be looking at things that, most importantly, children feel that they're the most relevant things for them to make progress and have good experiences.Mark Leech
I mean that sounds that sounds really positive and a big step forward. Because currently this is a bit of a grey area, isn't it, supported accommodation - it's not currently registered, it's not currently inspected. So we need obviously the people who are running this accommodation - the providers of this accommodation - to register with us. What happens if they don't register with us? So how do we stop there being this kind of grey area? And what happens if we're going into some of these providers and finding that they're just not up to scratch? Rachel Holden
Yeah that's a great question. So as we said earlier, this is a new area, and we need providers to register with us by the 28th of October and have that application accepted. After that they will be acting unlawfully, and local authorities won't then be able to place children who are 16-17, who are in care or care leavers with them. So it's really important that providers do get that application in. And when we go out, and if we were to find serious and widespread weaknesses in the provision that they are providing, we have a raft of powers available to us. That could be an issue in a compliance notice on a certain area of service that they need to improve on. Or it could be that we suspend the service straightaway because there are really serious safeguarding issues for children and we think that they might be at an immediate risk of harm. So we would be looking for those children to move out. But on the whole, as we do with children's homes, we work with providers because we realise that children - if they're living there, they're settled a lot of the time - we give providers opportunities to put the issues right. Always bearing in mind that the safeguarding of children comes first and foremost.Mark Leech
It's always a tough balancing act, isn't it, in the areas that we regulate? And people don't always know with Ofsted, we have these two functions. We're an inspectorate - obviously most famously we're the schools inspectorate, but we don't actually regulate schools - we don't have the power to open schools or close schools; that's the Department for Education. But in social care, we do have some of those those harder-edge powers. But as you say, it's often about working with providers to make sure they're meeting the standards because we don't want to disrupt the lives of young people unnecessarily. But we have to always maintain that focus on safety. So thanks for that. I think that clears up a bit on how we're going to work in this new sector. So what are the next steps for us now?Rachel Holden
So the next steps for us now are to issue the inspection framework, which will be coming out early next year. And we are already gearing up to do the pilots of that inspection framework. We'll be going to around nine providers of all different types - and I spoke earlier about the different categories of registration that we have. So we'll be doing a wide range of small, large, supported lodgings, houses of multiple occupancy type provision. And we'll be testing out what's really working obviously for children and young people first and foremost. We'll be liaising with the providers to make sure we're doing the best that we can for them. And we'll be speaking to the inspectors who do those pilots. So by the time we come to start the inspection year in April, next year, we'll be fully up to speed and getting out there and making a start on the inspections.Mark Leech
Fantastic. So it's also a new area of work as well for you two, who've obviously worked for a long time with Ofsted in social care more generally. What drew you to supported accommodation?Matthew Brazier
Well, Mark, my experience as an inspector, and then in policy at Ofsted, and in a previous life in a local authority, I think it means that I know the positive difference that the right kind of help in the right place can make for children, and that - you know - what impact really good provision can have. And I suppose I was drawn to this particularly because I'm convinced that regulation is necessary. I think it can make significant changes and improvements to children's lives. And I think this has been unregulated for such a long time, and there are so many children in this area, I think it's fair to say that there's a consensus across the sector, that regulation is really necessary, notwithstanding the challenges that lie ahead for lots of different parts of the sector. But I think we really can make a difference. I think we can get to a place in April, where we have a framework that focuses on the things that matter. And it's something that everyone can sign up to, and hopefully [it] will shine a light, celebrate good practice, hold poor providers to account, but also drive policy and further improvements as well more widely.Mark Leech
That's great, thank you. And Rachel, how about you?Rachel Holden
So I've been working for Ofsted now for about 10 years, and I started my career in regulation. So I used to regulate children's homes, independent fostering agencies, etc. And I saw the real difference that we can make through regulation to the quality of service for children and young people. And [I] also heard those positive stories that young people spoke with passion about their carers, and what a difference that they had made to them. So after I followed my career through Ofsted, I still take a great deal of interest in regulatory work. So when this opportunity came up to manage the central team, I put my hat in the ring, and it's been a great opportunity to offer providers and children consistency of our approach to our registration, and also be able, as Matthew said, to engage with the sector and to engage with them, to answer that question 'what does good look like?' But I suppose on a more personal note, I've got three girls of various different ages now that keep me really busy. And the oldest two are 16+, and I've seen what support they need at that age. And they need a lot of adult input, guidance, discussions - you name it - so I think it's a really important time in a young person or a child's life to make sure that we're actually there for children and that we guide them and support them to become responsible individuals and adults. So yeah, it's been a bit of both really, so a bit of a work journey and also a personal one, but I like to say I'm really enjoying it.Mark LeechThat's great. Thanks, Rachel. That's really helpful and I think summarises the importance of this area of work for young people just coming to the end of their care experience and going out into the world. So, thank you so much for your time and Matthew for yours as well. Thanks very much for listening. I hope you found it interesting. Do tune in again to the next Ofsted Talks wherever you get your podcasts.
Monday Sep 11, 2023
Monday Sep 11, 2023
Monday Sep 11, 2023
As schools return and settle into the new academic year, host Shreena Kotecha talks to Lee Owston, Ofsted’s deputy director of schools and education, about some of the recent changes made to the way Ofsted inspects schools. Shreena also finds out what schools inspectors get up to during the summer break. For more information read the Ofsted blog or sign up to an Ofsted webinar.
Shreena: Hello, and welcome to a bite size episode of Ofsted talks to mark the start of the new academic year, which I'm very much looking forward to because my youngest starts reception. I'm Shreena Kotecha and I'm head of strategy here at Ofsted. I'm here with Lee Owston, who is Deputy Director of schools and education, and we're going to talk about what we've been up to at Ofsted during the summer, including some of the changes that have been made to the way we inspect and report. So Lee, one of the questions we often get asked is what happens at Ofsted when the schools are closed?
Yeah, hi, Shreena. Good question. It's certainly true that we don't inspect schools during the six week break. But we don't just inspect schools. So you know, our inspection and regulatory work does continue in early years and further education and skills and some of our adults learning provision. But all of our schools HMI have been former leaders in schools. So, myself included, we're certainly used to longer summer breaks. So, many people enjoy some annual leave during the summer. But we don't get all of the time. You know, we don't get all of the six weeks. There are a number of activities that we undertake when we're working, but schools are closed. So, for example, we might look at completed evidence bases, or we might look at reports to try and gather together some information on a particular theme. So, we've recently done something on careers education to try and understand, you know, how much do inspectors get underneath that in their evidence bases do they then report on it. And of course, if we pull all that information together, it really helps me and my teams understand whether we need to, do we need to deliver some training do we need to adjust our handbooks? Do we need to have a focus in terms of quality assurance? So, there's plenty to keep us busy, even though schools are closed and inspection isn't continuing. But we really do, you know, maximise that time so that we can hit the ground running just as you said, you know the start of a new term, Ofsted's just the same, we try and get as much done as possible so that we can be prepared for what the year ahead brings.
Shreena Kotecha: Brilliant. And you mentioned that one of the things you get up to over the summer is adjusting inspection handbooks. Could you tell us a bit more about the changes that have been made the schools inspection handbook.
Lee: Yeah, and this is, this is an approach we kind of try and do or take annually. So we try and make as few changes to the inspection handbook as we can. And if we are going to make some changes, we try and do it at this point in the year. So we do it just before the summer, and publish just before everybody goes away on their summer break. So that again, come September, we can implement that new handbook. So we've made a number of updates, actually, for this year, ready for September. And there's probably far too many to list here. But just to give you a kind of flavour of some of the main ones. And actually, before I start, it's important to reassure people that when we do make changes, including this year, they're not fundamentally changing anything about, you know, what we look at, what we evaluate, or how we go about our work. What we're keen to do is try and clarify some of the areas that we know people are less sure about and where we've heard through our engagements that they're just unclear. So we try and review every year and ensure that you know, the messages are as clear as possible. So one of those areas for this year, we've taken a good look at safeguarding in particular, we've tried to reduce some of the duplication. So we recognise that some of our guidance around safeguarding sits in different places and we've tried to pull it all together into the school inspection handbook. So there's one place for all of the important messages. And that means we've also cut down on some of the repetition, we've been clearer in terms of what we mean by an effective safeguarding culture. We've pulled together all of the bits where we try and describe culture, we've put it in one place, we've also provided some more detail on what constitutes ineffective safeguarding practice. And we recognise that we can't write, you know, a long, long list of things because there will always be situations that we can't cover, but we've tried to give, you know, as I said, give a flavour of what can effective safeguarding practice might be to reassure people that it is not only those significant issues that affect the safety of pupils that that would lead us down that ineffective path. We've also provided some additional importance and words on how we judge behaviour and attendance. Again, those two areas are often in conversation when I'm talking to trust CEOs or head teachers or teachers or anybody essentially in education. Those two words keep cropping up, behaviour and attendance, because we know that they remain really kind of live challenges. We know they were tricky during the pandemic, we know they still remain tricky as we move out of that, but again for reassurance, so if I just take attendance as an example. We've tried to reassure people that we're aware that attendance isn't where it once was, you know, lots of schools are finding it really hard to get back to the attendance levels that they had pre pandemic or higher. So we've tried to set out in our handbook that as long as schools are doing all that they can reasonably do to achieve the highest possible attendance, then it shouldn't be an issue on inspection. So we'd expect some understanding of the causes of absence, we'd expect some kind of strategy or plan to address attendance for all pupils, particularly as you would expect persistent or severe absence. And as long as there's some evidence that attendance is moving in the right direction. So it might not be where it once was or higher. But as long as there's strong evidence that it is moving in that direction, because of all of those things that schools have done, then schools leaders shouldn't have any issue in terms of how we might evaluate that on the ground. And then there's a few other little bits and pieces, throughout the handbook, that we've adjusted too. Things about, you know, who can I have sitting alongside me in a meeting. We recognise, some people might need a bit of extra personal, or professional support. And of course, we've also clarified at the end of an inspection leaders can share their inspection outcome provisionally with others in their school, before the final report is published. There are one or two caveats there, you know, we would say that we want to speak to parents, pupils or staff on their own, so that they can kind of talk freely without, without a senior colleague there. And of course, we would also say don't share the outcome with parents until the final report is published. Because, of course, everything goes through a quality assurance process. So that's just a little bit of a flavour of some of the things that we've updated and changed. There are far more. And I would encourage people to, if they haven't already, and they get a chance, just to have a look at that document, which, as I say, was put online, on our gov.uk site just before the summer.
Shreena: Brilliant, I was actually just going to ask you, where people can find out a bit more?
Lee: Yeah, so all of our main changes, as I said, go on the Ofsted website. That's a gov.uk website, but we're also publishing a range of other things. So obviously, we've got this podcast, which gives a little bit of a flavour of what we've been doing, we hope to have a back to school blog that we can publish, that, I suppose repeats some of the things that you'll have heard here, but also give a little bit more detail about some of those other areas. And of course, we have a regular programme of webinars. Those are directly aimed at people in the sector, everybody's welcome to attend those this term. In particular, we have some sessions looking at in depth changes. So as I've just said, there'll be webinars on our safeguarding changes, there'll be webinars on attendance and behaviour. And we're also going to do more general overview right at the beginning of September, similar to kind of our back to school blog, but just giving you a bit of a heads up in terms of those changes we've made to the inspection handbook. So I think it's fair to say we've got a pretty full and, and varied programme for the year ahead. And actually, lots of our topics are driven by what teachers or leaders tell us they want to hear more about or where they want some further clarification or reassurance. So we're always keen to hear from people if there's something that we could do, whether that's a blog, or whether that's a webinar, because we want everybody to understand inspection as it truly happens. You know, there's lots of myths out there for various reasons. And of course, it's always better to hear about Ofsted from Ofsted than to rely on somebody else. So we intend to keep going with our webinars because we find them a really valuable way of sharing some of the reality of inspection, rather than some of the myths.
Shreena: Brilliant, and how can people get in touch to you suggest topics they'd like to have covered?
Lee: Yeah, there's, there's a way of communicating with us through the website where you know, there's very many, many of us in the team on social media channels. When we're out and about Don't be frightened coming up and talking to us, you know, I've got a heavy programme of engagements across the autumn and beyond, which means I'm out and about and one of the faces of Ofsted, reassuring people and answering questions, which I think is a really good thing for us to be doing. So again, don't be frightened to come up and approach me. We're always keen to kind of pool together everything that we hear and then choose the topics that people want to hear most about. Whether that's webinars, and all that other types of communication
Shreena: I can definitely confirmed to all of our listeners that Lee is not scary and people should definitely feel free to approach him. So I think that's pretty much all we were gonna cover today. So we will put links to the blog and webinars in the description of the page. Thank you for coming along Lee I know it’s your first week back from leave this week. Did you have a good summer break?
Lee: I did. I did. Thank you. Yeah. The usual holiday with family, caught up with friends, read plenty of books, not the handbooks I might add, I promise and generally just had time to recharge. And I think that's important for us all, isn't it because I get the same feeling now, as I did when I was back in school, you know it’s that time of the year when you're preparing for the year ahead, end of the summer beginning of autumn. And that still comes with equal amounts of excitement and optimism for what's to come as well as a little bit of anxiety on that first day back because well, whether you're in school or whether you are working for Ofsted none of us can quite predict what might be just around the corner next. So yeah, important to get a good break, which I hope everybody has. And then we're able to put our best foot forward aren't we for whatever challenges come in the academic year ahead.
Shreena: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much, Lee. If you enjoyed this episode, and don't want to miss the next one, please don't forget to like and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.
Tuesday Aug 29, 2023
Tuesday Aug 29, 2023
Tuesday Aug 29, 2023
Ofsted has launched a consultation on proposed changes to our post-inspection arrangements and complaints handling, closing on Friday 15 September 2023. Host Shreena Kotecha, Head of Strategy, speaks to our Principal Officer for Inspection Quality and Complaints Administration, Paul Trusselle, about the consultation and proposed changes.
To respond to the consultation, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/changes-to-ofsteds-post-inspection-arrangements-and-complaints-handling-proposals-2023.
Shreena: Hello and welcome to the first of our more regular bite sized episodes of Ofsted Talks. I'm Shreena Kotecha, Head of Strategy here at Ofsted. These new episodes as the title sort of gives away will give shorter updates on what's happening here at Ofsted, but don't worry if you're one of our keen listeners we’ll still be running the longer deep dive episodes every month. So, if you want to keep up to date with everything we do here Ofsted please don't forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. So, in June, we announced several changes to our inspections and we launched a formal consultation on proposed changes to our post- inspection arrangements and complaints handling. With me today is Paul Trusselle, who is our Principal Officer for Inspection Quality and Complaints Administration, and he's here to talk us through the consultation and the proposed changes. So Paul, could you start by just telling us why the current consultation is happening?
Paul: Hi, Shreena. Yes, no problem at all. As you know, we keep all of our processes under review to make inspections as collaborative and transparent as possible. We last changed our post inspection arrangements and how we handle complaints about our work in 2020. And since then, we've carried out over 50,000 inspections across all of our remits. As such, and building on lots of experience from our current arrangements, we've been reviewing what we do, developing some new possible approaches and piloting some of these on inspections over recent months. These approaches were then formalised into a consultation that was launched in June with us seeking feedback on four key proposals. As these proposals are applicable across all of our inspection work, we're really keen and seeking views from all providers that Ofsted inspects and regulates across early years, schools, further education skills and also social care.
Shreena: Brilliant, Paul. You mentioned that the consultation has got four proposals. Can you tell us what those are?
Paul: Yeah, sure. It's important for us to have a right first time approach to inspection where we can consider and resolve any issues during the inspection process wherever possible. We also want providers to be able to seek a review of the inspection findings and for them to feel confident that any challenge will be considered fairly and thoroughly, including a chance for them to contribute to the process. Importantly, any process must also be deliverable within the resource and scope of Ofsted. But broadly, we've got four proposals, two of which link more closely to the inspection process and two link to how we handle complaints about any activities that we do.
Shreena: Would you mind starting with the two proposals that relate to the inspection process?
Paul: Yeah, our first new proposal is about enhancing professional dialogue during inspections, as we know that effective communication is key to successful inspections. Our inspection handbooks set out how inspectors will engage positively and professionally with providers and inspectors already routinely check with providers during an inspection whether they have any issues. But we propose to formalise this approach by asking inspectors to check with providers at a few specific stages of the visit and make a record of this. We'd need to tailor this accordingly to the type of inspection that we do. However, the principle of trying to address any issues before the end of the inspection visit is applicable about our work. We've been piloting this approach in some of our early years, schools and social care inspections in recent months and feedback from providers on this has been really positive, with providers commenting that they valued this further focus on professional dialogue throughout the inspection visit. Our second proposal seeks to introduce a new opportunity for providers to contact Ofsted the day after an inspection visit if they've any unresolved concerns. We know that providers will reflect afterwards and might think of important points they want to raise. This might be to clarify what happens next and when they will receive their inspection report, to query an aspect of the inspection process and what was found, or perhaps to highlight something that they feel was not fully considered during the visit. As such, instead of the provider having to wait until they get their draft report to submit any comments to us, we propose to introduce a new opportunity for providers to call Ofsted the day after the end of the visit to discuss any unresolved concerns. Calls will be directed to inspectors separate to the inspection in question who will discuss any issues with the provider so they can be resolved at the earliest opportunity. Again, we've been piloting this in some of our early years, schools and social care inspections in recent months. The number of calls to Ofsted has been quite low, helpfully demonstrating that inspectors do deal with most queries during the inspection itself. However, providers who have contacted Ofsted the day after an inspection have reported that they found this really helpful, welcoming the chance to speak to an inspector to discuss the queries that they've had. We've also had some feedback from providers that didn't call us but liked knowing that they could have done so if they needed to.
Shreena: Brilliant. Could you talk about the third and fourth proposals for after the inspections?
Paul: Sure. The third proposal is linked to our processes for finalising inspection reports and considering any formal complaint or challenge before the report is finalised and published on our website. As we show in our published annual report and accounts document, the vast majority of our inspections do not lead to a formal complaint from providers and these reports are published promptly. We often receive requests from providers for the report to be published as soon as possible, so they can celebrate and share the positive outcomes of their inspection. However, we know that in some cases providers want to formally challenge the inspection findings, and we'll continue to consider these complaints thoroughly before we finalise and publish their report. We're proposing two new routes that providers can follow when they get their draft report. First, if a provider wants to highlight minor points of clarity or factual accuracy, we will consider these promptly and finalise the inspection report. We expect the vast majority of providers to follow this route, allowing reports to be published quickly for the benefit of providers, parents and other service users. However, if providers choose this route, they’ll not normally have an opportunity later to raise a formal complaint or challenge. Alternatively, if a provider wants to seek a review of their inspection findings and judgments, they can submit a formal complaint. As now, if a complaint is submitted, it'd be investigated by a member of Ofsted staff independent of the inspection. We also propose that this investigation in future includes a telephone call to the provider to explore their concerns fully and resolve issues quickly. An investigation could result in no changes to the report, changes to the report text or perhaps the grades awarded, or the inspection being deemed to be incomplete and confirmation that there'll be a further visit to gather additional evidence. We also intend to revise complaints outcome letters to be clearer for providers about the reasons for the decisions we've made. Taken together, we feel that these proposals - the two on inspection and the one about the post inspection approaches - if agreed, will help us achieve that right first time approach to inspections that we want and will strengthen current arrangements on handling complaints about our work. Our fourth proposal is to remove the current internal review step in our complaints process. This step is a review, by Ofsted, on how we handled the original complaint and is not a reinvestigation of the issues raised. Also under our current process, this step must be completed before a complainant can contact the independent adjudicator, known as ICASO, to ask for an independent review of how their complaint was handled. To help reduce the burden on providers, we propose that if complainants are concerned that we have not followed our complaints handling process correctly, they can raise it directly with ICASO. Instead of the current escalated levels of review, Ofsted will therefore consider any formal complaint only once and thoroughly. We also propose to introduce period reviews of how we handle complaints about inspection and to do this, we'll take a sample of closed cases and submit them to a panel of external reviewers, including representatives from the sectors that we inspect. The panel can provide challenge and transparency on how we've handled complaints about our work that will then feed into future improvements. So those are the four proposals.
Shreena: How can people respond to this consultation and when is the deadline?
Paul: All the details of the consultation are available on the Ofsted website, including the link to the online form. We’ve already had more responses than we did when we last consulted on post-inspection arrangements in 2020. Also, responses so far across all inspection remits have provided broad support for all of the proposals. We’re really keen to receive as many responses as possible. And it's for that reason that the consultation period is much much longer than in 2020. We started in mid-June, well before the summer break, and mindful of summer closures for some providers, the consultation is remaining open until Friday the 15th of September, a few weeks into the new academic year. So, plenty of time for people to submit a response if they'd like to do so.
Shreena: Thanks, Paul. It's really good news that we've had so many responses so far. Do you know when we will respond to the consultation and when you’ll have reviewed all the responses?
Paul: With the consultation closing on the 15th of September, we'll be reviewing all of the responses received well into the autumn, including all of the free text comments that are submitted through to us. This feedback will help form our decisions on the new processes and how we handle complaints about our work going forward. In due course, as we did in 2020, we will publish a report on our website with the outcome of the consultation, including setting out next steps that we’ll be taking as a result.
Shreena: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Paul. So just to remind our listeners the closing date for the consultation is Friday the 15th of September. We will put a link to the consultation in the summary of this podcast. If you enjoyed this episode and don't want to miss the next one, please subscribe and leave us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.
Wednesday Aug 16, 2023
Wednesday Aug 16, 2023
Wednesday Aug 16, 2023
One of Ofsted's key strategic priorities acknowledges the relationship between early childhood experiences and a range of life outcomes, from educational success to well-being and good health. Read more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ofsted-strategy-2022-to-2027
I'm Shreena Kotecha, welcome everyone to the Ofsted podcast. This time we're talking about the best start in life. Just start with a few introductions first introduction is the new co host on the podcast Mark Leech, who is acting director strategy and engagement.
Hello, I'm stepping into Chris Jones's shoes. And part of that is to join the podcast, which is very exciting. And we have two special guests from outside Ofsted. We have Molly Devlin, who is headteacher at ARK Start in West London.
Hi, thank you for having me today. I'm really excited to join you.
And we have Helen Donohoe who is Chief Executive of PACEY, which stands for the professional association for childcare and early years.
Hi, everyone, like Molly, I'm really delighted to be doing this.
Last but not least, we have our very own Lee Owston who is Deputy Director for schools and early education. I mean, it's great topic for today, because the best start in life is one of our strategic priorities and Lee and I have had lots of lovely chats about it. Lee do you want to say a quick hello?
Hello, everyone. Good to be here. Good to have a conversation with Helen and Molly as well.
Shall we start with like a really sort of easy question in a way? Which is why do we think it's so important for children to have a high quality early education? Molly, do you want to start because you'd nodded enthusiastically?
I'm absolutely enthusiastic about this. I think there's no lack of evidence and research that early education is one of the most important things for children to have, so that they have the opportunity to thrive. But more than that, it's not just about education, right? It's about being able to fully participate in our democratic society. And it starts with our youngest children, actually, what we know is that it starts in the womb. And that early years is not the only factor in ensuring that children have the best start in life. But it is the factor that Helen and I have clearly chosen to be incredibly passionate about and dedicate our lives to.
Yeah, I mean, I fully endorse what Molly said, it's a universal understanding that the earlier we can, we can start with the next generation, the better. And as Molly said, it's not just about linguistics, or numeracy or those important things we need, but it's about the person, that that child and eventually that young person will become, and allowing them to make the get the best out of their life and and the best contribution to their communities. It's also about safety. Sometimes we forget, you know, I think in an ideal scenario, every child would get along to their kind of childcare, early education setting of choice and have a brilliant, fulfilled, experience. But sometimes it's it's around kind of let's see the children, let's let's be aware of the children in our communities and make sure we're keeping them safe as well.
I think we early on, we've kind of touched on something that has always interested me, when I was at nursery, way back in the 1970s, we called it play school. And that was a really interesting formulation of of words, right? Because it cuts to a debate that I think runs through early years and still runs through early years in the balance between children being taught children being educated and children playing and exploring their surroundings and sort of learning as they they go. And I just wanted to touch on that. Because I think it's interesting, obviously, for people who work in the sector, I think it's also something that parents think about when they're when they're looking at nurseries for their kids. What what what sort of environments is it going to be? How much are they going to learn and develop? And what sort of play experiences they're going to have? I wonder whether Helen and Molly, you wanted to talk a bit about a bit about that.
I think there's quite a controversial debate around sort of explicit facilitated teaching, and what is play and I think, really, they're so intertwined, that you can't pull them apart in any thoughtful way. Because what we know is that to use resources, well, thoughtfully, and with purpose, that actually the adult takes the role of the facilitator there. And there are some resources where you need to do more of that facilitation at the forefront. And there are some resources where you may do that facilitation in the middle, or when you can see that they're, you know, coming up to a problem. A great example of that is watercolour paints. So I was in one of our nurseries last week. And actually, it's really frustrating to use a watercolour paint set if you don't know the rules for how to use watercolours. If you don't know that you need a wet paintbrush, and actually, you probably need to make 10, 15 circles so that the paint is opaque enough to then be able to see it on your blank sheet of paper. That is a really unfulfilling resource, however, a little bit of teaching, facilitating at the beginning on how to use that resource successfully. It gives children more independence as they go through that play and practice of using those paints. And it's then that you might choose to step away and observe and think and if they have a problem with that you might jump in, or you might not. Because you might be interfering. And it's all about having really, really attuned practitioners who know their unique children, and can make thoughtful choices about now. Not now. If it is now, what are you going to do? How are you going to support them? Is it enough to just say, it is tricky? How could we solve this problem? Do you have any ideas?
That's really interesting. Thank you, Helen, do you?
Well, I think there's two things here. First of all, we devalue play. Let's remember, play is a wonderful thing in its own right. And we've become so prescriptive around what early education should be, notwithstanding the fact that we have a world class EYFS curriculum. I had a catch up with some colleagues in Singapore earlier today who want to learn from us and they basically plagiarised our curriculum. So, you know, it's, it's important to remember that we are world leaders in that, but we devalue play. And I think as part of that we just we take on a too narrow definition of education, because education is, is just everyday life, isn't it? You know, it's from the spectrum of getting up in the morning to doing an open university course. But I was at my eldest daughter's school graduation yesterday. 16 just finished her GCSEs, you know, at the other end of the spectrum, and every brilliant teacher that stood up from that from the person in charge of welfare through to the head teacher talked about lifelong learning. And this isn't where education stops. This is, you know, and there's exactly the same applies to to youngest children. And some of the children that will learn most are those that don't have that that privileged life outside the setting. And that, you know, they will learn to live, communicate, apply themselves, and give give themselves almost unconsciously the ability to take on the more elements of pedagogy further down the line.
And it doesn't stop. Right, exactly, because we know we gave our practitioners that opportunity to play. You know, as part of our PD, you're also playing with different ideas about how to interact with children, how to facilitate learning, we're constantly playing with ideas about how to change curriculum, to see what works well, and that is play-based learning, it might have slightly more structure around it. But we all have as adults, the freedom to play and try things out for the first time. And you know, we should be giving that opportunity and that freedom to our children.
It's not just about ideas, either. I mean, I'm genuinely quite addicted to playing with my three year olds train set. It's just a pretty good piece of kit.
What we were saying earlier is the long running debate, isn't it? And so in terms of teaching play, what should early education look like? And actually, you know, I wrote a report a long time ago now in terms of Ofsted history called ‘Teaching and play a balancing act’ to try and ensure that we did have the debate, and we did try and get somewhere along that journey. And I think interesting what you just said there, Shreena, I think, often we have a debate about well, what do we mean by teaching and teaching can be a bit of a dirty word, sometimes in in some kind of settings, because it brings connotations of desks, and pencils and paper, and you know, that can be teaching. But that isn't the only definition of teaching. And I think sometimes it's easier to think about teachers not being the only people that can teach, because I think already Molly and Helen have used lots of other words, practitioners, we could use educators, we could say parents, you know, it's anybody that that allows us to, or helps us to learn on our on our journey, whether we're children or adults. And I'd say obviously, parents are a child's first educator, are educators. And they teach every day they just don't realise they're doing it, or they haven't got a particular qualification. None of us do in terms of parenting, or teaching qualification. But essentially, I just boil it down to kind of interactions. And that's a very simplistic view, but it's whether, you know, is it an informal interaction? Is it a more formal interaction? Does it involve resources or not? Is it kind of incidental or is it is it planned? And ultimately, we always end up at the point of saying, it's what's needed in terms of, you know, what, what a child is interested in what it is that they need to learn next? And obviously, then finding the best way of that particular child or group of children learning whatever it is that we have have in mind for them? So I think, kind of essentially where where we all are with the debate, I don't think we ever have an argument about education is important or not, I think that is something that we're all kind of united on, we're not short of any research evidence to prove that point. But the interesting debate is, what are others see the purpose of early education being? I think that's where your question was going Shreena around, you know, so what is it the parents want? And actually it will be different depending on individual parents circumstances won’t it, and I think the more we can do is to unpick the importance of what happens in earlier education establishments, whether that's pre school, whether, that's nursery or reception classes in school, with parents, you know, it's not there's not something kind of hidden that they don't understand it is. It is what they're doing at home, it's just that in settings, we have more resources, we have people, people who are kind of framed in terms of the right kinds of interaction. But that doesn't mean that what parents are doing at home is, is wrong, or that or the wrong thing.
What I can say about the parents that we have in settings, and actually, every single parent that I've engaged with, is that they want the best for their children, and all parents that I have ever met, want their child to succeed. And if for them, that looks like more care than education, that's because they believe that that's what's right for their child. And I think that's just such a fantastic starting point, that you can work on parent engagement on parents support, and, you know, work alongside each unique family, because different families are coming into education at such different points. If you've had your own personal experiences with education, that have been negative, or very compliance based, and actually you find speaking to an educational professional to be quite intimidating, then we owe it to those families to give their children just as much access to high quality education, as families who are coming and going, ‘I know exactly what the developmental milestones are, I know what early learning goal is, I want my child to succeed and be really academic’. Right? So it's about having a really open door policy, I think, and being willing to meet people and conversations, making it really non judgmental, and, and asking, you know, what do you want for your child? What are your aspirations? How can we help you with that in a way that empowers parents to feel like the best parent that they can be, and that they can teach their child and that they can play an active part in that, rather than unnecessarily engaging them in a care versus education debate. They're not thinking about that. They're thinking about their child, and what they want for them.
I'm gonna challenge you on that a bit, though, Molly,
They’re parents that are through your door.
And you know what, you're right. It's subconscious bias there, because those are the parents that I've engaged with. And they've chosen to send their child to a nursery. Yeah, yeah. You know, so there is always going to be that bias. And that is why I can only speak from my experience. Yeah.
Not just that – they sought out your really good provision, you're really, you know, top of the range provision, and that we have no sense. I used to be a parent governor at North Islington nursery school. And they did some fantastic work, we did some fantastic work around outreach and going out to communities that simply were not going anywhere near because that is perceived as a middle white middle class, baby yoga, etc, etc. And we did some brilliant work outreach we there was a lot, there was a kind of a time where we had lots of Somali refugees, and do some brilliant work with that community. But it didn't reach everybody by any means. But it was a really pro-active piece of work. And I just think we don't have a sense of those people that aren't, you know, the ones that are that see the value and want to engage in the value, whether it's care, whether it's pedagogy.
That's a really important point isn't I mean, I suppose it boils down childhood’s not a level playing field and different parents will have different approaches and continue to emphasise. And I think I think you see the government trying to do it emphasise the importance of getting children into into early education. But you're, you're right, Helen, how do we how do we reach out to people and demonstrate that it's for them, and there are going to be different circumstances? And of course, cost and other things come into it. And then of course, there's there's a decision to be made about, do they use a child minder, do they go for a nursery? And that's a different approach. And I don't know whether it's worth exploring that a little more. And you know, what sort of expectations we put in on childminders and on nurseries and how they differ, I mean, obviously, we can talk from an Ofsted point of view, but But more generally, Helen and Molly, what what you think about that.
Think in terms of the expectations that we have for our nurseries, it's about really working with our families, to help them understand what we are, what we do, how we can support their child, how we can support them as a family, while having I think realistic expectations about what different ratios mean, what different care looks like for different age groups, and the different things that we can reasonably expect of our practitioners and our workforce, knowing that they have a huge amount of responsibility, and then not necessarily being paid in line with teaching staff in schools. So really protecting our staff while prioritising the best things for our children. So you know, when we're thinking about workload, I know that many, many nurseries and many parents really enjoy constant regular photo observations of their children. But what we know is that that's really high workload. And actually, often that takes away from the lived experience of interactions in that room. So by setting those expectations really clearly from the forefront, about what we've prioritised to make sure our children have the best experience. Parents know what they're going to get coming through the door that they you know, they can buy into a vision, while also understanding that actually, they may not have this constant interaction, but that's for the best for their child.
In some ways. The more we try and make this tangible, the more we lose the value because I remember again this is personal experience, but I remember when we chose a childminder for my two daughters when they were little. I mean she she had a good Ofsted rating but that didn't really you know, as long as she was registered and good, it was fine. What she offered more was the chemistry when we went through that door. And the and the clear love she was able to give to the children she took care of. Didn't have the biggest house they had a two bedroom flat above a shop in where we lived. But we instantly knew and my daughters absolutely adored her. And she sort of became part of the family. And I think that's the that's the wider piece that we do in early years is that part of the family support. They're not just the children. Childminders, do offer, you know, they offer the education and the Ofsted rating means really is a value to them, and they really value it. But very often they do offer that kind of family support as well. Look, if Mum has financial difficulties looking for work, mental health, this really came to light during the pandemic. And that going the extra mile out of out of standard hours, overnight stays, respite care, particular help for children with development delay, post pandemic, which, you know, we know is is a huge issue, it's hard to quantify, it's hard to really kind of pin down the enormous value of colleagues in the sector.
I was gonna ask something which is off on a slightly different track, which is partly inspired by my six year old who was very bitter when his free flow periods were reduced on year one, which is basically about the transition between early education and year one, education education, if you like, and what you think best practices around that, what you've seen works well?
It's up to schools to decide how they would like to deliver that national curriculum, right. And what we know, around pedagogy is that you can meet the same end points, but you can choose the how, you know how we support children to get there. And there are still many, many opportunities within that year when national curriculum to have more structured opportunities to play and investigate. Maps is a fantastic example. You know, when we're thinking about aerial maps, you can go on a treasure hunt, and create your own maps that replicate your school grounds. And you're able to do that in a really playful and joyful way, while still meeting those aerial map national curriculum statements. Another one is investigating with materials. I think, you know, it's very likely that Helen’s done the same as me, both Helen and I can remember very clearly sitting around that water tray and going oh, yeah, you're right. It's cardboard, so it has absorbed all the water and then sunk. Perhaps that's not the best material to make your you know, your boat out of, maybe we should try something different. And you're doing those same curriculum statements, but a little bit more depth than them. In the national curriculum in year one, there's every opportunity to build in those interactions, to find those playful moments, to support children with that transition, where they don't have that real kind of unreasonable, unjust feeling that those free flow opportunities have been taken away from them. That's not to say that play isn't a real skill. And I don't think that we can underestimate the difficulty of doing play well, all of the practitioners that run play based settings be that nurseries, reception classes in year one, you know, and in some schools where they choose to have more playful learning across Key Stage two, that takes a huge amount of skill. And it is not something that a school can choose to undertake, without a huge amount of professional development that goes alongside it to make sure that we're doing it in a really thoughtful way. But I think, you know, schools really can feel empowered to make those choices. As long as it's backed in the curriculum. It's considered around child development and they're making sure they're putting all of those steps in the way that we do in nurseries to make sure that our play is working through thoughtful thorough formative assessment.
I mean, all transition’s tricky, isn't it? Whatever age we’re talking about but particularly so because there is, and we've kind of acknowledged this over time, there is a disconnect between kind of the early years foundation stage framework, and then what the national curriculum says in year one. And strangely, they were never written at the same time, and they're never updated at the same time. So, one is always kind of ahead or behind the other in terms of, you know, the expectations. So there is, there is some overlap and repetition, particularly in particularly in year one. Our position is obviously, as I alluded to earlier, that as long as you are choosing the right things for children to learn, then actually it is the decision of the individual teacher or team in terms of how best you know, what pedagogical strategy or approach to use to ensure that children learn that in the best possible way so that they know, they remember it and that they enjoy their experience. Of course, we know there are some kinds of ’best bets’ aren't there. So depending on what it is you want children to learn, we all know that there are better ways of doing some things than than others. But actually, there are still choices. And ultimately, as an inspector, I'll be interested in the choices that the different schools and teachers and leaders have made, and having a conversation around why they've decided to do it that way versus another. That doesn't mean I'm coming with a notion in the back of my head of how it should be done, and that's what I'm holding you against. And I think that's often what people think we do do. Okay, I'm coming in knowing that, you know, x has to be taught in a particular way, when actually it is about a conversation. However, you know, I will be kind of remiss of me not to say, you know, there are some things that you do have to teach, and you have to teach in some form of a direct way. So, I'm talking about reading, particularly at this point in time, you will not learn to read through a play based approach, you can potentially practice your reading through a play based approach, but in terms of actually learning, you know, the letters and the sound correspondences that just has to be taught in in some way. And again, it's coming back to a comment I made earlier around the role of parents because I think none of us would expect children to kind of just pick up through play, you know, their colours, or their numbers, or shapes. But we actually teach that by kind of pointing things out on a on a walk through the park or wherever, when we're in the car, we say, oh, look with the sign, you know, the circle, the sign’s a circle, or it's a triangle. That’s teaching, that’s direct teaching, because we are seeing how have you noticed that that is a…? Insert the insert the right vocabulary. So I think it comes back to the debate about teaching versus play. And depending on where you are on the school, and a hierarchy, or certainly as we progress up through school, what balance you have between the two, but it is a tension. And it's one that we're hoping to get underneath a little bit more as an organisation over the autumn term, particularly that that transition from reception into year one.
Just wanted to come back a bit to something that Helen touched on around the work of the sector during the pandemic, which was obviously hugely challenging time and some great work was done. And at the time, we did some, some background work. We weren’t out inspecting, but we were doing some research work on what was going on in the sector. And certainly looking at early years. One of the big things that we were picking up on was the impact on on socialisation and the fact that obviously, children were were cooped up at home, and they weren't interacting with people, any people really other outside of their immediate family in the way that they might otherwise do. Obviously, we're a little bit down the road now. And I guess there are different new cohorts of children coming through who aren’t as, who weren't around, so weren’t affected in quite the same way. So I wonder if you’d talk a bit about where we are now in terms of that kind of COVID legacy, but also what you think the sector learnt from from from that time?
The whole pandemic for our members, about 15,000 members, majority of which are childminders, but practitioners across the sector. It was a dreadful time, not only personally for them, but for the children that they care about so much. It was a period of firefighting and survival. And I think we just we've not even begun to understand that post traumatic reaction to that. And I don't think that's an exaggeration. The other thing - I mean this is about the practitioners rather than the children but that's it really underlying the sense that they feel undervalued and under acknowledged so while you're clapping on doorsteps for you know health practitioners, etc, etc. They felt that they were always last to be considered whether it’s protection or financial support, etc, etc. That will have an effect on on the service they provide because they're exhausted I'm sure you can talk about it more directly. Scared, still getting on the bus every day to go to work, not able to wear protection in the workplace because obviously working with young children, yeah, and scared for their families at home. So, you know, really, really tough experience and a sense that it's not been acknowledged. And although we do have some initiatives within the stronger practice hubs, etc, not really been fully acknowledged the role that they played through the crisis and I hope it gets picked up in the inquiry, actually, I have raised this. And the children we know, this is anecdotal, we've not got kind of in depth data on this. But we know from our members that children are really … the ones that are born during the pandemic, only seeing, like you say, Mark, one or two adults, if that, in their own home, are now going into settings and starting that journey. And we're noticing huge differences in their, in their attachment issues, etc. Now, I'll hand over to Molly, because I'm sure she's got much more direct experience with that.
And I think I'll start with the children who, who were in settings during the pandemic, and talking about their journey. So as part of my role of Ark Start, I work with Ark schools, which has many, many schools in London, Birmingham, Portsmouth, and Hastings. And we are watching those cohorts going through school. And what's really standing out is that lack of time and support to develop those primaries of learning that are social communication. So we're not just talking about vocabulary, but we're talking about how you can use vocabulary to express yourself well and thoughtfully and kindly, empathy and prosocial behaviour, that regulatory skills around their executive functions, they still haven't been able to close those gaps. So those cohorts are going through and finding changes in routine, they're finding transitions, and they're finding, you know, the expectations put on them to be incredibly difficult. And I don't think we can undervalue how that stress, stress fills your body with cortisol. So when you're stressed, you actually learn less. So they are under stress with delays, and learning less making less progress because of that. So you can you can really see in those cohorts who had such a disjointed beginning of early education experience, how much that that has affected them going through the school. And really with those cohorts, the lessons learned is - don't rush through those primaries of learning. Because those specific areas of learning come when you are secure in those primes when you're secure in your well being. You know, you can use the Leuven scales to really track whether it's a child - and a grown up - is feeling happy, safe, secure, able to explore. And until we've got high levels of well being, high levels of involvement, and you know, that ability to live within either you know, your family home, your wider setting, in the park with friends, nursery, or you know, your reception class, sharing your space, sharing your resources, sharing your time, you know, you really aren’t able to build on that learning to become a fluent reader. And I think we've been able to use that learning in the nurseries and in the schools to really drive what we know, is important in our early education, so that by the time our children are in school, we know that they've got all of the knowledge and skills that they need to not just be ready, but to be ready to thrive.
LeeThe beauty of an inspection framework that focuses on curriculum is that actually it gives permission to kind of slow down the progress to whatever it is that you have planned. So that, you know circumstances, such as a pandemic, and let's hope we don't go through another one anytime soon. It gives us the permission to practitioners to say well actually, this is why our curriculum used to look like but this is what it needs to look like now, or actually, it's the same curriculum, but we need to over emphasise these bits of it, or we need to slow down our progress through these elements of it. As Molly said, you know that the prime areas, it's it's trying to reassure people that we do not have a rigid set view of what the curriculum should be other than the educational programmes in the EYFS. But actually, it's an interest in why you're doing it that way. Why are you spending more time on this than that. And again, increasingly, given the context that we're working in, that's because we do know, children are you know, they have particular delays more so than in the past. So, again, as always, my job in terms of in terms of Ofsted is to reassure people that, you know, from from our perspective, don't feel that we're expecting anything in particular, other than the minimum expectations that are set out in the EYFS. There is still a long way to go for lots of children, you know, this isn't, this isn't something that can be fixed within what, a month, a year, two years plus, this is something that's gonna take a long time to work through, particularly when the very youngest children have missed out on some important developmental milestones. Because until you add those, it's impossible to you know, it's like building on sand isn't it? It’s impossible to kind of build something from that point until it's until those elements are secure. We've never had a strategic priority that is that is focused just on one particular age group. But we do now and obviously our strategy will last us from from kind of now up to 2027. And it's not just about I suppose curriculum, we are looking at everything that we think can contribute to that best start in life. So of course, we are interested in how our practitioners are trained in the first place. So I'm working with my further education and skills colleagues about what are the qualifications like in colleges so that we have the you know, the best possible trainees and the best possible future practitioners and managers and leaders of the future.
Thanks very much to everyone for joining us for a really interesting podcast, thank you to Molly, thank you to Helen, our very own Mark and Lee, and see you another time.
Monday Jul 24, 2023
Monday Jul 24, 2023
Monday Jul 24, 2023
One of the talks from our FES team at this year's Festival of Education which was held at Wellington College in July.
Becca Clare, Martin Ward, Mike Finn from the Further Education and Skills team at Ofsted.
High quality curriculum and teaching in Further Education and Skills.
I'm Becca Clare, and I have with me two colleagues, Martin Ward, and Mike Finn, and we all work within the FES part of the curriculum unit in Ofsted. We're going to tell you a little bit about our work within Ofsted, some of the work that we're doing looking at high quality curriculum and pedagogy. And we're starting to do work at the moment where we're researching what high quality curriculum looks like in Further Education and Skills providers in a range of subjects. We're currently focusing on a particular number of subjects that include business education, Martin, here is our curriculum lead for Business Education, Human Resources, Mike is our curriculum lead for human resources, but also Construction and Engineering employability programmes, ESOL, and software development and further education skills initial teacher education. So those are our initial wave of subjects. And when we're looking at how a curriculum is designed, we're looking at high quality teaching and wider processes and policies that support high quality education with a focus on those particular subjects. And we'd be really - this is a very genuine invitation - we'd be very delighted to hear from you, if you or your colleagues are working on curriculum design or pedagogy in those areas, in particular, and you'd like to share your ideas. So when we're out and about at events like this at conferences, we usually do get people who contact us afterwards and say, How can we be involved in this work. And we'd very much like to hear from you, if you think it's something that you'd be interested in doing. We may well go on and look at further subjects in due course as well.
So we're not we're not stopping there. So what we do is, essentially, what we're doing is we're drawing on the research and principles that underpin the education inspection framework. And looking at how the that research and those principles apply to a range of subjects in Further Education and Skills. We're drawing on that research, we're drawing on our expert working groups that we have around each of the subjects that we're looking at. And we'll be producing in the autumn, a series of publications in November, that look at those subjects in particular. And then in the last week of November, we're going to have a conference session in Birmingham on the 29th of November. Further details will be released soon. So I'm going to pass over to my colleague, Martin, who's going to talk about the content of the curriculum curriculum intent, in other words.
So what are we looking at in our work? A big focus for us is what constitutes a high quality curriculum in each subject to the further education context. And as you know, the education inspection framework, or EIF, focuses on the curriculum. And our view is that the curriculum is at the heart of good education. We don't specify what a given curriculum should look like. But our research underpinning the EEIF highlights a range of principles, which we in the curriculum unit are applying to a range of subjects and contexts in our work, you will know that the EIF focuses on curriculum intent, implementation, and impact. And intent is really two things, the content of the curriculum and the way it's sequenced or ordered. It's important that the curriculum content is ambitious, and providers need to have high expectations for learners and apprentices. And this doesn't necessarily mean a curriculum that's very broad, although it might be. But what it does mean is that the curriculum should focus on the most useful the most powerful knowledge and skills that experts agree are key in each context. In any subject, it's likely to be the principles and skills that really form the foundation of a subject. The things that our learner or apprentice needs to know if they are to develop expertise, rather than just operate within the confines of a narrow role. And it's crucial that the current current curriculum content is sequenced or ordered in a way that enables learners and apprentices to make good progress in understanding and skills from their starting points. So if the right foundations are laid, other knowledge and skills can be slotted in over time. So curriculum leaders need to give thought to the components of complex composite tasks, and plan a logical order in which to teach the components. And in the next two slides, we'll look at some examples of good quality curriculum content and sequencing within specific subjects. So here are a few examples within business education, we'll undoubtedly look at models and theories to explain the complex reality in which business operates. But in a high quality curriculum, not only will these models and theories be taught well, but through the curriculum learners will be taught about the nature of these models and their purpose, and that they are often an abstraction from reality, often holding some values constant, whilst trying to explain the impact of another value. Say, for example, in business, you might refer to the tendency for higher interest rates to reduce inflation, but also in a high quality curriculum realise that because of other impacts of costs of wages, or raw material costs, that this might not be immediately apparent in the real world. So getting an understanding of the value of models and theories across the business education curriculum. And in joinery and carpentry, this curriculum is often viewed from the perspective of practical competencies. There's nothing wrong in that at all. But the really powerful knowledge might also include an understanding of how wood grows, how this affects its qualities, and its strengths, its malleability. And therefore, although this is rarely taught, it is powerful knowledge, and certainly something that a master joiner would understand. And within employability programmes when developing professional behaviours, it's important to plan a wide selection of these behaviours and place important features like attendance and punctuality within a broader, ambitious context. And something that is something for all employees to embrace, and not just those at the start of their employment route. The same with careers advice and guidance, the curriculum should build to provide a big and extensive picture about the potential for a career for the potential for the learner over time, and not simply a narrow view of what employment might offer the learner at a single point in time at the beginning of their career. And within HR, within learning and development, an ambitious approach to teaching and the topic of training and development would be through teaching learners to understand Evidence Based Learning Theories before they consider how people learn at work, or start to develop training programmes in the workplace. Therefore, apprentices can draw upon evidence to understand what effective training and learning programmes look like. Apprentices should understand which theories are supported by research, as well as the limitations of those theories that lack credible evidence to support them. For example, learners who are taught about cognitive approaches to learning are more likely to consider effective pedagogy when developing training programmes. They can focus on strategies that are designed to improve an employee's ability to remember the content they're trained to understand, such as through repetition and retrieval practice over time, to embed topics in their long term memory. They may also think about designing training around what employees already know, so that employees are able to learn new material by linking this with what they have previously been taught. Whereas a less ambitious curriculum may focus on things like theories of learning styles, there isn't sufficient evidence to show the effectiveness of learning styles theory, and where learning styles are taught, inspectors should check that learners are aware of the criticisms of these theories and the potential lack of impact going forward. And within ITE or initial teacher training, the curriculum can be planned to demonstrate and explain the importance of subject specific pedagogy. For example, the teaching methods and types of resources that you should use in modern foreign language maybe be very different from those approaches in design technology. And it's also important particularly in apprenticeships, that where there is a highly practical curriculum that the underpinning knowledge and principles are taught so that learners and apprentices can apply their techniques better and understand how to adapt them to a range of different situations or customers. So as well as the curriculum content, we also need to make sure that the curriculum is sequenced in logical ways. And it may be different ways of sequencing in different subjects. So for example, in business education, it's really important that the constituent parts of a complex topic are taught in that particular order. So when teaching about the marketing mix, for instance, it's important that you look at the elements of pricing, product, place and promotion, before looking at the complex idea of marketing strategy. And also in ESOL, the sequencing of the curriculum and trying to get the right balance between the importance of particular settings, but also in making sure that learners understand the principles that underlie their long term learning of the language. And within the future of teacher education, it might be that the sequencing there rather than sequencing from topic to topic is actually a spiral curriculum where you have to address a range of different topics, and then go back again, and look at them in more depth over time, because in the teaching, teachers are already in the classroom. So they need to have a good understanding of a range of topics just to get started in the classroom. And then you can return to those topics in more depth to improve the quality over time.
There are also different types of knowledge, knowing that something, knowing how something works, and knowing when to use something. And it may well be that in some subjects, the sequencing of that knowledge over time is a valid and important approach. So for instance, in business, it's very important to know about stock control theories, to know how to use a stock control theory, and more importantly, knowing when to use it, to make sure that your business works efficiently. A particular challenge within further education is for apprenticeships, and sequencing off and on the job training. And what we find is that in high quality apprenticeships, the links with the employer mean that the off the job training is sequenced well and, and is taught before the apprentice goes on to the the factory floor, and actually uses that skill and knowledge in the place. And finally, in subjects like construction and hospitality and care. It's really important to teach about the primacy of health and safety. And that that is taught early in the course, but then also revisited over time to make sure that that learning is reinforced, as different contexts are met by the apprentice. So that's looking at the content and the sequencing. And Mike is now going to look at implementation.
Thank you. Yes, I'm going to be looking at curriculum implementation and what we mean by implementation is effective teaching, and effective assessment. Effective Teaching means focusing learners and or apprentices attention on the knowledge content, and helping them to remember it longer term. A key consideration is whether apprentices or learners are novices or experts. This distinction is actually more relevant than age. Research shows that novices need more instructional teaching about new content before they're able to use or apply this information to situations or case studies. However, for experts, teaching is more effective if experts get a chance to use the knowledge that they've already obtained and apply this to case studies, simulations, or situations. Now in Further Education and Skills, we naturally encounter a wide range of teaching approaches, from one to one sessions, through to university style lectures on the job demonstrations, classroom seminars, or sessions in a workshop. What's most important and essentially in all cases, the key question we will want to explore is, did the teaching methods used help learners to make progress through the curriculum? We've seen some good examples for instance of teachers using realistic hospital ward environments and medical dummies to teach nursing associate apprentices how to use the equipment they will need at work. In addition, we've seen effective practice in level two functional skills maths, where learners work through problems quietly with an expert teacher, consolidating their understanding of ratio, and proportion so that they can work out recipe quantities in their catering courses. Looking at assessment, we look to see whether assessment is being used in ways that help learners to make progress. Does assessment help teachers to spot gaps and misconceptions in learners knowledge? And where those gaps and misconceptions are identified? Do they use this information to take action to close gaps in knowledge or to correct misconceptions? Do teachers use assessment to adjust teaching or future teaching? For example, particular topics where reteaching might be required, or where particular learners may need further support and guidance? Do teachers assess what learners know and can do at the start of their courses? We know that learners can only learn new material if it's linked to what they already know. So looking at high quality teaching, teaching as a profession is evidence based, as for example is medicine. Evidence based approaches help learners to make progress. Cognitive Science is evidence based. It helps us to understand how to teach learners so they remember what they have been taught. Evidence based teaching is not about doing action research. It's about using what's already been credibly researched. Pedagogy and assessment should be driven by curriculum content. As Martin has pointed out, teachers should select high quality, ambitious content that will help learners to succeed on their course, and importantly beyond into their future career. As pointed out, this current curriculum content needs to be sequenced logically, so learners can build upon what they are learning. Our short term memories can become overloaded. Learners therefore need time to transfer what they are learning to their long term memory. This will then free up working memory to take in new information. So chunking information, and then using specific techniques that transfer information into long term memory is useful. So there's a range of particularly well researched, and evidence based teaching practices that I'm gonna go through with a couple of examples. Firstly, interleaving. This is where learners are learning multiple concepts or skills. This is different to blocking where you may, for example, teach one topic thoroughly, and ensure learners mastered this before moving on. So I'm gonna give you an example from mathematics, calculating volumes of different shapes alternating between these and revisiting. The calculations themselves differ. But all of those are similar enough to be interleaved. They're all types of calculating volumes. Another effective technique in terms of boosting memory is using spaced retrieval or spaced repetition. This focuses on teachers getting learners to retrieve what they have learned before, as that whole process of retrieving what you have learned helps to build your memory. Think about this though as pulling information out, rather than teachers cramming information in. So methods such as low stakes testing, quizzes, or setting questions from earlier lessons, or topics in the programme can be particularly effective here. So retrieval practice is most effective when you get learners to do something with the information rather than repeating the teaching. Another effective practice is dual coding. This is where you combine text and images or diagrams on resources. We know that visuals are powerful for communicating complex ideas in an efficient way. It takes a great many words to describe the simplest of images. less effective teaching may overly focus on strategies that are not backed by sufficient evidence. For example, selecting learning strategies to meet all learners learning styles. Teaching in essence, should focus on experts teaching content, it's important to note we learn what we pay attention to. Therefore, it is important that learning methods do not distract from learning. If, for example, there are too many social demands, attached to a task say for a group of novices, group work or presenting their ideas back, learners may focus on the social demands, rather than on the content they are learning. Effective in class assessment and questioning will ensure that if learners develop misconceptions or gaps in their knowledge, teachers will spot these and put them right or close any gaps in learning before they move on to something new. For apprentices, it's important for providers to ensure that on the job training is of a high quality on the job training should align well with what apprentices are being taught off the job. There should be access to useful and high quality opportunities for apprentices to put into practice, what they are learning about. Providers may want to consider who in the workplace is providing teaching or training support, and did they have the expertise they need to support apprentices. In 2022 Ofsted alongside HMIP undertook a joint review into reading education in prisons. And last week, a follow up report, reviewing the findings against last year's recommendations was published. This report has concluded while some progress has been made in meeting the recommendations set in 2022, improvements in key areas, such as screening, assessment, resourcing strategy development have been too slow. That's a really useful read if you're involved in prison education, reviewing the effectiveness of reading and the progress made in the last year. In terms of high expectations, this is demonstrated most forcibly by the study Pygmalion in the Classroom. And I'm not going to go through the full research with you now. But in essence, the research concludes that when teachers expect students to do well they do. And when teachers do not have such high expectations, performance and progress are not encouraged. So, really, teachers expectations influence performance. So what might effective practice look like in terms of high expectations? Well, teachers having high expectations about what all learners can achieve, not referring to groups as less able, more able, teachers setting ambitious goals for all learners, employers having high expectations and standards for trainees and apprentices. Teachers vary their support for learners but do not reduce the challenge for students. So for example, through avoiding differentiation by lower level outcomes. Teachers have high expectations for all including learners with special educational needs and or disabilities. There should be no limiting of the curriculum. In relation to continuing professional development, CPD, there are three particularly key areas to consider here. Firstly, that teachers remain up to date with industry practice. And this is vital for example, in engineering, understanding green developments in engineering. Training should also help teachers to maintain and update their subject knowledge. As I mentioned earlier, teaching is through expertise and therefore that's critical to effective teaching. So for example, expert teachers will provide clear explanations of content and they will ask useful questions. Third key element of effective CPD is effective training on pedagogy that considers evidence based approaches as I've discussed earlier. I'm now going to move on to look at the impact of the curriculum. First and foremost, what we're looking for when we're looking at impact is do learners make progress through the curriculum? Do they know more? And remember it? Can they do more than they could at the beginning of the programme? Do they improve their performance at work? So do apprentices gain promotions or increased responsibility? Do they achieve their qualifications? We always bear data in mind. But we will always use data to question and seek context. Where relevant do they progress to the next stage in their education successfully, including to higher education? And in some particular kinds of provisions such as high needs, we will want to know whether appropriate curricular goals such as increased independence or meeting ehcp outcomes have been met.
There are various ways you can get involved in our work, particularly if you're interested in the subjects that we've mentioned, through working groups through coming to our conferences, and through reading the publications that we're making, so do get in touch. If you think that you'd be interested in doing that.
Wednesday Jul 12, 2023
Wednesday Jul 12, 2023
Wednesday Jul 12, 2023
We published an independent research report into our findings about the tutoring programme in October 22, and we will be publishing a follow-up in the autumn of 2023. Our podcast spoke to some of the teachers and the researcher involved.
Part 1 of the report can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-review-of-tutoring-in-schools-and-16-to-19-providers/independent-review-of-tutoring-in-schools-phase-1-findings
Shreena: So with us today we have two people from Bishop Thomas Grant school in Lambeth, Laura Waterman who's the assistant headteacher and Michael Todd who is deputy head. With us we also have Alan Passingham, one of Ofsted's senior research leads. So if we could start with Alan, could you tell us about overall, what you found out about the quality of tutoring?
Alan: The starting point should be to define the quality of tutoring, the purpose of the work we did needed an appropriate lens in which to kind of look at what school leaders and staff and shooters were actually doing to make sure of what is quality in that sense sort of thing. So our starting point was to go back to the literature and have a look at what that was saying you know, and from there, we've got a sense of and this is in DFE guidance as well, that there's a need for it to be bespoke, small group size is more effective. It needs to be frequent, consistent, delivered by somebody with expertise, something to lead on, because one of the things we were going to struggle with was one thing that is difficult to determine, is identifying the direct impacts of tutoring on pupils outcomes, you know, there's there's just far too much noise in schools. They will be doing lots of other interventions. There'll be routine class teaching, you know, they'll be having an effect there will be things happening outside of school that will probably be impacting on. So there's just far too much noise to identify whether a single intervention is having that kind of improvement desired. So by going back to the research, it gives us a lens to determine and give us some degree of assurance that the schools we were looking at whether they were whether they were aligned to what good quality tutoring or more effective, that there's a direct line of causation, essentially.
With that in mind, and having got that criteria together, what did we find? It was a variable picture, but one with some genuinely positive aspects, you know, so many of the schools were following the guidelines with tutoring. So it was bespoke. It was small scale one to one, or at least one to three, one to four pupils per session. It was being delivered frequently, and it was being delivered by the same tutor on a regular basis. It was fairly quick and punchy, and pupils were not on it for a very long duration.
You know, there was a good thinking around when to take pupils off, that other pupils would then get the opportunity to experience tutoring. It wasn't all positive. There were a minority of schools where it was a bit more haphazard and they weren't giving it the same level of consideration which so you did get some schools that would deliver it into a much larger group of pupils in a session so 10 to 15 pupils, which isn't bespoke, you lose that element of tutoring that I think is most important and the bespokeness of individual pupils, but also for tutors you know, they can see where a pupil may not be getting something right, almost immediately, and then can react to that and say, Okay, I can see where you're going wrong here. And do the level of scaffolding required to get the pupil back on track sort of thing. You know, so there's, there's immediacy to it. You've got a class with 10-15 pupils, it's much, much more difficult to do that, you know.
So there was there was a bit more some schools that just weren't it wasn't just quite clicking, but I don't think that was a result of them, not necessarily misunderstanding what tutoring is. The sense I got from a lot of school leaders is they wanted to make a difference for their pupils. And so their their rationale was, we need more pupils to be accessing tutoring, sort of without realising that in some ways, that dilutes the impact, because it is very specific to individual needs, small group that kind of practice you know, so, so there was a desire to make a difference there, which is which is credible, but wasn't quite working with this particular intervention.
What else did we find? Those schools that were stronger in this space had strong processes of pupil identification, so they identify pupils that had the biggest gaps in their learning, post pandemic, you know, getting those sorts they weren't necessarily just identifying a disadvantaged cohort, they were actually doing it a bit more rigorously than that to to really identify other pupils that, you know, had really suffered during the pandemic and needed that additional support. And the curriculum planing was strong, so there was good alignment between what was being delivered in in classes and what was also being delivered in tutoring so there was a moment there so when a pupil would completed their their tutoring sessions, they could then go back into the classroom and were studying the same kind of areas, you know, it wasn't they weren't going off and doing something completely different.
Teachers and their pedagogy, or tutors and their pedagogy was really important groups really considering who should be the tutors, making sure that they were getting the right people involved, and they can build strong decisions on that. Which kind of leads to the last point I think I'll make here which is a lot of leaders preferring that, do it yourself kind of model rather than going through the National tutoring programme, which which did have some barriers, you know, particularly around the workload burden of managing that and getting a specific tutor or academic mentor in post and then not always delivering on that ie the actual tutor actually arriving as expected didn't always happen. And then sometimes the quality of the tutors that they found through the national tutoring programme, were not good enough. So the decisions that a lot of leaders leaders made was, we can do this ourselves, we can find tutors to do this. Typically, it was also teachers within the school. But some schools were also looking further, such as good examples of retired teachers, you know, coming back and doing a couple of hours work a week. They've got the expertise, they've got the experience, looking at good staff that would normally be there to provide support and cover and bring in those individuals in again with qualified teachers, but not necessarily full time teachers at that point. So schools were thinking about this in various ways of how they can deliver.
Of course, the national tutoring programme features three routes, tutoring partners, active mentors, and the school-lead routes where national tutoring programme, and where schools have rebuffed elements of the national tutoring programme is largely been along the lines of the tutoring partners and academic mentors. There is very much a preference for the school-led route, managing the provision and tutors for themselves.
Shreena:Then moving on to Laura and Michael, a really simple question is how did it work in your school?
Michael:There are certainly negatives to the whole process, there are things that we find quite difficult to be able to work with and to make it work in our school but there are plenty of positives and interestingly, all the obstacles that we came through, we think have helped us form a really good package, so something positive came out of it. So when schools were closed back in 2020, we were actually approached by Talent-Ed, one of the providers and they were working to find schools, working with pupil premium students whilst they were away from school. And that funding was provided. So we did that. It was really quite difficult to do because students were already learning remotely, and to set this up and to get good attendance was really difficult. So nice idea difficult to execute. And then in November 2020 when the National tutoring programme was launched we did a trial under the sort of constraints as they were at that time, that it was tuition partners that were then leading on this.
So we did try a few groups of students with tutors who were working with us remotely. We had problems with that. It was difficult, and I think you know, a lot of these things were common to all schools who had a go to make it work because as Alan said, the need was there, the desire, the motivation, it just became quite a complicated process to make it work. We linked up with Connects Education. We had some students in small groups connecting with staff that we'd never met. So all sorts of safeguarding and quality assurance, issues with that. Students, if they've never met someone, they're not going to be as forthcoming with sharing their issues. That could work the other way as well, that somebody that they don't know they might they can connect with and may be a little more forthcoming with sharing where they're finding things difficult.
So we'd limited success with that. Interestingly at that point, we trialled our own what became school-led tutoring. We have some of our staff and were able to start working with students in small groups. And we can see well, I don't think it's a big reach to understand that concept that if you know who your tutor is, and they're working with you in the classroom that you usually work in, and there's already a connection and the expectations of how school works. So we had a lot of success with that.
When the tutoring programme changed, we could use our own staff, everything seemed to fall into place. Because we had the quality assurance, there was some training offered. We made good use of that with staff and Alan said, this was different. One of the first questions where we spoken to Alan before was how we define tuition. How is it different than a lesson? And Laura and I actually last night met with parents to launch a year 10 summer tuition programme again this year using the national tutoring programme funding and programme structure we went through the same thing with them. This idea that you've got staff here, free, they are willing, motivated, have been through the training. We understand the difference between tuition and teaching, we know the parents, know their expectations, parents are on board and that changed into a model that we did last summer, which we had huge success with. We've since done something different since September, with other yeargroups. And Laura, you probably want to here because certainly we've worked long and hard. You talked, Alan, again about the investment in schools in order to make it work. But that's so much more motivating and so much more palatable when you know you're doing this work.
Laura:We've talked as a school a lot about the buy-in from both the students, the parents, the staff, it's got to be seen as a sort of valuable time and sort of energy for all involved, really. So that's why as Michael alluded to, you know, we've met with parents, we get that buy-in from them. We've also trialled last summer which we'll be replicating with this forthcoming year 10 tutoring session, which will last for five weeks starting from from this Monday. In terms of selecting the students it's yeah, it's it's sort of it's difficult to know the right process. We've tried different things. I know last summer when we were working with the year 10s, then our current year elevens. And it was the first time that we were trialling different things. And one thing I'd say to sort of schools is is there isn't one right model and don't be afraid to sort of change. If it's not working. We've tried different things.
And we've realised quite quickly that that hasn't worked. That hasn't been the best way. But we wanted to get the scheme up and running quickly last year. So we based the selection of students on tracking data that at that point, wasn't the most up to date. We have new tracking data that was going to be out about two weeks or three weeks later, and we had a discussion whether to wait but we wanted to get this the tutoring programme up and running. So we based it on Spring Data, only to find that two or three weeks later, new data had come out and different students were then highlighted as being more in need, and the sort of timetables and the cards we give to our students with their timetable lessons on or tutoring sessions on all had to be reprinted and changed. But I mean, I suppose the basic rationale is the obvious one, we look at their performance on their on their tracking on assessments against their, you know, target grades, their end of year 10 Target grades, and that that does form a big basis of it and obviously, we look at students that are furthest away from their target grades, but I know Alan mentioned as well. We do have to factor in although it's not the the only thing but we do factor in what we call our students that have got sort of barriers to learning. I know it was mentioned sort of EAL, SEND, Pupil Premium. As a school every child has a profile and they are given a score. They get sort of certain points for different barriers to learning, potential barriers to learning. So we do sort of try and make sure that our tutoring programme also considers our sort of perhaps most vulnerable or the students that have these potential barriers to learning. And that can also you know, cover things such as sort of home factors, our school data on ethnicity and performance. That forms the premise, but alongside that is it's important to have confersations with the staff and the heads of department.
What I found with selecting the students for this summer programme that is about to start, those conversations were really important because there was some students who if we just purely based on tracking would have been selected, but upon having conversation with heads of department, they were saying useful things around what that data was based on and if it was based on an exam, that was just a particularly bad exam. I know for example, one teacher mentioned that there was one question that a few students just totally misread and therefore their tracking is kind of highlighting them as sort of below target actually, you know, we're not concerned about them and there are others who we will be more concerned on. My advice, I think, to sort of schools would be to definitely have those conversations. The teaching staff and the tutoring staff, the heads of department are obviously the specialists that know which students will be best and who will get the most out of the sessions as well.
Shreena:That's brilliant. So it's been really it's really interesting to hear the journey that your school has been on with this. I had a couple of questions...so one was about kind of how you handle that student communication, I guess, in particular, when you have to change who was getting the tutoring based on the new data? How did you kind of go about communicating that to students? And also, I guess, more generally, how did he make sure that students were kind of engaged and up for it and didn't see it as a sort of this is a punishment. This is extra school.
Laura:I think it's important that it is this sort of dynamic programme and actually students, it's is almost seen as a slight sort of sense of achievement. If they were involved in the tutoring programme and then three weeks down the line, you know, we can have a conversation with them and say, look, your data is showing that you've improved, that you don't need to attend to these sessions anymore. It's about keeping the conversation as a positive. I know, Michael, you'll agree. You know, we sort of say we had we have kids literally as we speak for the programme starting on Monday coming up to me today saying, Can I come to the English can I come to the maths tutoring session, and we've really sort of found the positive as a school where students do actually really want to get onto the programme. And I think that's because of how we, we present it to them and their parents that this is a sort of really great opportunity to fill those kinds of gaps and misconceptions they have now in year 10. And Michael sort of alluded to we do something else with your seven to nine as well.
But I think it's the way that we send that message to them and it is a rolling programme you know, once you if you're on it in the beginning, it's not that you're on it forever, it's on a need by need basis and there's a you know, a reward or a sense of achievement. If, after two or three weeks, they're told that they no longer need to attend.
Michael:I think and this maybe surprised us as well, because this came from the training, the National Tutoring Programme, were offering this idea of assessing often and giving feedback of throughout the tuition session. It was very low stakes, and students felt that they were being listened to and that they'd be given your time. So we felt very positive, from the very first 10 minutes of those tuition sessions that we started. And that carried through. We don't - Alan, you said measure the impact. It's very difficult to measure the impact in terms of data that might be generated from some assessment, but there was a clear qualitative feedback that we got immediately. And that was that the students really liked it. They liked the attention, they liked the positive messages that went home. It's time to in the year the school academic calendar that is coming straight after a big data collection for these students that are transitioning to becoming year 11s. So they're going through their data with teachers who went through the data with parents, they are trying to formulate new habits. They're making promises to themselves and making commitments and this is a really straightforward, easy, an immediate step that they can do and commit to. And we hold them to that commitment, you know, their ability to be in control of their self efficacy. To come forward for the promises. They find that to be really, really positive. I also think that the breakfast or the snack or that we offer also helped us to motivate some students to tell the rest and we shouldn't leave that out.
Yeah, when we when we sell it to them. We do give it a really hard sell. We really laid on thickly about the opportunity that they have. And that's deeply rooted in the fact that staff really care about their progress. I can see where we're struggling and as someone said there's another 25 to 30 students with you. Everybody knows how difficult that might be, the many barriers there are to students opening up as to why they are finding something difficult and for them to come back at the end of the day, although they do do that. They come back at lunchtimes. This is their opportunity and they jump for it. So we're hoping for the same thing this summer.
Laura: And I think it's worth also just in terms of I was just looking in terms of staff and I think this is also evidence that you know, sort of staff have also enjoyed running these sessions. So last year, there was 27 staff, I believe that that sort of put themselves forward to run a tutoring session. And this year we've got 29 staff that are going to be involved from Monday. You know, they're going to do it again. So, you know, I think that's testimony as well. But the staff actually really enjoyed the sessions too. They got a lot from it in terms of being able to work with smaller groups. And I know sort of when I went round and was sort of just popping my head into the tutoring sessions. It was a really nice atmosphere in the room. A lot of the time the staff sort of just slightly changed the layout of the classroom. So there was just sort of a, a couple of tables with the chairs all round or boardroom kind of style. Michael mentioned the snacks so they were there chomping away on a croissant, a pain au chocolat, and having a nice kind of conversation with the member of staff and you know, we choose the members of staff really carefully, although they do also put themselves forward and you know, our members of staff are the best placed people to run these sessions. They know the exam boards that we that we operate with. They already have relationships, albeit sometimes they might not teach the students in their tutoring sessions. They're aware of the students around the playground around the school, and those relationships are already there. But it was a really nice atmosphere when I when I went round, the sort of tutoring sessions to deliver the snacks and just see what was going on.
Shreena; Snacks sound like a really sound strategy for student engagement.
Alan; Can I add a couple of things. I think the first one was what Michael said about pupil confidence. And that is something that that came out through a number of schools that we went to where it had that that bespoke nature to it. There was that sense of Oh, this is for me. And they you know, there was that confidence because what we're getting from pupils were they found it tricky in classes. Yeah, that routine classes to put their hand up in the air. They didn't have the confidence to do that because they were afraid of getting the answer wrong. Whereas in a small group session such as this, there's a bit more security there, you know, and, and so, they were starting to find their voices and they were asking questions that they might not necessarily do so in those larger class settings. The benefit that was eventually when they went back into that class settings, they started to put their hand up and they were starting to contribute there as well. So I think that was a richness to some of the qualitative kind of responses we were getting from pupils about how they perceived that the impact and that generally it was it was positive for them and for their, learning for their confidence, for their resilience, you know, these are all valuable things.
So the tutors, the teachers that were delivering were saying exactly the same things that they could have seen growth in their pupils, you know, a couple of examples, examples that I can recall on some of the visits that I went to of, 'We weren't sure about this people we weren't, we weren't sure if this was for them. But actually, it was perfect, you know, the environment, we've seen them grow in a way that we wouldn't have seen beforehand. In some cases, it has been a case of in class a bit of a troublemaker. And that may be because they've got a bit of an audience that they can put a show on to, but in the tutoring session, they pivot and that's, that's the environment where you know, actually is really accessible for them and they benefit from that.
The other point I want to make is something that Laura mentioned about the process of adapting, and I think it was in the case of your assessment, your identification of pupils for this, but I think that the adaptation is a principle that is probably applied more generally across all aspects of school leaders coming to terms with 'what is tutoring, and how do we deliver this in our context.' So again, if we go back to the research, it's kind of it's it's small scale, but much smaller scale, research that's been completed on saying these are the things that are these are the areas where it is likely to have impact and be beneficial to people.
Current policy is being done at scale. I don't think that's ever been achieved before. So So I think part of that process and what we're learning from the research is, it's not going to necessarily look exactly like we would find in the research that already exists. This is this is new research that we're providing, where at scale and in different contexts, schools will work in different environments and have different pupils, and may need to make different decisions about how they implement it. And I think that part of that adaptation has been part of the journey that schools have been on the in the year that we've done the research you know, so you know, some are coming on board with it a little bit later than others. A lot of this has been trial be error - getting used to a new process and seeing where it lands. And that's the continuing journey. Essentially, it's kind of it's making some decisions reflecting on those and then going through a process of transformation to say, there's more that we can do here. Being adaptable, flexible in that and reflecting on your decisions within the tutoring space are actually really quite powerful and useful.
Shreena; Definitely, I was gonna ask Michael and Laura one more question about the process and things. How did it go with parents because I suppose I can see it going in two directions. Potentially, that there might be some parents who are disappointed that they feel like their child has been identified as needing extra support, and they're upset about that. And then there also might be parents who are upset because their child hasn't been identified as needing additional support and perceives it as some children are getting more than their child.
Michael:That's really interesting. Again, that's part of our process, part of our journey where we've, we're asking questions that we probably wouldn't have thought about before we run the programme, I would say we've taken great time to explain to the parents, the constraints that we have, the time that we have, and why we're doing it at this point in the academic year. We took time to explain why the numbers in classes had to be small. We took time to explain that we were using our own staff. Therefore the number of hours that we had before school and after school so we didn't upset the timetable as it is were limited, we talked about the fact that Friday afternoons weren't very popular with staff, or students, that Tuesday afternoons we have directed time, so it comes down to five days before school, and three days after school and with those constraints, when we ran it last year we tried lunchtime as well but it was too short. Students seemed to find it more of a punishment. So we've led parents through our process. I think in the first year, we would have more parents asking if can my son or my daughter also be in French, because it's great that they're in English, and maths, but there's also red on the tracker for French. And we also had, 'why have I only got history? I've got other subjects here that are also in red'. But last night we had far fewer of those requests. Every request that we get we do go back to the head of department and say is there a way we could work this out? And some staff have said, great, this is a highly motivated student, I will do another session or run some parallel groups'. But we haven't had anyone yet who has seen it as punishment.
Laura: The problem is capacity and parents and students wanting to get on to the the the tutoring sessions that they haven't got on to. And again that I think is because of the way it's kind of sold here at Bishop Thomas Grant. Got sort of English and maths but actually we want science as well. I've had a few emails today regarding can we get on to these sessions? It's got to be kept - for it to be having the impact that's that's desirable - is the group sizes have got to be kept, let's say six maximum, and that it does refer to just some difficult conversations but making it very clear to parents, where the rationale is and why. I've sort of created a little bit of a waiting list at the moment because I've had conversations today with parents in the sense of if there is a lack of engagement or a lack of attendance in let's say one of the English sessions, that their child would be first to be offered that place.
Alan; From a research perspective. What I've enjoyed very much about the project is how how schools have engaged with us on this, particularly in the beginning, autumn term 2021 when COVID was still fresh in the mind, and you know, there was still bubbles and the like going on. For schools to invite us in and are willing willing to participate in the research you know, has been has been lovely. Both Michael and Laura you know, very grateful that you did allow us to come in and and see what you were doing in the tutoring space but that goes for every single head teacher, their deputies, their staff, their pupils that have all contributed to this, we couldn't have done this piece of work without them, you know, and that goes for the second year with the work that we've been doing as well. You know, it's kind of hopefully we found some really interesting stuff out so that it can be helpful, but it can't be done without the commitment and the support of the schools, the leaders, the staff, the pupils that we spoke to, as part of the project, so incredibly grateful for that. Thank you.
Shreena: Michael and Laura, do you have any other pearls of wisdome for schools embarking on this?
Michael: Can I just share something that wasn't immediately obvious to us when we set out. It wasn't a surprise, but it's been a real benefit. Now we have 29 staff that are working within their subject areas, some are heads of department, some aren't. They are looking at what we're calling 'cornerstone knowledge' and skills in their subject, and looking across the whole key stage 4 with the summer school, and for the lower school, they're looking at key stage three. What are those cornerstone pieces of knowledge? That, if we get right, help students accellerate because they are important for so many elements of that subject. So to have 29 staff working and thinking in that way, has really helped us to develop confidence in our curriculum. It's filtered through to so much of the CPD and inset that we have here at school. We have a curriculum review process with staff, in order to critique approaches, subject choices in terms of sequencing and prioritising knowledge and skills, and staff have become so much more confident. It's such a powerful, impactful process. Through the summer term here to narrow down what you want to cover with year 10 students - the possibilities are endless!
And that's also really exciting for staff. Because before you become a teacher, I think, there's an element of that, the essence of sitting down with small groups of people, and talking through a subject that you love. And you've had the opportunity here to craft a little curriculum for those individuals that's reallty special. That can be really motivating for staff and we've seen that. It's not separate from curriculum thinking, it's so integrated. The legacy will be far beyond. We're going to be limited in the future, it's a lot to take on, and we welcome that. But if we had the funding, we could do it. Without that, we wouldn't be able to do it.
Shreena: We published the first report into tutoring in October last year and we're publishing the next on this autumn. Thank you very much to Alan Passingham, and to Laura and Michael from Bishop Thomas Grant school in London.
Friday Jun 16, 2023
Friday Jun 16, 2023
Friday Jun 16, 2023
Ofsted has published a package of measures to improve how we work with schools. Hosts Anna Trethewey and Chris Jones discuss the changes.
Anna Trethewey Hello all and welcome to Ofsted's podcast. You've got me here, Anna Trethewey, deputy director for cross-remit education and...
Chris Jones Hi everyone, Chris Jones, director of strategy and engagement here at Ofsted.
Anna Trethewey We're going to do a run through of some of the different changes we've got to our practice here at Ofsted. So Chris, I'll hand over to you for that.
Chris Jones Thanks, Anna. Yeah, we're recording this on the 13th of June so we made those announcements yesterday on Monday and we thought it'd be helpful just to go through go through a few of those things and have a bit of a conversation about it, obviously, start by saying these announcements have been made in the wake of the death of Ruth Perry and the debate that has sparked around Ofsted's work following that. And Amanda Spielman said, really clearly that we want to reassure people we're listening to the things that have been said in that debate and thinking carefully about how we can revise our work but also not lose sight of the needs of children and parents in this as well.
So I'll just quickly run through the things that we've we've announced. So first of all on safeguarding there are a small number of schools every year, who are judged inadequate on the basis of ineffective safeguarding alone. So they have ineffective safeguarding, but all other judgments are good or better and in those small number of cases, we're going to return more quickly to those schools to re inspect them within three months of inspection report being published and we will say in the original report to parents that that is our intention, and that means that if the school has resolved those safeguarding concerns, it's likely to see the overall grades improve in a short space of time. We also just want to give a bit more clarity in our handbook update from September around the threshold for effective versus ineffective safeguarding. So everyone's super clear on on that. The second big piece of this jigsaw is around the complaint system and yesterday we launched a formal consultation on changes to our complaint system. We want to resolve complaints more quickly. We want to improve dialogue between ourselves and the providers who are unhappy about their inspection and wants to make a complaint. We want to reduce the burden on those making a complaint in terms of the admin and increase that transparency and if you go to our website, you can see those consultation proposals in much more detail. And you can have your say. I'm told that just 24 hours after we launched that consultation, we've already had 100 responses. So people obviously keen to have their say on that which is absolutely fantastic. And we've given a bit more information for schools about the broad timing of their next inspection. So the COVID Pause and outstanding exemption has made it harder I think for some schools to predict when their inspection might be and therefore upped the anxiety in some quarters. So we've published a blog and again, you can find that on our website to get a bit more information about when your school might be inspected. And we'll still be inspecting schools with a day's notice because we think that's really important, as well. And then finally, a couple of small changes to report that we're making. We're going to be really clear that when we send a draft report to a head teacher, they are able to share that with colleagues or others share their inspection, outcome with whoever they think appropriate, albeit being aware that those judgments are provisional until the report is finalised. And then from September inspection reports when discussing areas of weakness in a school, they will refer to the school by default rather than individuals in that school and their contextual information at the end of their reports will also be amended to list all those routes with responsibility for the school. We know that it takes a whole group of people to run a school or any other provider and this is not about passing judgement on on individuals. So that's a quick run through of all the changes we've announced.
Anna Trethewey Thank you. Very helpful and good to see it in the round. Quick question. I'm going to go right back to the start of that announcement and just talk a little bit about safeguarding. I mean, I've been a DSL before, designated safeguarding lead, I'm always gonna think about how important it is but Shall we just talk a little bit about part of the reason that we do have such a strong emphasis on safeguarding? It feels important.
Chris Jones Yeah, of course, it is hugely important. From your experience, how, how important it is, and this is in no way kind of watering down our standards on safeguarding. Inspectors inspect against the DFEs guidance 'Keeping children safe in education'. That's the large document, very detailed, lots of requirements for schools in there and of course, that's therefore what inspectors will be looking to see that schools understand and are enacting properly and our standards on that are not are not wavering. I think what we're we're recognising is that safeguarding is one of those areas perhaps unlike other area's inspection frameworks where if there are deficiencies, those can potentially be rectified quite quite quickly. And so in the small number of cases, as I say where that is the only area of of weakness we will be we will be returning to those schools sooner. I think it's also worth saying that inspectors don't give ineffective safeguarding judgments lightly. It's not just a matter of kind of missing a couple of words out off a list or not completing paperwork properly, where ineffective safeguarding is given as a judgement that is taken very seriously. And there's lots of quality assurance kind of around that in the Ofsted process.
Anna Trethewey I think it's important to note, isn't it that we always looked at updating into our practice, and this is one area where just clarifying in our handbooks, and this happening across the room is actually the way the reminder improvements that needs to be made. And absolutely like you say it might be a bit of a gap in the single central record or it might be small things that don't add up to a concerning picture, as long as we can see that they're easily rectifiable. Ideally, by the end of inspection, then actually that school can still be effective in terms of safeguarding it's not going to be looking to catch people out. It's much more about where there's ineffective safeguarding. It generally indicates there's a much more systemic cultural problem widespread or serious failures and, and thinking about OK, where can we go back and people are able to do what they need to give them essentially given another chance to get that right. That feels like the right place to land. We've always been able to do that in terms of monitoring inspections, but just just bringing them slightly closer feels right. It's probably helpful to note that we're going to do a bit more sector engagement on this one. So we've got, for example, webinars that are coming up and a blog that be coming out in September, but we'll make sure that any updates to handbooks happen before the summer break so that people have time to look at that. So just in terms of parents, we often talk about their role in the system and it's right that there are our primary audience really alongside government and how they use our work for intervention. Is it worth just emphasising that point there Chris?
Chris Jones I think it's worth saying that. A lot of people would have preferred Ofsted to go further in the announcements that we've we've made just yesterday, and one of the areas in which people would like us to go further is the what's been described as the one word grading system. So I think it's worth just talking a bit about that and reflecting on some of the some of the challenges there and the pros and cons. I think, first of all, we do engage with parents and we do survey parents and it's clear that parents do find that the grading system useful it's by no means the only thing that they use to make up their mind about either which school to send their children to or about the quality of the school that they're currently sending their children to, clearly they also use exam results, they also use word of mouth and other parents opinions and of course people visit schools and decide for themselves and that's and that's only right. But parents do find that the grade that Ofsted gives their school to be a useful source of source of information and it's it's clear and simple. You mentioned government that is the other audience for our work of course and it's an integral part of the system that the government uses to regulate the school system is having these clear simple grades. People often think understandably because it's complicated, but often misunderstand the role of Ofsted and the Department for Education . The DFE is the schools regulator. So they decide which schools need support, which schools need intervention whether that's in the form of becoming an academy or re brokering to another Academy trust or various other aspects. Also deciding which schools can become teaching schools and so on. And all of that rests on the Ofsted grade that schools have. DFE have it written into their principles of how they regulate that they will only take action on the basis of an Ofsted grade because that gives us a rounded view of of how a school is performing. So, that is that is baked into the system of how the government regulates schools and therefore, any changes to the grading system are not something that Ofsted can just decide to do. It would have to be a a more well thought through, a more considered considered properly with government. And it's worth saying that lots of other inspectorates use the system as well. The health inspectorate, the prison inspectorate and so on. They use a similar if not exactly the same grading system. It is a complicated thing to consider. And there are lots of pros and cons and lots of audiences that inspection and the grades serve and I think Amanda has been really clear that any any reconsideration of the grading structure would have to take all those things into account.
Anna Trethewey Thank you, Chris. And I think the last thing we want to do is rush to a solution that might have unintended consequences around it itself. That wouldn't necessarily be great at a system level and considering the amount of change it would bring. Just something I know that causes anxiety in the system is the sense that you get caught out for safeguarding and then that's that you're pushed to become an academy or rebrokered. I'm right in thinking aren't I that Department for Education are whilst they would still issue an academy order where a school has been found inadequate for schools where there's it's only on safeguarding and we're going to do monitoring visit within three months of that inspection report being published, they will pause on the kind of moving forward with that until we've done on our visit.
Chris Jones Yeah, that's right. So the Department for Education have said that in the instances that we're talking about where it is safeguarding that is the issue, and we reinspect, the school has has sorted those issues and it is now it's now good school the Secretary of State can decide to revoke any Academy order applying to the school or withdraw any warning notice issued to an academy and they will not in the meantime take any decision about about whether to intervene in that in that school or not. So I think that's that's welcome clarification from from the government that they will they wouldn't, they will not take any action in those small number of cases every year. Until that that second inspection has happened.
Anna Trethewey And it is emphasising, they really are very small numbers. We've talked mostly about schools and in this podcast as is right, because that's where most of the focus and attention has been. It's just worth giving a nod to some of our other remits, you know further education and skills early years where we've considered they're not going to line up in exactly the same way and not all of these apply, but certainly for things around the complaints procedure, welcoming people from across our sectors that we inspect in education to come forward and bring their ideas and thoughts about that process. As lovely as it's been to get the gang back together for you and I to have this podcast, you're actually off soon. Am I right thinking so we have to say bye-bye soon?
Chris Jones Having been at Ofsted five years I leave with a very heavy heart and have met lots of inspirational people, including yourself Anna!
Anna Trethewey Ahhh and Chris, thanks again for all your time and hard work at Ofsted massively invaluable. Thanks ever so much, Chris. Let's leave that there for now. There'll be more on this and the range of other work that we do Ofsted to follow after this podcast. Thanks.
Thursday Mar 02, 2023
Thursday Mar 02, 2023
Thursday Mar 02, 2023
We were lucky enough to be able to welcome guests from the world of art education to the Victoria and Albert museum to launch our Art and Design Research Review. Here are some of the discussions and questions and answers about the review.
Tristram Hunt: Morning. Good morning everyone. My name is Tristram Hunt, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and it's such a pleasure to welcome you all today for the launch of the art and design research review. The V&A is very proud to support Ofsted’s important work not only because of Amanda is a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but we're committed to encouraging and renewing creative practice in our classroom.
We wholeheartedly support the education inspection framework which commits to a full and engaging curriculum. I would just like to introduce you very briefly to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's greatest museum of art, design, and performance. For over 170 years the V&A has stressed the importance of the creative impulse in all of us. At the foundation of our mission is Henry Cole, our first director, was to be an impressive schoolroom for everyone, like a book whose pages were always open. He also called us a refuge for destitute collections. Behind the Victoria and Albert Museum was the Mechanics Institute movement of the 1830s and the system of design schools that emerged in the mid-19th century.
The South Kensington museum as we were initially was the hub of this design school movement, training teachers, reforming curriculums and lending the collections across the country. So a bel in the democracy of knowledge, and the belief in the teaching of design and sharing our collections for design teaching has always been an essential part of our mission.
One of the interesting histories of the V&A is that whether it was the gaslighting we had in the gallery, so working people could come here after work, whether it was a cafe and restaurant so it was an enjoyable place to come, whether it was labels next to the objects so you didn't have to buy a catalogue. All of this belief in the democratising of knowledge was absolutely essential to the mission of the V&A. Today museum learning is embedded across our sites, activating the V&A’s collection as a source but we love this idea of us being this, this treasury of art and science to encourage creativity and innovation today. 40% of our visitors describe themselves as from the creative industries, but we also know that our mission has to extend beyond South Kensington.
We're very concerned, as I know Ofsted is, about the fall in the number of young people taking design and technology. So we've created two programmes focused on key stage three and Key Stage Four to encourage the take up of art and design and design and technology, ‘Design lab nation’ our secondary schools programme focuses on key stage four saw 441 students and 87 teachers taking part from 21 schools across six regions in the UK. And what we do there is we share our collections. We work with local museums, we work with local schools, and then we have a programme called VNA innovate, which is our national Schools Challenge, where we offer free and accessible online resources to every state funded secondary school in England and that's becoming a really important part of our connection with design and technology teachers across the country. So my message is very simple this morning, that the V&A is here as your partner at Ofsted, and we're here to help in whatever capacity we can. Thank you for being here at the V&A. Amanda.
Amanda Spielman: Good morning. And it is hard to imagine a better place in the V&A to be talking about art and design education and a big thank you to Tristram for allowing us to be here.
And since all of you have chosen to be here, I'm quite sure that you already share my belief in the extraordinary enriching power of this strand of education. You don't need me to rehearse all the excellent reasons why children should study art. I suspect most of you could talk about it quite happily all day and beyond. More than 40 years on, I can still remember three paintings that did the most to open my eyes and mind in my childhood. The first was some by Salvador Dali, Christ of St. John of the Cross viewed from above. That's in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, which is where I grew up. The second was Fellini, the Venetian Doge, Leonardo Loretta in the National Gallery.
And the third was a riverside seen by Corot with his astonishing skill in conveying light. Each of these has influenced what I've learned since. A teacher blogger who publishes as Solomon Kingsnorth illustrates the enriching power of knowledge of art as well as practical skills rather well. Forgive me for quoting him at length. Person A and person B are standing outside Rouen cathedral, looking up at the spire. A series of thoughts and impressions pop up in each one's respective consciousness, like paints on a canvas.
Person A: big church. Nice. Looks like some others I've seen. Not paying to go in. What time's lunch? Person B: looks Gothic, different to the baroque cathedrals I’ve seen. I can see and feel what moved Monet to paint it so many times. My mind's conjuring up impressions of those images now which seem to be intermingling with the cathedral itself. The ground beneath my feet has an ancient significance. There was a church on this site before the cathedral was built. It perished in the Viking raids, and apparently some of the windows are still decorated with stained glass from the 13th century. Famous for a special cobalt blue colour - is that it there?
We are metres away from a tomb containing the heart of Richard the Lionheart. My own heart is racing. I'm going in!
As Kingsnorth puts it, if you’re person B, you have a private tour guide to the universe living in your brain, ready to seconds notice to give you a plethora of information which will enrich your experience of everyday life. And yet, it's so easy for art to be seen as something of an afterthought. But of course, it rightly has its place in the national curriculum for all children up to age 14, and for many beyond that, and that is as it should be.
As the national curriculum document says, Art Craft and Design embody some of the highest forms of human creativity. High quality art and design education should engage, inspire and challenge equipping people with the knowledge and skills to experiment, invent and create their own works of people's progress. They should be able to think critically and develop a more rigorous understanding of Art and Design. And they should also know how art and design both reflect and shape our history and contribute to the culture the creativity and wealth of our nation.
These aims are ambitious, especially in the context of the increasingly limited amount of time that most schools are allocating to art, but they are important nonetheless. And the specified subject content is tantalisingly brief, less than half a page for each of key stages one, two and three.
Viewed one way, this leaves a satisfying amount of freedom for schools to shape their curriculum and teaching. But it can also make life harder, especially for primary schools, which most mostly won't have a specialist art teacher.
In my time as Chief Inspector, I've placed great importance on curriculum. This reflects an understanding of the true value of breadth of curriculum and also a recognition that the content and processes of education are valuable in themselves, not just a means to a graded outcome.
In this context, a series of research reviews is serving two purposes. They provide a clear and grounded platform for our conception of quality. We use this for the inspection judgments that we must make. But the reviews also help schools by laying out the factors that can contribute to high quality and authentic education.
The reviews are rigorous but clear. They've proved to be extremely popular with schools in that they've been downloaded hundreds of 1000s of times. In the context of Art and Design, this review explores the practical knowledge such as how to draw paint or sculpt and it also discusses the theoretical knowledge such as the history of art and it includes the disciplinary knowledge, the big questions - what is art? How do we judge and value it? Setting art alongside other subjects in this series shows how we are recognising its value and makes it clear that art doesn't sit beneath or apart from the rest of the curriculum. And it has other benefits too. We've heard from schools, how the coherence of the series is helping with wider curriculum thinking and planning, illuminating the parallels and linkages between subjects as well as the fundamental differences.
Of course, there are practical constraints. We know how hard-pressed schools are, and that there's less taught time for art and design. But I do take heart from the fact that exam entries have held more or less steady through all the changes of the past 20 years, showing that young people's willingness and interest is not eroding. They want to grow and flex their creativity. They want to need the richness and excitement and satisfaction that art and design bring.
The subject is also fortunate in having the wonderful work that comes from the wealth of subject associations and artistic institutions who do so much working with young people directly and also working with teachers to help them strengthen curriculum and teaching.
And I'll finish by reminding people what I've said in the past about the purposes of education. Of course, education must prepare young people for work, but it must also broaden their minds and their horizons. It should help them to enjoy our culture and to use their creativity to add to it. It should help them hold a conversation, not just a job. And ultimately, it should help them to contribute to the advancement of civilization, not just economic development.
Thank you and now I'm going to hand over to Heather Fern who is senior His Majesty's inspector who is our curriculum unit.
Heather Fearn: We have a proud tradition of publishing thematic reports in Ofsted and one thing that our chief inspector has done since her arrival and with the implementation of our new education inspection framework, is that emphasis on the breadth of curriculum across subjects and prioritising thematic work, which explores the breadth of that curriculum, because of course we have a great range of insights that we gain from the work that we do, and that we can share. We want to ensure that our inspectors when they go into schools, that what they understand by high quality art education is shared between inspectors so that each school gets the same experience and the school is understood the same way whichever inspector it is that visits.
It's also really important that what it is that inspectors are thinking about a high-quality education across subjects, and in this case, in art, but that's the best possible conception of what is a quality education. And that brings us to our research review series. And the purpose of that research review series is to reflect on what is a high-quality art education. And we can do that by thinking about what's really important to us about art. And publishing and having a launch for it, is that we want to be very clear about the importance of the range of subjects and Amanda has made that point already in talking about the breadth. It could be that we could have a very narrow way of thinking about a quality education across Maths, English - gaining qualifications in core subjects, but actually an education should be so much more. Whenever we learn something new, we can only make sense of it using what we already know. And that has a really important curriculum implication at a granular level, because that means every time you want pupils to learn something new, they need to have what they need prior to make sense of that.
So the curriculum is vitally important, because we need pupils that are going to gradually make progression towards the kind of expertise that we would like for them. In the case of art appreciation that we talked about, but also the capacity to create in a range of artistic forms. And so that now takes us to the point where I can hand it over to Adam, who is our art subject lead, is going to talk a little bit more about the report.
Adam Vincent: Art is a rich and varied set of practices central to human civilization. Its purposes, materials and methods are always evolving. It's closely related to design and craft and graphics, typography, textiles and ceramics and the boundaries between these have changed over time. But just as Art Craft and Design are wide ranging so too are the ideas, perspectives and approaches to art education.
The education inspection framework, states that a high-quality education includes an ambitious curriculum that gives pupils the not the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.
It has been reported that there's been a decline in both the quality and quantity of art in primary schools. This may be due to a decline in funding schools focusing more on core subjects and primary teachers lack of skills, training and experience to teach high quality art curriculum. Teachers need the tools to be able to do this important job.
Despite these challenges, at key stages four and five pupils have the opportunity to study art and experimenting. The creative industries in the UK make a significant contribution of 115.9 billion pounds in 2019 alone, and many roles in industries require qualification and a subject related to art and design. And often art is the only subject of its type studied in school. By studying art, we give pupils the skills that can be developed to become not only artists but also designers and engineers, creators and to develop their imaginations to express themselves in a variety of visual forms.
Art education allows pupils to understand, appreciate and contribute to human innovation, imagination and thoughts. That high-quality art education can help pupils to appreciate and interpret art, communicate their thoughts and feelings or create artworks themselves. High quality art directors will give pupils examples of diversity in art in from different areas of making, including Art Craft and Design but produced around the world.
I am reminded of a quote from William Morris. ‘I do not want art for a few any more than I want education for a few or freedom for a few’.
Chris Jones: Good morning everyone. My name is Chris Jones. I'm Ofsted’s Director of Strategy and engagement. Thank you all for coming onto our panel. We have Amanda Spielman, His Majesty's Chief Inspector, Dr. Richard Kueh, Richard is Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Research and Evaluation. And you've just heard from Adam Vincent who is also one of His Majesty's inspectors. And finally Heather Fearn is a senior His Majesty's inspector, she leads Ofsted’s curriculum unit as you've just been hearing. Great panel.
Why does Ofsted continue to have a focus on the breadth of curriculum, particularly when we know post pandemic post lockdown? There is there is such an emphasis in schools on getting children back up to speed on English and maths on the core, the core job, what do you think is so important about the breadth depth curriculum, including art and design?
Amanda Spielman: Everything that we know about children's pandemic experience has shown us how much they've lost, not just in terms of progress in the sort of core academic subjects of English and maths, but also in their social development, in development of language, forms of communication, and the loss of all the richness that comes from the wider curriculum, from extracurricular activities, from all the other activities that many children take part in outside school. That sort of loss for many of the wider cultural activities, things that enable them to practice develop creative skills of all kinds. Yes, a few children are wonderfully self-motivated and use the opportunity but for many, that wasn't possible, re-establishing that and all the satisfaction that comes from it's, is actually a way of reinforcing the job schools have in the English, maths, maths, science, those other parts of the curriculum. I think everything we know suggests that they are in fact, mutually reinforcing. The challenge post pandemic for schools has been to how to how to use that more limited time that many children are having in education, how to how to maximise the value they get from it, not just try to skate across the top of everything that they would otherwise have done, but to say, what are the right choices? What are the trade offs? What are the things that we absolutely must protect? What are the things that if we have to choose the less important than the simplistic choice of dump everything on the creative side would be such a bad one for children?
Richard Kueh: What I think this review helps with is how to make the tough choices that I think many people have been faced with over the last couple of years and are continuing to be faced with.
Richard Kueh: f we think about pupils at the earliest stages of reading, for example, they need broad background knowledge to be able to inform the words that they read, once able to decode they need that broad background knowledge, concepts that are furnished in their minds from history concepts like Empire, or civilization, or from art, tone - to give meaning to the words that they're reading. And that's not just at the earliest stages of some of these core subjects. But if we think about a focus on GCSE English literature, for example, my own background subject is religious education. And if we think about some of the texts that pupils study, Macbeth, or Jekyll and Hyde. Some of the rich imagery that we see in those in those texts can only really be explained if you've got broad background knowledge of concepts of Sin, redemption, atonement. Many of these come from other subjects in the curriculum as well.
Chris Jones: Adam, you said you were a primary school teacher, you recognise the challenges that there are in primary schools and in teaching art also other subjects without a subject specialism. Tell us a bit more about how the schools you've worked in have handled that pressure?
Adam Vincent: Primary schools in particular, are rarely subject specialist particularly for subjects like art. They do need to be very creative. They need to think about how to work with organisations such as the National Association of Art Education, they need to think about how to work with other groups such as Access Art, who I believe her here as well, but also tapping into that wealth of knowledge that is available to them from places like the V&A and the Tate, but also from local galleries and museums that will be close to them and will offer something that reflects their local community. It's really important that time is given, often, particularly for younger children. The adults take time to think about what it is that is being taught that it's not just piecemeal, that it's not a scattergun approach that adults have considered what the curriculum is and how it can be broken down.
Hi, I'm Sarah Bull, I'm Senior Content Editor at The Key. What is a school leader is meant to do with this report? How can they implement your findings practically quickly, efficiently? Really, what could be somebody's first port of call, first next step?
Amanda Spielman: Leaders need to give time to the subjects. And I think every subject’s review has said time needs to be given consideration that within their staff team, and that sufficient training and support for those members of staff so that they have those tools to be able to teach that subject well. And that the subject is thought of as though what are those endpoints? How are they going to be broken down for those pupils so that they learn sufficient skills and knowledge.
I will add to that, what our research can do, it's actually school we give schools an immense amount of freedom to choose that that art and design national curriculum, that has a tremendous amount of space, and a lot of choices that must be made. The reviews help to simplify those choices.
Adam Vincent: Very careful not to say ‘this is a curriculum’ that ‘this is what you must do in order to reach an Ofsted judgement’. But these are some examples of where we've seen good practice. These are some examples of what we might expect to be seeing.
Michelle Gregson from the National Society for Education in Art and Design. It was really great to hear Adam recognise that there's so much debate in the community and a multiplicity of approaches. And also great to hear Amanda recognise the strength, the tenacity of the subject that appeals to young people. We have concerns about however, a kind of creeping orthodoxy that teachers tell us is driven by fear of risk and a desire to achieve results in high stakes assessment by just using tried and tested formulas. We think that's quite a big risk to a creative subject. How does the review give support and guidance for anyone who wants to avoid orthodoxy?
Richard Kueh: The assessment tail shouldn't wag the curriculum dog. The substance of what people study in the subject should be authentic in an assessment context as well. We also talk within the review that two key terms, which we hope that if theorisation around this might actually be a useful shared language for art subject leaders, art practitioners, where we talk about the importance of convergent and divergent end goals of aspects of the art curriculum, that at some points of the curriculum, it's entirely appropriate that pupils work towards a similar shared goal, where they're practising particular techniques or forms of expression, for example, where they're learning the nuts and bolts, but also that there are determined points within the curriculum where the end goals are necessarily divergent, that we would expect pupils as part of that subject to be able to produce or understand or discuss art in in very rich and diverse ways. So I think those two aspects I hope will chime in with your sense of what you're saying.
Adam you’ve spoken already about how schools can access museums, what can museums do to help?
Adam Vincent: I think museums do need to think about what are the biggest levers they can pull? So if they are working with one small group of children, yes, that's wonderful and important. But actually, they work with the adults who work with those children, they can have so much more of an impact so much more of an effect. And by supporting and giving those teachers those skills and knowledge then they can have that impact on supporting pupils to improve their artistic knowledge and ability.
One small reflection as well, which is that in as much as we hope that school leaders and school practitioners might wish to engage with our research review, it will be wonderful as well if those in the museum area would also be interested about it to learn what might constitute high quality curriculums in schools and therefore, they can see their place within that for that bigger picture, thinking through the forms of knowledge that Adam was talking about before - practical, theoretical and disciplinary where they have using art, who don't know about it, who've got a maths degree and a physics degree, find the connections, find the ways to, to use that.
I think we're really passionate about how teaching and teachers and hooking into that and giving confidence can really help deliver then whether it's oracy, whether it's resilience, whether it's all the life skills, rather than content that you're looking for in outstanding schools.
I'm the Head of Education here at the V&A museum. And I also just wanted to echo a lot of the things that are saying about the rules of museums when we do this. One of the things that we've also been really pushing hard is leveraging our work with the creative industries to show real world examples of what one can do with creative education and not necessarily just careers in Art Design, Design and Technology, which are incredibly important, but also recognising how creativity is used across the field in all industries and it's all necessary. For example, last year, we had a live webinar with the physics team at CERN and I will always love this quote, of one of the lead physicists said ‘I have the most creative job in the world. I'm a physicist’. And they said, you know, this person was saying that she works in theoretical applications of this, she needs to be able to think creatively and she spoke very highly about how her art education is so important for her role in physics. And I think that's one of the roles that we need to take in museums and also in other kinds of creative applications of this, of how can we best leverage that link and show real world examples, not just to the students so they can you know, you can't be what you can't see, but also recognising to educators of why creativity is important.
Chris Jones: I will wrap up and say thank you very much to our panel. Just by way of closing we've been talking today about the art and design research review. We've also mentioned the first of our subject reports that has been published recently, in science. We will be publishing more subject reports over the next year and more. They will focus on the evidence gathered by inspectors about the quality of subjects education in schools as it stands today and we hope that this work continues to help subject leaders to provide high quality subjects education. I'll just run through some of the examples that we're going to be publishing over the next academic year so following this research review there'll be a subject report on art and design we will be talking about computing, English, geography, history, languages, maths, music, PE, RE and science and personal development including citizenship.
Monday Feb 20, 2023
Monday Feb 20, 2023
Monday Feb 20, 2023
We spoke to Charlie Taylor, His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Femi from the Prison Reform Trust and Tracy from Keyring about why the state of education in prisons is so bad - and some ideas for what could be done to improve things.
Chris Jones Hi everybody and welcome to this episode of Ofsted Talks the Ofsted podcast. My name's Chris Jones. I'm Ofsted's Director of Strategy and engagement and I've got with me, Shreena Kotecha, Ofsted's Head of Strategy. Hi, Shreena. We've got some great guests today to talk about education in prisons. This is something that Ofsted have had a focus on over the last year or so, you might have heard a previous podcast we've done on on this subject and we've also written various reports on the state of education in prisons, and it's a subject we keep coming back to because of how important it is. We've got some great guests as I say, I'll get them to introduce themselves. We've got first of all, Charlie Taylor, Charlie give us a bit about you.
Charlie Taylor Hi, I'm Charlie Taylor. I am Chief Inspector of Prisons been in place since November 2020.
Chris Jones Excellent. Thank you, Charlie. And from Ofsted Paul Joyce.
Paul Joyce Thanks, Chris Paul Joyce Ofsted, Deputy Director for further education skills where we inspect prisons as part of our remit.
Chris Jones Thank you, Paul. Welcome. We've got Femi Laryea-Adekimi from the prison reform trust.
Femi Laryea-AdekimiAnd I work on the prisoner engagement team.
Chris Jones Tracy from KeyRing.
Tracy Hammond Hello. Yes, I'm Tracy Hammond from key ring. I'm Research and Innovation director. And as part of my work, I support people with lived experience of the criminal justice system and neuro divergence.
Chris Jones Excellent. Thank you. So I think to get us started, Charlie, if you don't mind if we could say the wide view of the prison system at the moment, what what are the challenges facing the prison system? Where is it as a whole? And what's the what's the current kind of place of education in that if you don't mind?
Charlie TaylorWe've been on a number of inspections recently where our biggest concern has been the amount of time that prisoners are spending out of their cells. And as a result of that, the amount of time that they're actually getting to educational training workshops. And what we're finding particularly is it's as if COVID is still going on in many of our prisons, whereby for whatever reason, whether it's to do with difficulties with staffing, whether it's to do with the inexperience of staffing, relationships with trade unions, or I think the ambition of governors, but nevertheless, we are still finding prisoners a lot behind their door for far longer than we found. Before the pandemic, and that's affecting their progress in terms of the skills they need to be successful when they come out. So that's really our biggest concern. Actually, things like safety and prisons and some of the levels of violence that we've seen, particularly in the sort of 2015 to 2019, really dark days when the spice epidemic was happening. Actually, things have got a little bit better, drugs are being kept out of prisons more effectively than they were. And as a result of that, we're seeing that there's less prisoners getting into debt, and there are less of those sorts of issues and related violence. So prisons a little bit safer than they've been in the past are very concerned about what prisoners are actually doing with their time.
Chris Jones So how long are prisoners typically spending in their cells, then, how does that compare to what what should be the case?
Charlie TaylorWell, I'll give you a case in point of a prison that I inspected yesterday. Where prisoners were getting out of their cells for just one and a half hours a day. That was in a local prison where before when we inspected it, I think they were getting out for around seven hours a day on average. That was a reception prison. But we also see this in Category C prisoners where prisoners can often be spending substantial periods of their lives there, 2,3,4,5 years. And in those jails, where we would see workshops full of prisoners, going out from their wings going off to work or to education. We're seeing that much more restricted. Sometimes it's a regime that means they're only unlocked to go off the wing in the mornings or the afternoons. They call that a split regime. Sometimes it's people not getting off the wings at all in some places.
Chris Jones And you said this is a bit of a kind of a COVID Hangover,
Charlie Taylor that drive towards getting the prisoners back to where they were just simply hasn't happened in lots of places. But just one example of the progress that can be made. I was in a jail last week where a really ambitious governor has decided he's going to open up his category C prison. There were 600 prisoners moving safely around the jail. The prison's levels of violence hadn't gone up in any significant way, and it was still a safer jail than most in that category. And this was a prison that actually suffered from some severe staffing shortages as well. So it just shows with the right level of ambition from leaders and a real determination to get things going. Even in prisons that are struggling with staffing numbers, they can produce a much more effective regime,
Chris Jones A really important example that thanks and we'll come on to education. So Charlie, what's your what's your take on why education in prisons is so important? Why have you taken such an interest in it?
Charlie TaylorWell, I was a former special school teacher. So this has always been an area of particular interest for me. And the way I see prisoners is to some extent, the way we used to see pupil's at my school, which was that they were like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle, with parts missing and the parts that were missing were the bits that were stopping them from making progress in a way that we might expect. So the parts missing might be difficulties with mental health. They might be difficulties with reading, it might be neuro divergence, and the responsibility of both my school but also a prison is to find those pieces and to fit them into the jigsaw. So that when someone leaves custody, they're more likely to be successful when they come out. That means if someone can't read when they come in, they need support with reading. If they want to go on and do a degree they need support with doing a degree. If they want to do a level two qualification they want to get some GCSE, yes, they should get support with that. But if those building blocks aren't in place, then the danger is people leave prison. They don't have any of the skills that they need in order to get jobs to rejoin society successfully, and they lapse back into reoffending. Again, the bottom line is, is that criminal gangs, criminal fraternities don't require you to have qualifications in order to join them, but for work that is required. So we need people who are more capable, more competent, and more confident, in able in order to be able to take their place in society when they come out.
Chris Jones I'm seeing lots of nods from from the rest of our guests. I'm sure we'll pick up some of those themes in in a few minutes. Paul, I've come to you for Ofsted's view Charlie's really eloquently explained why education in prisons is so important. So you'd hope wouldn't you that education in prisons was being done brilliantly. That's something Ofsted inspectors tell us what we find.
Paul Joyce You certainly hope that was the case Chris and I was certainly nodding along with Charlie there. We inspect alongside HMIP colleagues. I recognise fully you know all of what Charlie said there sadly Chris. What we find many classrooms many workshops are empty, when they should be full because of the regime issues. There are not enough prisoners that attend education or meaningful work for long enough. And Chris, I think the key point for me and Charlie's just mentioned it, it's the it's the parts of the jigsaw. Often, with not identifying the right parts of the jigsaw or offering the right parts of the jigsaw, or indeed delivering the right parts of the jigsaw to make that journey for prisoners complete to rehabilitate or prepare them for release. Prisons do not equip prisoners that can't read or can't read well. They don't do enough to improve that. And as Charlie said, it's a building block. And it's an essential building block that that needs to be in place that sadly Chris just isn't there.
Charlie Taylor But I think there are there are some sort of common themes that we see with with prisoners. These are often people who have who have spent quite long periods of time out of education for whatever reason, we know there are high levels of exclusion from school, but also, often prisoners have had very disruptive childhoods as well. So they may have been moved between different family members. They may many have been have experienced the care system as well. So often, often what we find is that they simply haven't spent the days the hours in education in the past or they've had a very, a very patchy education career. So that often means that there are gaps that just hadn't been filled, because there are also some incredibly able and competent people who find themselves in prison as well. And what we have to make sure is that there isn't a one size fits all education provision, but actually, there is provision in place for people who really want to go on and make progress.
And I'll just give one example if I may, I came across a young guy, really ambitious, young guy who ended up in prison was caught up in some gang activity. And he took a GCSE when he was in a young offenders institution and he got an A grade in maths GCSE and he was pretty pleased about that. So he turned around to the to the education provider and said, Could I now go on and do maths a level please? And they said, Well, we I'm not going to teach you that but you can do the GCSE again if you'd like.
What we we find sadly, is the curriculum offer in individual prisons is often not tailored sufficiently well for the population that prison serves. And I think that's the key. I remember we were in the presence of their colleagues came back and they said, well, it's all very well they're offering all these courses, but the courses are one year long courses and the average prisoners spent six weeks in this jail. So the completion rate of courses is always zero. That's not untypical from from what we hear from our state colleagues when we when we go into inspections.
Chris Jones It's a really good example there and some really good lessons to learn. Tracy, I think we were hoping that you had the answers. Tell us what you think we should do.
Tracy Hammond I can offer some suggestions. I think, from our point of view, we're still seeing people leaving prison without things like functional literacy. So the comprehension even if they can. And also about life skills and social skills that they need to succeed in the community. So I think for me, when I look at people we support in particular, what do they need to succeed and therefore what does need to be taught? I suspect it's things like what it's like to really manage a tenancy, how to budget, running a home with all that entails things like looking after yourself cooking, food, hygiene, reading and understanding and responding to letters, things like social skills. I think also something that's really noteworthy is that a lot of people we speak to, particularly if they've come through special educational route, tend not to have had good access to a clear sex education and things like you know what a good relationship looks like. So I think for me, it's something that's really person centred, quite holistic, really well communicated, but also something that gives people a vision. A lot of people who come into our support often come in without much idea of what their life could be. And therefore, if you can't see the future, I think you're much more likely to reoffend if you can see a really good future for yourself and you can map how to get there. I think you're much more likely not to reoffend.
Chris Jones Brilliant. Thank you, Tracy. And Femi, do you have anything you'd like to add on on that general topic of how we can be better?
Femi Laryea-AdekimiThere does need to be much more concerted focus on prison education and the delivery of it. For people who are in prison, I've been in prison. Not really knowing what's available to be undertaking in education is an immediate obstacle to getting into education. inductions need to be far better. And what's offered on the inductions also needs to be encouraged
Chris JonesTell me, could you tell me a bit about what prison reform trust does to it doesn't necessarily in particular,
Femi Laryea-Adekimium, yeah, so in general, the prison reform trust as a policy and reform organisation, we lobby, those in power, those who've got decision making powers to improve conditions within the prison within prisons across the country. We often do this in the form of reports, research, consultations, and that includes with prisoners themselves, as well as experts in different areas. So we're constantly working to improve their prison system, because we working to influence ministers and the prison service to improve conditions of entrances. And that does include in there of education.
Chris Jones Tracy, can you tell us a bit about KeyRing and what the organisation does in the round and specifically what the education focus is,
Key Ring supports round about 1500 people each year to live independently in the community. So we recognised round about 2006 that people who had been through the criminal justice system tended to do quite well in our services. So we started to think about why that might be. And we concluded that it was mainly due to our outwards looking Community Connections approach. So a lot of the things that we do when we're supporting people are not only about maintaining tenancy and making a bit of a step change to their ability to live independently, but also about connecting with the community. And for us, that's part of that jigsaw part of that social skills, part of enabling people to think about their gifts and talents and how they might share those. So in terms of education, we would take a really broad approach. We're not an organisation that provides education, but what we do is we support people to find their own solutions.
Chris Jones Great. So what some one of the one of the issues we heard from Charlie in particular was was simply about the amount of time available for for education. You know, it's pretty obvious point, isn't it? That if the, if the time is not available for education doesn't matter how brilliant the offer is it simply can't be can't be achieved. For me from the prison reform trust point of view, you know, what, what are we collectively doing to try and increase the amount of time that's available for people outside of their cells and to do education?
Femi Laryea-Adekimi We definitely believe that time out of the cell is vitally important to the ends of rehabilitation. We have actually carried out some research on this we will get this in conjunction with Ministry of Justice and atpps talking to prisoners directly about the future regime, regime after Coronavirus and lockdown. And we had amazing feedback from prisoners, where they they spoke about some of the skills that have been mentioned already things like being able to prepare food for themselves, being able to interact with each other like a community, something that replicates what happens in the community. They also spoke about the difficulties of being in their cells for such extended periods of time, how it affected them, how it affected them mentally affected this interpersonal skills, and in an adverse all of this in an adverse way. And of course, they just couldn't get out to go through education. And if you can't get to an education course, how can it benefit you? They were being given in cell packs. But these were often too simple or not as engaging as being in a classroom. And so the prisoners themselves just said, you know, eventually, even if I was interested in the course, I just wasn't involved in these packs. I wasn't doing them I wasn't performing them.
Chris Jones Charlie, I'll come back to you then you've said we need more time ourselves and more time spent on education is clear that the prisoners one more time spent on education. It's clear what the benefits are, what what's holding us back?
Charlie Taylor There are a couple of issues. I think in some parts of the country. There are some really dire staffing situation. So particularly in the South East of England, so for example, prisons like Swaleside on the isle of Sheppey, Woodhill on the M1 corridor, there are some prisons that are really struggling with their staffing numbers and we recognise that and also with retention as well where, where the employment market still remains fairly buoyant. But what this really comes down to is a real ambition and a real drive from prison leaders and the prison service itself to say, look, we got to do more for prisoners. We have a responsibility, not only to keep prisoners safe, we also have a public protection and responsibility and if we want to fulfil that public perception responsibility, then we have to give people the support they need, so that when they come out from prison, they're more likely to be able to get a job, take care of their families.
I was really struck by a point that that Tracy made which, this isn't just about learning to read. Of course, that's incredibly important for doing GCSEs. It's also about learning the habits of work as well. The habits of of existing outside, getting up in the morning going to work every day, staying at work for the whole day, rather than what we often see within prisons where there are a lot for a couple of hours in the morning, and maybe they get to work for a couple of hours in the afternoon as well. No one works a four hour day. And so we need to replicate as closely as possible for conditions that we see on the outside in order that prisons, prisoners really get into that habit. And that sense of experience of what it's like to be involved in work. Because when people come out from prison, that critical few weeks, when potentially things can go can go wrong, where they can come out with lots of good intention and can slip up for whatever reason to have something in the tank when they come out to have a job ready for them when they're able to when they come out so that they can hit the ground running is just critically important. Because if you lose prisoners in those first few weeks, then unfortunately all too often you find them back on the wing in in in prison again. Just just to add one other thing. I think this staffing situation is also affecting education providers as well. So they're struggling to find really good staff. And there is a bit of a vicious cycle here happening too because if you're if you're a fizzy artistic teacher, and you're going to get a job in a prison, and then you never know which prisoners are going to turn up you never know if the ratio is going to get cancelled. If there's going to be a lockdown that week or or for whatever reason, you don't get the people you're expecting. Well, it's incredibly demoralising. And I think one of the issues is that the job satisfaction for people who are working in education simply isn't there.
Chris Jones Thanks, Charlie. Lots to unpack there. I'll start with that that point about people working in education. Paul, what do our inspectors see when they go in and they talk to those teachers in prisons who are who are trying their best to deliver education in what sounds like difficult circumstances.
Paul Joyce Chris as Charlie has said it's a very mixed economy that we find so it is very demoralising. When we see some teachers in prisons, sitting in an empty classroom or workshop, waiting for prisoners to arrive. And in honestly in some cases, they never do. And there certainly isn't that continuity of student attendance. So I think the staff morale is an issue. I think it takes a a particular type of teacher to adapt to the prison regime. To the the working of a prison, but where it is managed crests where it's you know, where it's managed well, where the regime is managed well and is prioritised and importantly, where the curriculum doesn't meet the needs so as Tracy has talked about those wider skills, it's it can be incredibly powerful for a prisoner just to be out of their cell and in a classroom, and not necessarily for the subject content that they're attending. But for those wider skills, those interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, communication skills, and it just tremendous good for the individual, and actually for the prison regime, but sadly need to improve. We all see that in our report.
Chris Jones Paul Joyce to come to you. You see people, once they leave prisoners, support them to get their life back on track. What will be your message to prison leadership? particularly about the importance of education for that?
Paul Joyce I think it's incredibly important. We kind of have a bit of a saying in here that every day's a school day. And whilst that doesn't sound terribly kind of monumental. What it does do is it shows a culture of learning. And I think if prisons are able to embed an expectation of ongoing learning, lifelong learning, if you like, within people who are about to leave prison, I think that would be incredibly helpful. So the whole attitude if I don't know something, I can go and learn it. If I can't do something, I can find out how to do it, rather than sort of feeling a need to throw the towel in. And that's a cultural thing. It's a modelling thing. It's a real clear leadership thing. So I think that needs to come from the top. I think it needs to be embedded, and people need to be prepared. To take that attitude out with them. So that even if they're not fully prepared to the outside world, they can see where their gaps are, and be as prepared as quickly as possible.
Chris Jones And let's, let's talk about some success stories if we can then. So Tracy you must have worked with people who have who have had a good and genuinely life changing experience through through being in prison and through having that opportunity to be educated. Tell us something about how that how that then translates into the world outside.
Tracy HammondOkay, there was one gentleman that comes to mind and I'll tell you this story because it's a little bit kind of left field too. He got such brilliant education that he went out and immediately got a job, but the education in a roundabout way really did change his life. So, so gentleman I know and work with quite closely. He did 22 years, maybe 23 years in prison on quite a revolving door, kind of kind of model if you like, but during that time, he learns some cheffing skills. And when he first left prison for the last time, he was in insecure housing, I believe and had an unrecognised learning disability. But because he had learnt those cheffing skills, he was highly valued in the local soup kitchen. Whilst he was at the local soup kitchen, he met people who would go on realise that he has a learning disability, support him to get formal recognition of that support him to get the social support that he needed. And since that time, that was 15 years ago, actually, and he has not really offended but it really was it all stems from firstly the skills that he learnt through the cheffing skills, but secondly, the amount of confidence that actually knowing about something and being able to give something back. The confidence that gave him was really life changing.
Chris Jones That's great to hear and hear we spent a lot of this conversation talking about talking about some of the problems and the issues, but the reason we're doing that is because it can, it can be genuinely life changing to have these experiences in prison. Femi tell us a bit about how we can do more of that.
Femi Laryea-AdekimiWhen I was in prison. I was in a B cat local for the duration of my short sentence, just five and a half months. Because of the quality and the enthusiasm the educators have heard about already. I was able to engage in a massive variety of different subjects of different activities through education that I would never have considered previously in my professional life or even in my private hobbies. I was able to to try my hands on design, painting with with different materials, I was able to again get involved with improvised Shakespeare acting, which again I would never have thought about, trying philosophy courses, debating courses, creative writing, starting novels. Poetry, and also, quite importantly, I think I was able to engage with higher education which I'd never done. On the outside even though I've done professional qualifications. I've never done higher education. And I was able to do a module of a criminology degree with the University of Westminster even though I haven't necessarily gone on to start painting or attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. What that did do in those experiences did it was enrich me as a person while I was in prison, broaden my horizons to think oh, well, if I can do those things in prison, what can I achieve once I'm out?
Like give me that confidence, that belief, self belief that I can achieve things on the outside and within less than a year, I was working for prison reform Trust, which I didn't think I would be doing. And within a year and a half I was giving evidence before the education select committee. And this is all because of the educators and the availability that they they made things ready and available to readily available to us. A simple way of promoting education is to value it the same as they value prison jobs. If you can earn more as as a cleaner, a window cleaner, then you will if you go into education, what is the prisoner going to choose in that situation? You're going to go through what offers you the most money. So if if prison governance, which came out in the education, select committees report that prison governors have the power to set wages for education, and work, if they take that lead and say well, yeah, if you choose to do an education report, you'll get the same as the wing cleaner, every worker that will at least encourage people to consider them on the same level. And for me, it's just a simple way of valuing education within the prison system.
Chris Jones Thank you, thank you for sharing your story. It reminds us doesn't it that education is not just about learning specific things. It's not just about passing exams, but it can genuinely changes as as people and can change our outlook on on life as well and can set set the direction for us. I want to pick up on Fermi's point, Charlie about payment for educational activities versus versus jobs. Is that have you seen examples of this being done? Well?
Charlie Taylor Yeah, we had in some some governors. Where some prisoners were going to the governor's because prioritise that and it's actually making sure that the prisoners who go to education, earning at least the same amount as people doing other jobs, but of course it is essential that prison jobs get done. We want prisons to be clean. We want things like waste management to happen and you know, potentially, prisoners can get into some good habits from those sorts of things do working in the laundry, working in the kitchens working in the servitor and salaries, these are all those are all good things. But what we want is education to be similar. But you know, there's a lot of prisoners who've got very little money at all. You've got care leavers who end up in prison and they've got family sending cash in for them and therefore every pound every penny counts for those people. So of course, they're going to take a job that pays better, even if in the long term, they're going to get further from from from education than they will do from learning to clean the wing. But in the short term they're going to do what's what's in their interests.
Tracy HammondYeah, I think perhaps, we may need to get a little braver almost about what we value because I think some of the things that are softer and more difficult to measure as important as things which are quite easy to measure. I'm thinking about soft skills such as competence, social skills, distance travel, that kind of thing. And I think that could really help people if we value those soft skills, as much as we value the really easy or the easy to measure things.
Charlie Taylor Where I think we're hearing is the value of the curriculum. And it's, you know, if the curriculum do the right things, even if that doesn't end up in a qualification. I also think there's there's an issue here but with accountability and responsibility, and I think they don't sit in the same place. And that concerns me, so that governors are held to account for the quality of education in their jail, but they're not responsible for it. Responsibility for that is done through giant centrally commissioned contracts. And I think it's a fantasy to believe that we're really going to be able to ultimately improve education in prison by turning the dials on a big Whitehall contract. And I think allowing governors to have more responsibility for education that goes on in their prisons, and I understand their potential pitfalls there as well. So I'm not suggesting this is a panacea, but making sure that there's real accountability and responsibility sitting closely together, I think is the way that we can raise standards.
And what I find often is governors have got an education provider who isn't coming up to scratch for whatever reason, and they're incredibly frustrated because they want to get their prisoners to education. They want to make progress, but they're not able to do that. But similarly, I think for education providers, they get frustrated by the fact that, as I said before, they don't know who's going to show up and when, and therefore that's demotivating for them. So I think bringing together accountability and responsibility for outcomes in education would seem to me your way of making progress. I mean, as a former Head Teacher, that that feels to me an area where where potentially we can make real progress. Absolutely, yeah. No one wants to be held to account for something that's outside of their control, do they and similarly as you said, no one wants to be aiming to deliver really good quality service but not having the engagement from the people on the receiving end. So certainly feels like some sort of join up and some structural change could certainly help in that regard.
Shreena Kotecha I was interested in the point around the softer skills actually being the most important and I guess the thing that's quite tricky with that is how do you measure that? Because like, by definition, they are softer, softer skills. So I was interested in thoughts from Tracy earlier maybe Paul on how the inspection framework can do that effectively.
Tracy Hammond I agree that it's quite difficult. However, we also have the double whammy really, of the fact that people aren't always that self aware. So what they see in themselves may not be a true reflection of what other people say. So I think there is there's a lot of work to do about thinking around distance travelled and I suspect it's always going to be distance travelled rather than you've reached grade one empathy. It's going to be about observed and also people's own view of their own distance travelled.
Paul Joyce Yeah, Tracy, just to commit to that I would agree with with that. I think measuring measuring the distance travelled and measuring soft skill acquisition, you know, is is inherently difficult in any setting. I think Shreena to answer your question about the the inspection framework, I think our our framework prioritises those soft skills and that distance travelled. And the mission that we use, you know, very much is around inspectors professional judgement, based on that interaction with prisoners or with staff and you know, looking at what the provision is, you know, so I think there's, there's a good measure there.
Paul Joyce A little anecdote. So we we do, perhaps encouraging the not so much now, but historically we have been into prisons where the KPIs or education around the number of certificates awarded, has been quite good. But actually, when you look at the qualifications, when you look at what those prisoners are actually doing in terms of their own development, they're either fairly meaningless, fairly pointless. Or too easy. So the KPIs have been achieved. And despite and he picks up on Charlie's point, despite the the governor perhaps not being very pleased with the education providers performance, the education provider in terms of contract management is doing pretty well. I assure you, they don't come out that well in inspection terms because we do raise those personal skills. So it is difficult measuring and contract management. But I absolutely echo Charlie's point about you know this is about systemic change and massive Whitehall contract is not the way to allow individual governors to manage provision in their own establishments. We've talked a bit about functional skills, and those can obviously be gained in different ways than sort of sitting in a classroom. We've already talked a bit about work in prisons. And I guess I was interested in how how those two linked together in practice in a prison So to what extent working in a prison, gives you some educational value and how those how those things are linked together by prison governors. And overall, where that's done well in a prison. So where the, the offer of education of workshops of regime is well suited is well considered. It can be really, really powerful. So you will get some key things as Charlie has touched on in prisons that need to happen when cleaning kitchen or servery. Well, you can actually build an education curriculum around there. So you know courses around food hygiene food preparation, and they can be a prerequisite, before prisoners can get jobs in the kitchen and in the servery. And where it's thought about that curriculum design, it can be very powerful, and in my view, can actually help the good order and good running of the prison and the prison regime.
Unknown Speaker What we also see which I think is excellent is governor's, looking at a wall and saying what skills are lacking in the local community? And then thinking about with the education provider thinking about what are the qualifications that the prisoners will need, in order that they will be attracted to those employers when they come out? And prisoners buy into it then because they feel like there's a genuine sense that they're making progress, just giving them a qualification for the sake of it. It's nice to have a certificate but they know that's not going to get them anywhere they want something that's concrete that's going to move them on.
Chris JonesThank you to all our guests. Thank you to Charlie Taylor Paul Joyce Tracy Hammond and Femi Laryea-Adekimi
I asked Amanda Spielman, Ofsted's Chief Inspector, what her thoughts were about the current state of education in prisons.
Amanda SpielmanPrison Education isn't in a good place at the moment. Our inspection findings say that at the moment, it's the worst it's been since we started looking at it. And when I talk about education here I'm talking not just about numeracy and literacy in classrooms, I'm talking about the whole range of education skills, training and work experience in in both prisons and Youth Offending institutions. It really does need to improve during the pandemic. Almost all prisoners were locked up for unacceptable amounts of time every day. And of course, as a result of this, prisoners had little or no access to education classes and vocational training, the regime of activities shrank and shrank. There were there was a bit of in-cell education with resource packs, but it was really a shadow of what it should have been. But what's particularly disappointing is that now almost three years since that first lockdown, prisons have still not got back, even to what was normal before the pandemic, when it comes to education. The action to recover has been very slow overall. And that slow pace has been made worse by the very large number of vacancies both among prison officers and among teaching staff in prisons.
And it's important to understand here that the most most of this is provided by one of the big MOJ subcontractors, but nevertheless, the people running prisons, the governor's people managing education need to understand what a good curriculum isn't how to make sure that that's what they're getting from their subcontractors. Otherwise, they can't be effective in helping make sure it improves. But at the moment, too many prisons are just not providing enough activity spaces for their prisoners.
An example of this slowness that I'm talking about relates to the the excellent report on teaching reading in prisons that we published jointly with the prisons Inspectorate last year, crucial issues, like the need to assess prisoners and identify their their reading level what they needed to learn rapidly. These are only now being tackled 10 months after we published that review. It really is very slow progress with addressing those recommendations. Prison and governors do need to move faster.
And my bottom line in the coming out of all our work, it really is important that all of us carry on emphasising the importance, everyone who works in prisons to understand the true value of education in improving prisoners. lives, and in maximising their chances of rehabilitation.