Thursday Mar 02, 2023
Art and Design Research Review: the launch at the Victoria and Albert Museum
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
Prison education: giving people a vision of what life could be
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.
Tuesday Dec 13, 2022
Ofsted’s Annual Report 2021-22
Tuesday Dec 13, 2022
Tuesday Dec 13, 2022
A summary of the key points of this important report, from Amanda Spielman, Alex Jones, Lee Owston, Yvette Stanley and Chris Jones. Listen to what Ofsted inspections found from all the remits we inspect; early years, schools, further education and skills and social care.
Chris JonesThis is a special edition, we're going to be focusing on our Annual Report for 21/22 which was published on the 13th of December. We've got a stellar lineup to talk you through what is in our annual report. We've got Amanda Spielman, His Majesty's Chief Inspector, we've got Alex Jones, who's our Director of Insights and Research, Yvette Stanley, who's our National Director for Regulation and Social Care and Lee Owston, our acting National Director for Education. Welcome, everybody. I'm going to start by turning to Amanda, Amanda, give us your initial reflections on the year that has just gone.
Amanda SpielmanA genuinely extraordinary year. On the one hand, we've been very lucky, we managed to keep children in school through the year. And yet it was such a tough year for everybody from early years, schools, further education, social care - across the board. It's been a tremendous challenge, I think, on the one hand dealing with all the catch up work, not just the academic demands, but also the socialisation and behaviour challenges, also having to do so much more than usual, because so many other services weren't available and of course, because staff themselves are short handed, partly because of recruitment and retention difficulties, but also because of higher than usual levels of staff sickness. So this is a triple whammy there of having to deal with backlogs and the normal work and with other services, that it's still not fully back up to speed with a slightly reduced workforce. It's been so hard and I think I want to start by acknowledging that and saying that what's been achieved I think, is in many contexts, nothing short of astonishing.
Chris JonesThanks, Amanda. We'll definitely come back to some of those themes that you've picked up on as we go through this podcast. So I'm gonna turn to Alex next. Alex, you lead the production of this year's Annual Report. You've been fully immersed in its contents for the last few months. But can you give us give us some of the headlines of what Ofsted inspectors and researchers have found over the last year or so?
Alex JonesThree sort of themes that I would draw out, that really helped to illustrate some of the challenges that the sectors have faced during this year as as Amanda mentioned, the first I think is around the ongoing impact of the pandemic and you know, in early years, we've seen children starting their early years education with speech and language having been affected by the pandemic and the fact that that many of those children have actually lived the majority of their lives in the pandemic. And in older children as well, we've seen the ongoing impacts of the pandemic manifest themselves through some ongoing mental health concerns. And also, attendance rates are still lower than they were pre pandemic. And in FES (further education and skills), we've also seen learners struggling to access work placements.
That's just to sort of illustrate a few of the few of the challenges that are that the pandemic continues to throw up. And of course, some of that's been some of those challenges are further exacerbated by, especially towards the end of the year, pressures on the workforce across the sectors that we inspect and regulate. So in early years, childminders, numbers are falling, nurseries are closing, and lots of those settings are increasingly reliant on apprentices. In social care. We've seen vacancies for registered managers increase. They're now running at about 14%. And local authorities are increasingly reliant on agency social workers, which can really impact on the provision that children receive and it's especially important in something like that which is so sort of heavily reliant on the relationship that social workers can can have with children.
And I mean, just to sort of illustrate what this means in education, what do these workforce pressures mean? Well, it can mean fewer staff in schools and colleges and that can mean larger classes, have more mixed abilities and fewer opportunities. For enrichment programmes and, and catch up opportunities deferred, and then the sort of third thing I would I would highlight is the impact that can have on some of the children with with the highest needs and those that are sometimes out of the line of sight of Ofsted and other agencies.
In the report, we highlight that the numbers of children in care are continuing to rise. Local authorities often struggle to find placements for those children and they can end up accommodated in homes that are hundreds of miles away in some cases, and we've really highlight concerns around the pressure that this place is on the system but in social care, and also in education where the system can struggle to make appropriate provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities in some cases.
Chris JonesThanks, Alex. So you've highlighted some of the challenges that everyone working in education and social care, well, I think recognise and would have worked so hard to tackle over the last year that we've reported on, but looking at own inspection outcomes, that they're largely moving in very positive direction. So I'm going to turn to Yvette and then to Lee to tell us a bit about our inspection outcomes. Firstly in social care, and then in an education, and Yvette, just tell us about how some of the providers we work with are really successfully rising to the challenges that that Alex spelt out.
Yvette StanleyOkay, I'm going to start with the inspections of local authority, Children's Services and this framework we put in place in January 2018. And up from a very low base, we've had some solid improvements. So we've gone from 2% of local authorities being outstanding to 16%. That's from three to 24 local authorities and at the other end 11% were inadequate, and we've halved, we've halved that. So a really good story, as I said from from a place where we wanted to see significant improvements, and local authorities have done that, despite the challenges of COVID and where we see that working well. It really is solid leadership, a really child-centred ambitious agenda for change and getting the basics in place so that social workers can do a really good job. Children's homes have continued to be at a very similar level of good and outstanding across all the judgments that we have seen since COVID. The newly registered children's homes, not having quite the same profile only marginally. But absolutely, that really seems to relate to an absence of managers, as Alex said earlier, and real challenges in getting enough aid enough staff to run the homes on a regular basis.
Chris JonesThanks for that. That's really interesting. I'll return to some of these things. I think, Lee, over to you. Tell us a bit about what's been happening across our education remits.
Lee OwstonYes, certainly, just giving you give you a flavour of some of the different remits in in education. I think, given all those challenges that Alex was outlining, at the beginning there, I think, actually terms or inspection judgments, we see across all the sectors either maintaining the proportion of good and outstanding providers that we have in previous years or or improving upon it, which I think is is a great achievement. Just to give you some specifics are at a percentage of state funded schools and are good and outstanding, which is a 2% increase on the previous year. I think particularly, we need to kind of praise those those weaker schools that have certainly improved over the last year. When you look at the proportion 70% of schools judged previously as requiring improvement, that kind of having have improved to good or better and indeed inadequate schools have improved to to good, if not to requires improvements.
I think, despite those challenges, leaders certainly in the school space are really taking the opportunity to think carefully about their curriculum. I think what the pandemic has enabled all leaders to do is kind of look at their what they want children to learn with fresh eyes and really prioritise what it is that they need at this point in time, always with that long term view about how they want to get back to the curriculum that they were establishing pre pandemic. We've seen 82% of further education and skills providers maintaining their good and outstanding grade and particularly in the in the college space. We've seen a significant increase they're actually in in good and outstanding with with 11% increase on previous years, I would say where we've seen some differences on previous outcomes.
We obviously have a have a rationale there in terms of early years where there has been a slight dip in good and outstanding provision overall. That's simply because we prioritise those providers that have gone the longest without inspection. So inevitably, a bit like we have with the removal of the outstanding exemption, you know, we've taken the opportunity to go back to those that have been out of the line of sight into an inspection for the longest time, and inevitably more of those have have dropped one two or more grades, but certainly overall because we inspect all education remains under the education inspection framework than actually that focus on curriculum. What is it that children need to learn has given the sector and inspectors the flexibility to really look at what's happening now for the children in front of them? And the story is, there's a lot of great work that's going on out there despite the challenges that everybody's facing.
Chris JonesAmanda, Yvette and Lee have described the efforts to which people are going to maintain and even improve standards in the across the sectors that we work with despite some of the challenges that we've outlined, particularly in terms of workforce. And I think we talked before about the pressure that especially leaders have been under since the start of the pandemic, and we know that many are continuing to feel that pressure and to interfere with the challenge that we've outlined. It's to their credit isn't it that they are still improving outcomes for children. But do you worry that this situation could could get worse, given where we aren't getting where we've got to go?
Amanda SpielmanWell, it's very easy to see that there could be problems with sustaining the current level of effort, the pressures of the last three years first, the sort of full blown COVID and restrictions and then the last year of recovery. Now these cost of living pressures. A lot of nurseries, schools, colleges are really, really uncertain how they will make ends next meet next year. So what choices they're going to have to make and that makes it really hard to plan solidly carefully, and make really good choices that will in fact, help children sort of complete this job of recovery and do as well as they can.
So I think it's a tremendously difficult time to be leading in our in our sectors. We know from the first year of COVID, quite how difficult it is for leaders when there are some great uncertainties ahead of them. When every day it feels like you're doing something that you never learned about when you're preparing for the job that none of your peers has ever done before either. So you're all having to do things for the first time. And I think working in the context of a sudden, very, very heavy cost of living crisis really is putting us in a different way. That kind of pressure on leaders again.
Chris JonesThanks, Amanda. I'll come back to you. You know, we talked about the challenges facing some of our most vulnerable children expand a little bit on that what what are we seeing post pandemic, in terms of the impact on those children that either Ofsted and other authorities can't see? Or where we're not having the same levels of services we've seen in the past,
Yvette StanleyChildren with special educational needs and disabilities saw their services and support quite disrupted during COVID Particularly those therapeutics of speech and language therapists and for some period, both in ILACS and LA SEND inspections, we've been talking about the challenges in access accessing children's adult adolescent mental health services. And I think those things are continuing and still quite concerning. And if you can imagine the pressure that puts on schools in trying to navigate the absence of those services for for those children with high and completely high leads of complexity. It's the same issue for families. And so we see in our SEND inspections, families who had their respite disrupted or a feeling that they're getting into quite an adversarial position in trying to access the services they need.
So we're still seeing a bit of that we are seeing schools and local authorities stepping in to provide some of those services. But absolutely, and as Amanda says, schools and local authorities have their own budget pressures and so there's issues around the funding of those services, but also, schools and local authorities don't have necessarily the clinical governance to provide or commission some of those services. So it really does need some joined up thinking, but you could imagine the loss of that respite could put families under considerable pressure and we know that there just aren't enough places, whether it's for children with special educational needs, or looked after children who need residential care. There just aren't enough of the right places close to where children live, to make those placements. And we're particularly seeing that acutely on the on in the secure estate where children in welfare support and we've seen a very sharp increase in children before the High Court needing a secure place and a compensatory decrease in the number of inpatient beds. Now, absolutely. We don't want children hospitalised but we do need safe provision for them in the community.
Chris JonesAnd that has a huge knock on effect on parents and families doesn't it has this what we've been talking about around the the numbers of child Minders and nursery places reducing tell us a bit more about that.
Yvette StanleyWe have to put this in a little bit of context. So I think there's been a population decline. Alex will correct me if I'm wrong. There's a little bit of a population decline. But if we're also parents are making different choices about their childcare and wanting much more flexible support when they're perhaps working from home two days a week that in turns puts tremendous pressure on providers who may or may not have the right mix of children in terms of getting enough income in to support their safe and efficient running of their nursery. So we are seeing some impact. And despite childminder numbers going down, which they haven't for a while, the overall places haven't gone down in the same way. But we will probably see some balancing out over the coming months and years as people you know, resettle into workforce patterns and make the demands that they need on their childcare.
Alex JonesI was going to say yes, that's absolutely right that the population of lots of four year olds in the country is also declining. So that does that is an important context to when we're thinking about child minder and nursery numbers and places. Of course, it's also true that in some of the areas of the country where child minder in nursery places are declining, the population isn't declining in line with the National level - every scenario pockets of different experience depending on where you are across England.
Chris JonesLee, I'll come back to you because there's been discussion recently about the numbers of previously outstanding schools that have lost their outstanding grade now that they've been reintroduced into routine inspection in the last year. Just give us your take on on that. Why is that happening?
Lee OwstonObviously removing the exemption which was a one way valve so that allowed the proportion of schools and colleges that would change that to increase because once you are kind of over that threshold, and you had that inspection judgement, and obviously you weren't you weren't going to drop from that position. I think we have seen some decline inevitably because obviously that exemption has lasted for a long, long time. And we have schools that were returning to you know, some hadn't had inspection for as long as 15 years. And I think there'll be a number of reasons for decline. In those instances, there will have been numerous head teachers, senior leaders, members of staff, over those 15 years, there will have been different frameworks. You know, there's a whole host of reasons reasons that we are very open about in terms of the reports for those schools about we know that any potential decline having happened at any point between the most current inspection and whenever the previous one might have been.
But I also want to stress to people because I think, you know, we hear most about outstanding schools that have declined, but actually the removal of the exemption has has allowed movement. You know, it hasn't just led to a valve going in reverse. And not everybody declining, actually there are there are schools that are equally improving and becoming outstanding for the first time or indeed throughout ungraded inspections, retaining their outstanding grades, and I think where we see schools maintaining that standard is because they truly have something that you know, others others can come along and learn from you know, they are they are exemplary in that there is aspects of their practice that they should be should share with others because they are they are that strong.
And I think that often comes down to the way in which their approach their curriculum, the way in which then allow all children have access to know the breadth and depth and ambition of of the subject of the national curriculum and beyond. And I think it is right to have that because there is something about aspiring to be the absolute best, but what I would want to reassure people about is that actually it does not mean perfection. There's no such thing, there's no such thing as standing still in education and actually what characterises the the outstanding leaders and schools out there is actually they understand that and they are constantly trying to improve and evolve upon while they already do, even though there is a very high standard already. So, you know, yes, there has been decline. We would expect that from a system that hasn't allowed us to inspect outstanding schools for a while. But equally let's remember there's also a lot of schools that are improving to that grade as well and rightly so.
Chris JonesOkay, let's spend our last couple of minutes is looking forward to next year and as I said at the start the annual report is based on what our inspectors have found during the year, but also some of the research and evaluation insight that we've done over the course of of that year. So Alex, I'll come back to you looking forward what's on Ofsted research agenda for this year.
Alex JonesThanks, Chris. I'll highlight a couple of things just building on these points there. We are going to be undertaking and publishing some research on what our inspectors found when they inspected the previously exempt outstanding schools. So really looking underneath the headline figures that what are the experiences of those schools over that period of time and when we've gone back into inspects them now. We're also undertaking an evaluation of our Education Inspection Framework. And we'll be publishing on that in the new year, on what that will entail and the different strands to that. So how will the experiences have been for schools and providers being inspected under the education inspection framework? We have a piece of research looking at early years which is linked to our strategic priority for Ofsted on the best start in life. And we will also be publishing a series of subject reports for providers.
Chris JonesExcellent. Thanks, Alex. And finally, Amanda, you'll be sitting in the same chair this time next year talking about Ofsted's annual report for 2023. What do you hope to be saying at that point?
Amanda SpielmanWell, I hope first of all, first and foremost to be saying it really does look as though the great bulk of dealing with COVID recovery is behind us. Of course, still some children needing extra help but for the most part the job is done. Secondly, I hope we're seeing a stable and supportive context for everybody working in the sector because that's the context in which the very best work can be done in both education and social care. Thirdly, I'm really looking forward I know we've got strands of work next year that are going to help us get to a whole different level of insight. Over the last few years, we've really been able to get to greater depth in social care and I'm very much looking forward to being able to do the same in education, really drawing on the enormous reservoirs of expertise that we've got within Ofsted, but also linking in to how we make ourselves a force for improvement, how we really feedback as much as we can that is genuinely helpful in all the sectors in which we operate.
Thursday Dec 01, 2022
Ofsted and the curriculum
Thursday Dec 01, 2022
Thursday Dec 01, 2022
We talk to Ofsted's curriculum unit, teachers who've been involved in curriculum planning and a Head and subject lead who've recently been inspected about the deep dives they experienced.
Chris Jones Hi everybody and welcome to the latest episode of Ofsted Talks, the Ofsted podcast. Today's subject is the curriculum. I'd like to introduce my new co-host Shreena Kotecha. Hi Shreena.
Shreena Kotecha: Hi Chris.
Chris Jones: Very nice to have you with us. I've also got some fantastic guests today. I've got Heather Fearn and Jonathan Keay from Ofsted's curriculum unit. Do you want to say hi, hello. Hi both. And I also have fantastic school leaders to help us talk about the thorny subject of the curriculum. I'm gonna let them introduce themselves. I've got Ruth Ashbee, Ruth...
Ruth Ashbee Hi, Chris. Hi, everyone. I'm Ruth Ashbee. I'm a senior deputy head at Holly Lodge High School in Smethwick in the West Midlands and also vice chair of governors at Millbrae school where I live in Shrewsbury.
Chris Jones Excellent thank you, Ruth, and we also have Steve Mastin. Hi, Steve.
Steve Mastin Hi, everyone. My name is Steve Mastin. I was a secondary school head of history for last 17 years.
Chris Jones Excellent. Welcome, Steve. Welcome, Ruth. And thanks very much to Jonathan and Heather for joining us as well.
Shreena Kotecha: Jonathan and Heather, do you want to start just by kind of telling us in a nutshell, what is the curriculum and why should we care?
Heather Fearn: Focus on curriculum is the focus on what it is that pupils learn what chiefest spectacles the substance of education? So I think for quite a long time in schools there's been a focus when thinking about what was quality teaching on what perhaps what teaching methods were used, whether there were particular ways of teaching different sorts of activities, which would be considered more or less effective than others. And that had meant there wasn't as much emphasis on what it was that pupils were learning and whether they were learning what they needed for success in the education and then in their lives. We all have really ambitious aims for children, and what they might learn for their education. But one thing we do know and we know this, both through sort of logic and common sense, but also from research is that if children are less successful than we would like, in an aspect of their education, for example, GCSE, but they did not have the knowledge they needed to have the success in that area. And curriculum is a... curriculum means focusing on what it is that children need to learn step by step over time to have success in those ambitious curriculum aims or educational goals that we've got for them.
Chris Jones: And so why do we have a curriculum unit in Ofsted, what does it do?
Heather Fearn: Yeah, so we've we've really expanded the roles of our subject leads, so everything that has described there this emphasis on curriculum over a number of years now and of course, the introduction of the Education Inspection Framework, meant there's a there's a necessary opportunity to look at subjects too, and just consider what it means to get better at those subjects. So our subject leads have been appointed for every area of the curriculum and at the moment, they're working on two main things. So they're focused entirely on supporting our workforce, training them kind of day to day at conferences. And secondly, externally, just that work towards a subject report, a State of the Nation report, in each area of the curriculum, and we're, we're looking forward to sharing those next year.
Shreena Kotecha: I'm interested in how does this interact with the national curriculum that all schools automatically follow?
Heather Fearn: 3:42It's a really good question. It was one I was asked a lot actually when EIF was first launched. And if we think about the national curriculum, it has a set of quite high level goals that are outlined, it is quite a short document. That's one of the things that's most striking about it - very brief, and it's got a set of kind of what could be described as high level goals in each subject, a bit more detail for English and maths and not and really not very detailed across the other subjects. And that means that there's an awful lot of thinking that has to be done about what it is that children need to learn to get to the point where they are going to be successful in those high level goals.
We know that children have, that everyone makes sense of new things that they learn based on what they already know. And that basic insight about how we learn means that through children's education step by step, there should be a curriculum which leads them towards learning what they will need over time, and those steps are identified by schools, but those can be towards the high level goals of the national curriculum. And in Ofsted, our own framework criteria would expect schools even if they don't need to follow the national curriculum and the high level goals outlined there, to be thinking, designing an educational plan, which is at least as ambitious.
Chris Jones I'm sure there's lots more that John and Heather can can say but I want to turn to Ruth and Steve now, Ruth, you've you've led curriculum working in schools and trusts - what what is it? What does it mean to you and have you what what's changed over the last few years if anything for you?
Ruth Ashbee: I think one of the first sort of impacts that I personally felt was that I was able to be focusing on the things that I wanted to focus on, having read extensively around kind of, you know, how students learn and the importance of the subject specialisms, and that sort of thing. And, you know, I wasn't kind of compelled to be looking at some of the distractions that perhaps we felt under previous frameworks, or at least I did, and I think that that being able leaders and teachers to focus on the substance of what is taught in the high level goals and the components that can lead students to reach those high level goals is just such a wonderful thing for us to be focusing on as a profession because, you know, as I said, it allows those students to make those progress and all that those students and it helps us to reduce the the issue where students kind of come with less knowledge and they're less able to make progress and we have that kind of widening of the gap, but it's better for staff as well.
You know, it's just so wonderful to be able to engage with subject specialism and all these wonderful ways of looking at the world. I think that it's a really inspiring aspect of the profession now and I think we are so lucky to have that. The other thing as well that I think is important to say is we used to have this kind of mad dash towards year 11 At the end of the year, and having curriculum reflected in the inspection framework in terms of the judgement has allowed us to, you know, schools who have legacy issue around outcomes to be able to focus on implementing actions that you know, with our lowest year so in secondary school, beginning with your seventh, not just putting all your struggle teachers on your 11 for example, but doing work that's really important and valuable, but that doesn't show visibly in outcomes. So I think it's allowed us to do some of those things that perhaps take longer, but have more benefits over the longer term.
Chris Jones Thanks. Steve, what do you think, what are your reflections on on the curriculum?
Steve Mastin: I fully concur with what Ruth said and if I if I take it back even further to primary schools, I mean, I'm an historian and classicist by background and we know the Latin derivation of curriculum being a course or like a running track and there's a starting point to that and the way that you're in the middle of the race is different from the way the the very beginning of the race.
And I think what a curriculum is, is a set of promises that teachers at the beginning of the curriculum are making to teach us further into the curriculum. And if we just see the curriculum as a pile of stuff, like even if it's really good stuff that children are learning, but that stuff is not organised in any sort of coherent, sequenced way, then it would be like doing the Romans before you did the Greeks. It's very common in some primary schools, because if we see them as just bits and pieces, topics stuff that children learn, but there's no wrestling with, so why would you do the Greeks before the Romans? What will learning the Greeks first, enable children to access in a more sophisticated way when they study the Romans? And I would say the same thing in secondary. So I was a head of history for a number of years. And before I started working in primary schools, I've worked in hundreds of primary schools now across the country, I would say as a secondary school teacher in the sixth or the seventh Ofsted inspections that, can I use the word endured, in the six or seven inspections that I was subjected to, at no point before the 2019 framework, did the inspector ever ask to see my curriculum?
I was never really having a discussion about where this lesson fitted into the wider scheme - how the lesson before had enabled children to access the learning in this lesson. And so I think, I mean, it's revolutionary, is that too strong a word. I have heard so much positive feedback from schools about the deep dives, because if you are proud of your curriculum, if you've wrestled with not just the stuff that's in it, but the sequencing enabling children to access future learning, then a deep dive is such an exciting revolution.
Chris Jones That's really good stuff. Thank you. And we're going to hear a bit later on from some colleagues who have recently been subjected to or have enjoyed, as you say, a deep dive and have got some things to tell us about how that felt and how that and how that went. I just need to say this difference between primary schools and secondary schools because we are we do here? The Ofsted framework is only designed for secondary schools if they're only working in primary schools because you know, it doesn't reflect how primary schools are organised. What do you say to that, Steve?
Steve Mastin: I couldn't disagree more. I couldn't disagree more. I think the big difference, of course, is that in secondary schools, the person who is designing the curriculum via geography or history is a subject specialist, you would hope that they're a subject specialist, and so they wrestle with that curriculum over years and years, refining and reflecting on etc. And of course, primary school teachers have to be Leonardo da Vinci's, they have to be experts in every subject, and with the best will in the world. Primary School teachers want to be seen as experts when they're standing up in front of their children. But you can't be an expert in everything. And so when you have a history, lead or geography, lead or humanities lead in a primary school, that's a huge undertaking, if you don't feel that you're a subject specialist, and so, you draw upon the expertise of, of, let's say, your subject Association, the Historical Association or the other associations and you think, sir, how do I organise a curriculum because if I get the point, that it's more than just a pile of stuff, and the sequencing is the sequencing is crucial, then where do I go to draw upon advice? Where's my locus of authority for thinking about the curriculum? So I think the benefits to primary schools are, are even greater, in many ways, because after all, Key Stage two is the biggest key stage of a child's education.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And from a secondary lens. Ruth, you mentioned some of the some of the changes that the focus on curriculum has allowed you to make, but as it has not yet fed through into impacts on on learning, children are getting a different experience because of that.
Ruth Ashbee: Knowledge is at the heart of it, isn't it? And I think that you need to have all that detailed knowledge and that awareness of sort of debates in the subject and the confidence to talk about it with adults can only you know, you can't fake it, can you so it's just a wonderful thing to say.
Chris Jones:Though, there can be a sense whenever Ofsted changes its expectations. That's a that's an issue for schools but I know that we have been keen to to help school leaders and curriculum leaders navigate their way through this, this, this new landscape.
Heather Fearn: 12:04And so over the last few years, we've been publishing a set, we've published a series of research reviews, we've only got two left to go. And they're available on gov.uk. And the purpose of these research reviews, when we go into schools, we want to make sure that we're thinking about what could be a quality of education in each subject. And the way we're thinking about that is the best it could be that we've got the best possible conception or way of thinking about quality. And that meant we wanted to have a look at what research there was. And what it suggested about what is a quality subject education.
Jonathan Keay: We've thought carefully about how we can make these documents accessible to so it's worth knowing with those research reviews, that they're pretty accessible. Whether your primary or secondary there's a nice summary at the start. There are takeaways, it's nice and easy to read. You know the listeners might might want to know as well. We've got some YouTube videos out there as well. So they're really short. They summarise the research reviews and our subject just quickly and in kind of little as 15 minutes, give you the big big kind of ticket items about their subject. And there are more videos on the way soon as well.
Chris Jones:I want to make sure that we don't give people the impression that this is all very easy and straightforward. Because, you know, curriculum planning and sequencing and getting a right thinking deeply about your subject is is is something that takes time and a great deal of effort, isn't it? And I'm sure Steve and Ruth you've both put in that effort yourselves and also you helped other people with that. We talked about some of the challenges of getting it right. When it comes to curriculum. Steve, I'll come to you first if you don't mind.
Steve Mastin: Well, let me think of a school that I was in just recently and they were teaching a lesson about Alexander the Great. And Alexander's empire, how Alexander had conquered the Persian Empire. And for years the Persian Empire had been trying to take the Greek city states into their empire. Well, just that that that sentence that I just said there, the amount of sophisticated knowledge that it takes just to understand that sentence - and these teachers in Enfield they weren't giving children a definition of the word Empire as if you learn the word Empire by memorising a definition of it. It's thinking where is the first time that children in year three encounter the concept of empire? And how do we teach that because we know that in two units time when they've done the Persian Empire, and they've done the Greek city states and the Persian Greek wars, when they get to Alexander, that word Empire is going to take on another meaning so that when they get to year four, and they're looking at the Roman Empire, we don't have to teach the Roman Empire we don't have to teach the word empire. We're simply layering with further knowledge and - look at well, isn't this interesting for this empire has someone called an Emperor now that takes planning doesn't it - you don't accidentally meander your way into into or look at what we're able to do now because of what we did in year three. When it comes to thinking long term about the curriculum. It's not something I would want a school to rush as if suddenly you import these documents and suddenly you've got a fantastically well sequenced curriculum - doesn't always work that way.
Chris Jones:It's fascinating, isn't it? And here, I can see how curriculum experts such as yourself, who spent hours poring over the details of how this all of ours will fits together. And Ruth, I imagine it's, it's a messy, rewarding, as well as challenging to be thinking and this depth about the curriculum as you are.
Ruth Ashbee: Yeah, definitely. I think in terms of the challenges that schools face, I think the first challenge that many many schools face is just - behaviour. And you know, if you don't have high, high functioning systems for behaviour, so the teachers are able to have high expectations then you can have the best curriculum in the world, but it won't have the impact that you want it to do and also what you have is teachers sort of feeling under pressure to distort the curriculum or distort how they're going to teach the children because you know, all this will engage them. It's best to have a practical on Friday last period by because otherwise they won't listen and that's really damaging. The headline from what you've just said, Steve, is that curriculum is just massive, isn't it? Like it's such a huge job, just just to think about the sequencing is a huge job and to get staff to a place where they where they have all the tools to begin to think about that huge job.
You're often in a massive sort of chicken and egg scenario where you want people to kind of be learning a lot about cognition, the role of memory and long term memory and short term memory and so on, but you want people to be engaging with the subject networks, but you don't want to overwhelm people and you've got parents evening just tonight and you know, all the kind of realities of, of day to day life in a school. But I do think you know, that if we're not careful, we tend to sort of admit that knowledge building for teachers and we sort of rushed towards a click for that this template or like, what's your curriculum map, do retrieval practice or how you can make sure that you're providing for people to attend and, and actually, you know, people will fill out those things dutifully, because they're conscientious, but if we're not feeding that knowledge by as Steve says, you know, engagement with the subject networks and so on the real sort of the benefits of focusing on curriculum.
Steve Mastin: yeah, I think you also have pressures on senior leaders in schools. If you're a head of department, and your line manager is a very good line manager but he or she is not a subject specialist in your subject. How can senior leaders support curriculum leaders in secondary schools? And I would say one of the most obvious things that a line manager can do is to use some of that language of so can you talk me through - why do you teach this in the autumn term of year eight? What does it build on? And where is it going to be useful in freeing up working memory later on for children to be able to access something more sophisticated? Can you talk me through that? Now, you don't have to be a subject specialist to ask that question, whether it's in music or science or whatever. But if a subject leader can't answer that question, then I would say you're a good line manager by starting them in the direction well, that's how the curriculum works, doesn't it? It's not a pile of stuff. It builds on what we've done before and it enables children to access future learning.
Shreena Kotecha:I'm interested in how you came about sort of tweaking and refining the curriculum once you've developed it. So how do you spot when something isn't going well and could go better? And how do you build a culture where teachers feel kind of empowered to to fess up when something isn't doing so? Well?
Ruth Ashbee: Yeah, I mean, culture is an enormous art of making it work. And I think that's something that we can't wave a magic wand, but that's just something that we build, like with our day to day interactions, but also with sort of systems and structures that we have in the school things like do we have high stakes lesson observations? For example? Do we have unwieldy evidence for performance management because all of those things contribute to a sort of sense that if this isn't working, then I'm going to look bad? So I'm just gonna keep quiet. And you know, we need to think about that kind of that big picture.
And I think the more time that teachers can spend together talking evaluating just in that normal, you know, that kind of staff room sort of - there was a blog a while ago by Michael Fordham about a brown sofa in the history department office. And it was just so evocative that just the sort of the conversations that they would just have as part as a team sort of every day, actually, as leaders, we can create the time for those conversations by just freeing up department time.
Steve Mastin: I think if senior leaders are creating a culture in their schools, which encourages departments to have conversations around the curriculum, I think of heads of department that I know in schools where they have the freedom to be able to say we're not going to do admin if we can help with in department meetings. What I'm going to do as a head of department, is I'm going to send out an article for the people in my department to read. I'm not going to expect them to do it before the meeting because they've got lots of other things going on. We're going to spend the first 15 minutes of my department meeting reading the same article about curriculum or perhaps a particular area of the curriculum. So maybe something that a historian has recently written or listening to a podcast for 15 minutes together, and then have a discussion about so how would this influence our curriculum? What does that make us reflect on? Are we teaching this with the latest scholarship bearing down on us? How do we reflect on the way in which that particular aspect of year nine relates to this in year seven because of what we've just read, and senior leaders are making time for that culture to be celebrated rather than being seen as a luxury or an indulgence? Decadent to do something like that? If people are listening to what I just said, and thinking, gosh, that's a bit decadent, well, then we're thinking about the wrong things when it comes to curriculum.
Chris Jones:It strikes me from what you both said that, clearly the the evolution of a curriculum is likely to happen over time. It's likely to involve your discussion and thought, practice and assessment and, and so on. And, Heather, I want to come back to the Ofsted angle on this so and talk a bit about what what are our expectations for what we'll see on an inspection you know, how do we are we expecting perfection here? Or in fact to do it? Are we able to recognise that as I've said, these things do do take a bit of time to get to where people might want them to get to?
Heather Fearn: The really most crucial thing in education is that pupils are learning what they need to so that they can achieve the ambitious goals that we've got for them from their education. On inspection, when we're not looking for any particular paperwork or complicated planning system or codes or endless sorts of different files with different things in different things. What we want to look at is, are these pupils learning what they need to step by step that means that they are going to be successful? And so that means just just looking at your curriculum plans and seeing and talking through them with you. We don't have any special view of what plans might look like or any expectation with that regard, but talking to you about what your planning is, and whether that plan has identified what pupils need to learn step by step towards those ambitious goals that you have for your pupils.
Chris Jones: And we just know it's a particular challenge for primary schools and small programmes in particular, just to reassure you, you know, as a Jonathan said, do keep it simple. both Steve and Ruth have said some things that are just really useful to hang your conversations on. And it's all about coherence. Can you describe the journey that your pupils go on in terms of how they get better at those different subjects? And those are the questions kind of why this why now and how is what they're learning preparing for what's going to come in the future and how is what they have learned, prepared them for where they are now?
Heather Fearn: When we go and listen on visits, we're not judging the teachers and we're not judging lessons, but we are thinking about whether those pupils learning what they're learning now have been set up and prepared for that lesson now by what's gone before and yeah, are they actually learning it now? Has it been learned? Have they remembered the things they need to for the lesson they're in now?
Chris Jones: Every time we have these conversations about curriculum, which has been quite a lot over the last few few years, I'm always taken back to my time at school, and the sharp contrast between those lessons in which I felt confident and those lessons in which I felt all at sea and you know, thinking about it, now it's quite clear where I felt confident and I felt motivated and I felt like I'd achieved is because of the things that we're talking about. I could remember what happened in the previous lesson or set of lessons and I was presented with something to build that upon and to take it on to the next level and those where, I felt all at sea, demoralised and, frankly a bit upset, was when I was given a task with no background information, no explanation, nothing to build it on and just told to get to get on with it. And I think that's the that that is the impact of a good curriculum versus a weaker curriculum on the children, the class of children.
Jonathan keay: That's the most simple, most important curriculum planning. I want to be here by the end of this sequence of lessons. What do I want my pupils to have learned? And then next question, what activities are most likely to ensure they would learn that and that granularity and detail you haven't got to start from scratch? Now think back to my time as a teacher and a head teacher, you know, we adopted schemes we made use of what other local schools were doing, and just made it work in our context. So don't feel you've got to start from scratch. There's plenty of stuff out there.
Steve Mastin: It's very popular now in schools to use what's commonly called retrieval practice. But yet retrieval practice is misunderstood in some schools, with some people thinking that if we do retrieval practice, which amounts in some schools to not much more than just some random quizzing at the start of a lesson, that that's what the Ofsted inspector wants to see. But of course, what is it that you're retrieving? And why is a more important question than do you do retrieval practice? So getting back to what Heather was saying that we're not wanting to see in lessons, all singing, all dancing, wizzy, kids up all over the place, having a really fun time. You know, the throwing the kitchen sink at a lesson because you know, it's being inspected? It's the opposite. It's isn't obvious when you're doing retrieval practice, that these are the things you want children to remember. And these are the reasons why to remember those things because those things that you're retrieving are going to be useful in this lesson and in future lessons, rather than just quizzing for the sake of quizzing.
Chris Jones:Very helpful. Thank you. I want to take a minute for the hard-pressed classroom teacher in a primary school, they might be it might have been given a subject or more than one subject to lead. They're largely trying to trying to survive day to day in some cases, with planning and delivering lessons and marketing books and so on. What can we say to people about why this is a really important investment of of time and what can we say to school leaders about your why, why this this type of planning should be should be prioritised above some of those other activities.
Jonathan Keay: How simple can we make this? I guess? Pupils deserve to have things to think with and that's, that's what makes it possible to do all of the hard stuff in life. And actually, if they're not given those opportunities to learn that knowledge, then then far less likely to be able to do some of the complex tasks, perhaps in relation to exams, but nevermind that just the things day to day, their opportunity to take part in conversations that they might not normally be able to.
Chris Jones Ruth, what do you think?
Ruth Ashbee: Well, I'd just like to push back slightly on the first part of your question there, Chris, because, you know, if teachers are struggling to survive, then I think that our job as leaders must be to first of all ask, why is it that they're struggling to survive and what can we take away or what can we do differently so that they're so that they have capacity to focus on something as important as curriculum? I don't feel we should be going unnoticed, that isn't what you meant, but it's not a case of, you know, dig deep because this is really, really valuable. It's like, actually, do we need to be marking books or can we be using whole class feedback or responsive teaching? How many hours does it actually take to do this? You know, it's only CPD, we can sort of speed things up or streamline things or, you know, what can we do as a school that is the climate that teachers need in order to be able to, you know, fully engage with curriculum thinking and then once you get that, you know, it does become very addictive as well. You know, I'm not saying, you won't get teachers who are kind of go to conferences on the weekend and reading around that subject in their spare time as well. And that's wonderful. And, you know, we're very lucky that there are lots of people who do end up wanting to do that in our profession, but like, that can't be the expectation, teachers have got to be able to do a really good job of engaging in curriculum. Just as part of the normal working week.
Shreena Kotecha: So can we talk a bit about how different subjects are dealt with differently? So how, for example, a science curriculum which enables if you have more expertise, and the humanities curriculum, which I see we have more expertise on, might be developed differently, but can we also talk a little bit about to what extent there should be or can be overlap between tea?
Heather Fearn: Yeah, I think there's there's quite a few things that it's important to understand about science curriculum. Firstly, obviously, we've got three sciences physics, chemistry and biology. The way that it's examined is very yes, no, right or wrong answers, but that impacts a lot on the type of practice that we ought to be getting students to do. There's, you know, it's a hugely broad and wide discipline and students have to remember an awful lot. I think you still get sort of some residual thinking about kind of you know, maybe Bloom's taxonomy or sort of literacy activities and you get sort of spurious, debates introduced or evaluations introduced, sometimes that sort of go against the nature of the subject, you know, that there are certain elements of it where it overlaps with kind of ethics or broken society and so on. But by and large, it's about factual claims, explaining the natural world and making predictions about what will happen in the natural world. So it's important to recognise that when we are defining the sorts of quality practice that we'd expect students to be doing in sesson to learn that material.
Chris Jones:And Steve, what how does that differ? Or does it differ in history and humanities?
Steve Mastin: It's foundational to any curriculum to think of that, not just in terms of the substantive knowledge, the what that children are learning and the order in which they're learning it? But but also that disciplinary knowledge, and that's where line managers in secondary schools can allow their subject specialist head of whatever to think about the discipline, how it works. So for example, in geography, geographers think about the sense of place in a very specific way and when they talk about place, they don't mean location, location is where you can see where somewhere is, by its coordinates, but a sense of place is all to do with so how do the people who live in that place understand that place and how do they talk about their sense of place? And I as a geography teacher, let's say teaching about the Amazon, I'm going to represent the Amazon to children, but that's not necessarily how the Amazon is. So it gets quite complex. But of course, that's why you need geography specialists to be able to understand how you teach children to describe a sense of place. Likewise, in history, we ask questions about causes and consequences and change and continuity and similarity and difference, but you wouldn't want to see let's say in a in a primary history lesson, children's saying, 'So do you like this period of history? What do you think of the Vikings? Would you rather live at the time of the Vikings all the time of the Romans?' So we've suddenly stepped outside the discipline of history, and we're now asking children to, you know, give their opinions and there's nothing wrong with asking open ended questions, but they must be within the discipline, whether it's history or geography, not just engaging, fun questions, because as soon as we step outside, that discipline, then that curricular thinking thinking like historians or like geographers, is not being modelled and it's not being taught.
It's really useful to hear Ruth and Steve, using much of the language as well that you'll you'll find in our research reviews if you read them and that's really helpful to hear how these kind of things are washing up in the education community as well. Of course, colleagues use these terms all the time, but hopefully, the way they've described both of their subjects, there is another gateway into some of our work in the curriculum unit as well.
It's great to just give one example, I think Shreena was talking about it, where you have connections between subjects, but not because you've shoehorned them in as if cross curricular clarity is the big goal, but where they naturally occur. So going back to that school in Enfield that I was visiting, I was sitting next to one of the schools ministers over the last year. And up on the board in this year for history lesson was a sentence that said 'Judea was a province in the east of the Roman Empire'. And the teacher wasn't teaching that, the teacher was then building new knowledge on that. And I turned to the school's minister and I said, how much sophisticated knowledge in history and geography is required just to understand that sentence? And do you notice the teacher didn't teach any of it? Because the children are coming to this lesson with that secure geographical knowledge so they know where to look on the map to find East. That's a simple example. But where geography and history naturally overlap. Then, of course, those connections should be made clear to pupils, but I think shoehorning them in ends up doing a disservice to both subjects.
A separate but distinct point about subject differences, I think really was highlighted during the pandemic. And with the kind of urgency of catch up because it's very easy to have sort of homeschool messages about what catch up should be identify gaps. Intervene might be a kind of set of standard instructions when thinking about catch up, and that might work for maths. For example, or it might work for phonics, where the subject knowledge is kind of relatively hierarchical, you build on the next thing and then you find out for some children, you've got some gaps and you fill them in. Whereas for subjects like history and geography in subjects where Steve does more work, it might be that during the pandemic pupils simply didn't do the Vikings at all the instruction identify gaps Well, they didn't do the Vikings that's the gap assess the gaps or dentist because you know, they didn't do the Vikings. And another instruction might be make curriculum alterations, and actually that flips things because you don't want to make curriculum alterations in math, so you decide to skip fractions or in phonics you described you decide to skip the letter sound 'Mmm', because it's non negotiable, it's got to be covered and it's got to be learned. Whereas in history and geography and and subjects of that sort it might be possible to make curriculum alterations to sort of emphasise what might be most crucial to be able to keep going.
We spoke to Felicity Haresign, maths lead, and Kenneth Davis, the head teacher of Cliddesden Primary School in Basingstoke about their deep dive with Dan Lambert, Ofsted HMI, schools, and Kathryn Moles from the Education Policy Team here at Ofsted.
Thanks very much, Chris. My name is Dan Lambert. I'm one of His Majesty's inspectors, and I'm really pleased to be joined today by Kathryn Moles, who is a specialist advisor in Ofsted's policy quality and training and more importantly, we're really pleased to be joined by Ken and Felicity. Ken is the head teacher at Cliddesden primary school and Felicity is their maths lead. And Felicity it was great pleasure of mine to inspect your school in November 2021. In terms of the deep dives, how did they feel and what did they involve?
Well, we knew from our phone call with you the day before Dan which was very useful, which subjects were going to be the focus for the inspection, obviously reading, which is what's happening in all schools, and we looked at mathematics as well and then we discussed the subjects that we felt was our strength, but I also got the chance to talk to you Dan, about the curriculum in general. And Felicity is our maths lead. I'm going to hand over to her to talk about her experience with the data.
When you have the Ofsted call, you are nervous, and I don't think you can change that feeling. But after the day, it was an intense day and it was full on but I came out with a positive feeling, everyone was really friendly. From the beginning Dan you joked about someone's laptop, not working on the day and my laptop works every single day, but that morning had decided not to. But that made me feel a bit more relaxed and it was it was both friendly and it wasn't threatening at all. I had to have a meeting and a chat about math as my subject, we talked about how maths is throughout the school, what the assessment is, like, how I planned it, where the progression is, and due to joining the maths hub several years ago we are working alongside it. So I'm quite confident and I was quite confident with how we set out our curriculum. So in terms of preparing for that, there wasn't so much to prepare for as we had done quite a lot of work over the past few years.
Nice good question, Felicity. And Ken, you both talked about feeling well prepared for the inspection and the subject deep dive and you've talked about the work you've done with your staff around that. Just explain to me what it's about preparing to understand what a deep dive looked like or - was it about preparing in terms of just being really clear about your subject and the kind of the way your subject was set up and what you were trying to achieve from it or a bit of both?
I think mainly it was about our curriculum really, being prepared. I mean, we I remember pre pandemic going to a conference and Ofsted conference at St. Mary's in Southampton, about what a curriculum should look like. Well, the quality of the curriculum is in terms of children should be acquiring knowledge. So it wasn't just about you know, Ofsted mean it's about getting the best for the children and making sure we are doing what we should be doing. So I think that that's what we mean in terms of preparation. It took time to evolve is still evolving a year after our inspection. I think in terms of being ready for the inspection as well. Obviously we wanted to showcase what we've done. So we didn't want inspectors coming in and teachers and subject leaders not really being able to talk about their subjects or or finding gaps in things, we wanted them to be prepared to to showcase what they've done and to be confident. And the same with the children as well, because we knew inspectors were going to talk to children's but after deep dives, and so you know, checking with children we're familiar with what they learn in be able to be able to talk about their learning in a confident way.
So preparing for me was more preparing to be able to talk about my subject. I know I'm an expert in my subject. I've worked really hard on it, but being able to articulate to somebody else what I've done and how it works in this school has been freshly built from early years to year six, which we thought carefully about, how we set out our assessments that teachers can really see where the children are, where their gaps are, and it was being able to talk about that confidently. We discussed deep dives in staff meetings which really helped us to be clear on what we wanted to share with the inspector.
Thanks Felicity, it sounds like you're really well prepared and from memory, you absolutely were. I've got a question - in that initial discussion with inspectors, did you feel that you were able to really describe and give inspectors a really clear picture of your subject and what they should expect to see during the day?
During my subject leave chat with the inspector, she asked most of the questions that I was expecting, most of the things that we have been through during the staff meeting. And over the last year, I had a teacher assessment sheet that worked alongside our maths curriculum. So I was quite proud of that to show the inspector and she was willing to look at the assessment.
Thanks so much Felicity, that was really interesting and great to hear. After those initial discussions with inspectors, you will have started to complete some lesson visits. Talking to pupils inspectors would have also looked at people's work as well. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
So I was lucky enough to join the inspector on visiting classrooms to look at mathematics across the school ranging from year six down to the early years. I also was able to join my English lead in our discussion with the inspector about phonics and reading. And then I know the inspectors have the opportunity to talk to the children about their subjects, hear children read and also talk to them about other aspects of their learning school
And you are a small school as well and having two inspectors on site for one day working with with colleagues in the school can be a challenge. How did you manage that?
It was a challenge ensuring that my subject leads felt confident that they could speak to inspectors on their own or whether they wanted a senior leader and again, senior management in small schools is very small. Well, I I kind of look at everyone as being a leader in my school to be honest, but whether they wanted someone to join them, and we made sure that there was an opportunity to do that with our our very, very efficient, capable LSAS covering if needed to when when they were speaking to inspectors.
So Ken, it's interesting hearing you talking about your involvement in the deep dives because often in some schools you can find that head teachers feel quite removed from the deep dive process because it's all being carried out in conjunction with their subject leaders or those people responsible for subjects. So it sounds like that wasn't the case for you. It sounds like you were quite involved in what was going on.
Yes, I did. I did. I think the initial phone call the day before also help because it gave me the opportunity to discuss things with with them like to say because we're a small school I did join join for the English discussion. And also I got the opportunity in the afternoon to speak to Dan about the other subjects that we hadn't deep dived into, we looked at a bit about geography and design and technology as I recall and some of the children's work, in particular how we were moving forward in working out how we can assess these subjects or what they're more importantly, what we're assessing in those subjects areas. I was just as busy as everybody else and didn't feel disconnected at all. But also I think part of the role of the head teacher is to make sure the well being of all your staff and to make sure everyone's feeling good and relaxed and willing to participate the best they can.
Good to hear. That's exactly how we want it. This is a bit of a rare privilege for me because I never get to see the same people twice when I've inspected them so I'm gonna seize the opportunity if I might. Obviously we talked about areas for improvement what was working really well in the school and you can build on further and a few areas that need to address. It's a good year on now. So how is the school changed?
One of the areas that was identified was making sure that there was consistency in subjects all the way from foundation stage to year six. We revisited in particularly our geography curriculum, well the largest gap was to ensure that there was progression, things weren't repeated unnecessarily. We've also worked on on our assessment techniques, we are very much in the position that with the foundation subjects and wider curriculum that we don't want to be producing some check sheets, it's more about the teacher assessment and getting the children to be able to, you know, be able to talk about what they've learned and maybe you know, a few little quizzes involved things like that, but also that they are acquiring that knowledge and but also acquiring the skills needed. That you need to be a good historian and a good geographer, a good technician, and those things are constantly constantly evolving. We have not sat back on our laurels.
Fantastic to hear it sounds like it's been an incredibly busy year for you. It's been really, really great talking to everyone. Thanks Kathryn for joining us, and in particular thanks Ken and Felicity for spending your time today telling us about your experience of inspection. We wish we wish you all the best of luck for the year ahead.
Monday Sep 05, 2022
Reading: talk from the Festival of Education
Monday Sep 05, 2022
Monday Sep 05, 2022
Ofsted's Kirsty Godfrey HMI, Phil Minns HMI and Ivana Vidakovic, from Ofsted's research and evaluation team, gave a talk and Q&A at the Wellington Festival of Education held in summer 2022. It covered phonics, the importance of encouraging a love of reading, and helping struggling secondary aged readers.
Hannah Martin 0:07We recently took part in the Wellington Festival of Education. Here's the session we recorded at the event on reading. Hope you enjoy it.
Kirsty Godfrey 0:20Well, it's a pleasure to be with you today. My name is Kirsty Godfrey. I am an inspector and special advisor working for Ofsted and I'm joined by two colleagues on the panel today.
Phil Minns 0:32Morning everyone. My name is Phil Minns I'm also one of the her Majesty's inspectors and I'm a specialist advisor for early years and primary. And my colleague...
Ivana Vidakovic: Good morning, I'm Ivana Vidakovic, I'm not an inspector, I'm a senior reasearch lead at Ofsted.
Kirsty Godfrey 0:46Thank you. Let's get into our session which is all about reading in schools and I'm going to begin by just talking about reading. So why is reading so important? Well, unless pupils can read, they can't access learning to the full. When pupils learn to read accurately and with automaticity so that they're fluent with their reading, they can learn more, simply because they can read and gain the knowledge for themselves. And of course, reading is the gateway to learning across the whole curriculum. And we know that reading opens doors in terms of opportunity and enjoyment and lifelong success and academic success. Researchers found that being able to read accurately by age six has a strong correlation with future academic success. That's why it's so important that schools and Ofsted are placing our attention on making sure that all pupils learn to read as soon as they should. Focusing on getting early reading right is going to give them pupils the best possible chances in their lives. At the same time, of course, though, we do know that there will be some children who have not hit that important milestone, of being able to crack that alphabetic code by the time they are six. For them and for pupils of any age who are still in those early stages of learning to read, that learning to read must be a really essential priority for them. And it's high quality phonics teaching that secures those crucial skills of word reading that once mastered enable children to decode automatically and accurately. And that is what frees up their working memory to be able to focus on the meaning of the text that they read. So until the pupils are reading both accurately and automatically, their working memory is going to be very taken up with the decoding process. And they'll find it difficult to focus on the meaning of what they read, even if they understand all the words and that is why it's so important that pupils quickly become fluent readers. Because when pupils aren't able to decode well, it also limits the language that they're exposed to. Because they're not able to read independently and gain that new language knowledge for themselves. And and it's also worth mentioning that these two different dimensions of reading, need different teaching in the early stages. And as an example of that phonics teaching and storytime. They're both about reading and really clearly different learning intention. So what we're going to do now is we're going to take each of those two different aspects of Reading, Word reading and language comprehension and look at them in turn, and I'm going to start with word reading which begins with phonics. And when we think about word reading, I think it's really important that we remind ourselves that writing is a code. The letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken language. And the English alphabetic code is a particularly complex one. In other languages where they have a more transparent code, you might have each sound being represented by one letter, whereas the English alphabetic code, we've got around 44 different phonemes and we've got over 150 ways to represent those phonemes as graphemes using the 26 letters of the alphabet, and that's why it takes children who are learning to read in English around two to three years to be able to really learn that that code. But effective systematic synthetic phonics teaching, make sure that pupils do learn to understand these letter to sound correspondences and that of course, is what will give them independence in terms of being able to read and also spell. And that's why understanding the alphabetic code really underpins successful reading. Without it then children can't go on to comprehend what they read even if they do have the understanding of those words. And I want to just take us back to time has gone by briefly now because in the past, learning to read might have involved teaching children using a range of different strategies. But of course we know that they're not efficient. You know, research has shown that that's not going to be a helpful way of being able to know the alphabetic code. So for example, memorising whole words by sight, or guessing words, either using the pictures or the first letter of the word, and not helpful. The research is really clear about that. We know for example that memorising enough words by sight is just impossible and it also relies on an adult telling the child each word, so actually doesn't give them a strategy that they can use independently whenever they come across an unfamiliar word in the future. And of course, things like guessing strategies are only going to work in books that are designed to help children guess using the pictures. And that becomes less useful to them when the text gets more complex. And the books contain no pictures. And that's why the national curriculum requires pupils to be taught phonics as the one and only method for reading unfamiliar words. It is a strategy that they'll be able to use independently and forever. Whenever they come across an unfamiliar word. Now, we do know that there are some people who manage to be able to work out that code for themselves eventually. But also there are too many who do not particularly those disadvantaged pupils. And of course, the impact that that has on their life is so great that it's a real issue for us. So by teaching phonics from the start of reception, that's the way that we can make sure that all pupils including those disadvantaged ones learn to decode and therefore have the best possible life choices ahead of them. Because they're able to access a full curriculum and benefit academically. Now phonics teaching enables pupils to become fluent readers and also spellers. That's because the alphabetic code is a reversible process. It teaches pupils to decode words to read them, but also encode words to spell them. And the very positive news about phonics is that it works for all and it harms none. It makes sure that all pupils learn the code it gives those pupils at a disadvantage that opportunity to succeed in life. And actually phonics doesn't hold children back either. So if you have children that can already read when they begin learning phonics, the research actually shows that helps them because of it developing their spelling too. And actually, we shouldn't worry too much about those children because if they can read independently themselves, they've got the benefit of being able to learn lots of new knowledge from reading books themselves. It also of course works for all people with special educational needs. And that same curriculum applies because of the fact that the writing is a code for the sounds in spoken language, that that's a fact that we can't get away from. It's that same body of knowledge that those children with special educational needs will need to read just as their peers will. Any pupils that are not at the point of being able to read words accurately, are going to need to be taught phonics. And broadly speaking, it will only be those that have got severe cognitive difficulties that are not able to be taught phonics code. And interestingly, I think, is to is to think about that they are still on that same curriculum journey, but they're at a much earlier stage. So for example, in their expressive and receptive language. What could change though for those pupils that do have special educational needs is is when we think about the pedagogy so the curriculum is the same, the pedagogy you might need thinking about differently. So it may be that teachers need to think about the choice of activities and resources to teach that same grapheme phoneme correspondence knowledge. So it's likely that those pupils might need to be taught in smaller groups and free from distractions. There's undoubtedly going to need to be a lot more repetition and over learning to develop that fluency and it could be the resources needed adapting so that the more age appropriate or linked to a child's interests to really engage them. But the important thing is a curriculum doesn't change the pedagogy might.
Phil Minns 9:05We've talked about phonics already. And then of course, we've got to consider comprehension. And sometimes comprehension is thought of as a key stage two reading activity. But of course, comprehension starts right from the very, very very beginning as soon as children start to learn words, and we know that that ability to understand what they're hearing and then learn what those words mean and say them and use them is a significant advantage for our children to be able to use that. So even before they're they're meeting the phonic code. They're developing that significant piece of information. They need to understand what words mean when we think about the advantage or we think about disadvantaged children, and I'm going to talk about that a little bit. But the advantaged children come in when they arrive at practically reception possible ready, enjoying books. There's all sorts of research into the differences in the number of words that children are experienced by the time they reach the age of four or five is huge. Millions of words one child will have heard millions of words more than another child so two children stood in front of you on their first day of reception class, one might have heard 4, 5 million words more than the other child. Now the way they heard those words is because they've been in an environment where people talk to them, they talk to him about stuff, they hear things that are going on. They've had lots and lots of opportunities to absorb that information. And people have engaged with them and listened to them as well. And the other child hasn't had those advantages. That child, he's heard all of those things because of the number of words and things that's going on. They've had to develop faster processing speed, so they can assimilate that information more quickly as well. So you've got a child, those two children stood in front of you, on that first day in reception, one understands more words and can understand them more quickly. And the other child can't. That child who is can do more isn't more intelligent. The other child hasn't got special needs, that child's just lucky. That's an advantage. And we need to identify that and if those children come into us without that advantage, we need to do something to help them. And I think sometimes it's really worth remembering what the advantages does only help us to perhaps be motivated more to look at those children, because of course a child who can talk, it has all that confidence talks. They are the one that actually we are more likely to talk to, because we're much more likely to talk somebody who's chatty than somebody who isn't so we actually have to identified that so we go out of our way to support them. Now the reason we need to do that is because of the huge impact of vocabulary on children's well being at school and that life, a child with a lower vocabulary at the age of five or six times less likely to do well in their SATS, and they're twice as likely to be unemployed by the time they're 34. Really really significant for the strongest information or research that we've got in education is that link between vocabulary at that early age, and how well they'll do as they carry through. And when we think about comprehension, we really need to remember that it's not simply a reading skill. If we got children in key stage two who are struggling with comprehension of reading? And we've got to question what are they understanding in all of the all of the instructions that they're being given, all of the explanations in the stories and if we don't consider their comprehension of the spoken language comprehension from a very, very early stage, making sure that children understand the words that they're using, and really understanding those concepts that we tend to link. And the last thing that I was gonna talk to you about as far as comprehension is concerned, is just really the importance and the impact, particularly of the fiction the books and the nonfiction that children come across, right from their very earliest time, whether that's at home with their families, or whether that's in a setting or in school. Stanovich said that 90% of language that we learn is coming from those books, particularly for more complex texts. Up until about the age of eight, we'll learn new words by hearing them after that we learn by reading them. And that's because on the whole generally we use language around the level of an eight year old, we don't tend to get into that level of complexity. So if a child isn't able to read by the time they're eight, they're going to lose some of that access to that early vocabulary that they otherwise would have. And it's also why we need really need to choose the books and the songs and the stories and the rhymes that we share with children from an early age. Because one of the things that we want them to get is an understanding of what complex vocabulary more complex language structures, and that's what quality books will give them. So we share those books with them that are beyond their own ability to read even if you have not yet read it yet, but we're also stretching their ability to understand and they will continue to extract information out of it is why you get those young children who will want the same book over and over and over again. If I read the latest Ann Cleave's Vera I'll read it once and I'll put it down because I've got everything else that I need. I know who was the murderer, really in it while I'm reading it, but once I finished it, it's gone from me, because I've got it and if I start reading it again, I'll remember it I'll remember who did it. Unfortunately! The teachers, pre-school providers, all of those people choices they make around the books that you'll get access to are really really important.
Hannah Martin 14:11As part of the session, our speakers challenge the audience to pronounce some tricky words.
Ivana Vidakovic 14:16Can you give it a go? Can you try reading them out? So being able to read words accurately, automaticity to read them with enough speed and prosody to read with meaning is why fluency is so important because it's a link it's a bridge between reading and comprehension. And research has shown that higher levels of reading fluency are linked with best comprehension is usually expected to children in other primary school age. Most of them build fluency quite early on, but it is a fact that some pupils walk into secondary education without being fluent readers. They still struggle and this needs more research really on fluency that we're seeing the secondary education phase. The fluency is very important because it really frees up our working memory to focus on some other reading processes. It allows us then to more securely draw out background knowledge of reading to enrich our understanding. It allows us to process and understand larger chunks of text. To understand the nuance the details if you focus all the time on trying to decode words, word or letter by letter, then you're not going to have enough capacity to to do all of those higher level processes that feed into comprehension. So how do we ensure progress in reading? Through practice? Yes, reading lots, but that's not the end of the story. We also have to think about the types of knowledge that we need to become more proficient readers. So for example, vocabulary working on increasing the vocabulary range, syntactical knowledge as well the range of sentential structures that she can encounter in a variety of texts, narrative structures and things familiarity with it is also important, and I'll kind of go back to it a little bit later. Context as well as the background knowledge - if you think about reading subject specific texts, right. So all of this can really help increase pupils readiness for reading ambitious literature, which is the point of the national curriculum. Where is the place of reading comprehension strategies in all of this? So we spoke about the different types of knowledge that we should nurture and develop in pupils. And what about those? So reading comprehension strategies such as summarising clarification, prediction, you know, read the heading or the facts and then predict what's going to come next. Or kind of what do you do to check your own understanding of the text, how you relate sentences to try their height and then go back and monitor your own understanding. These are all interesting and useful, but they can't be an end to themselves. Research has shown that they can be taught reasonably quickly, and pupils can benefit very early on from them. But as long as they can decode words accurately and as long as they're fluent readers research has also shown there are no benefits in continuous teaching of reading strategies. What about an effective reading curriculum? As you see there are three main elements to it. An effective reading curriculum would provide pupils with the knowledge they need for comprehension, vocabulary, syntax, subject specific concepts and so on. What makes one text more challenging than another one? It's not a single factor. Obviously, it's a lot of factors to take into account. So one of them's the linguistic complexity, again, vocabulary, syntax and vocabulary that could be archaic, or sophisticated, or academic that brings up this kind of complexity, again, different syntactic structures, which can also really vary in terms of complexity, narrative structures. For example, some of them are linear in the development of action or concepts. Some of them are - not messed up. But for example, think of the Sound and the Fury, the stream of consciousness and those temporal lines moving back and forth between the past and present, so this really also increases the complexity, the number of characters, the genre is a description, narration, argumentation, and so on and so forth. So these are all the factors, or some of the factors that we should take into account when selecting the text and when trying to vary and increase the challenge. What happens when we have struggling secondary readers? We've known for a while that there were and there have always been some pupils who hit that secondary school age, but they still struggle with reading. The problem is they as a result can't access the curriculum, which is why reading is a priority. COVID has aggravated things further. And our education recovery report has shown that teachers are doing a lot of work on that front for the pupils to be able to access their secondary curriculum. They should be reading accurately and fluently. A range of fiction and nonfiction texts as well. How do we go about it? Well, assessment is crucial. And we know that lots of teachers use screening tests and screening tests are helpful in that they allow you to identify the strong readers, versus the weak readers, they don't tell you what the struggling readers really struggle with. So anything that's screening should be followed up with a diagnostic assessment to identify where the problem lies. Is it about accurate decoding of words? Is it about increasing fluency or something else all together? Ideally, that any extra reading support should be effective enough to rectify reading issues reasonably quickly, but we do know that this requires some arrangements as we know that there are timetabling constraints. What is important to bear in mind though, it's there are multiple ways to do it. Like for example, when people needs to be miss some class time in making sure they didn't miss the same lesson every time. We're doing it during breakfast, break times and during registration time right after school or you know there are different options, but this is important not to neglect.
Hannah Martin 20:53We have time for some questions from the audience at the end.
Kirsty Godfrey 20:56These are the questions that we ask our inspectors to consider on inspection to determine how well leaders are prioritising reading so that pupils in secondary can access that full curriculum offer. So our inspectors will focus on how effectively assessment is identifying those pupils that are struggling and precisely what is it they're struggling with. So that appropriate support can be put in place that's targeting their needs, and is helping them to really quickly catch up and get on track. So they're accessing our core curriculum. And of course, that's going to be very much down to the leadership and how well that's been prioritised and whether those leaders have got the expertise to be able to really choose the right programme, support staff in using it and monitor its effectiveness. And also just wanted to highlight that we have got our blog. So if you do want to find more about secondary and struggling readers, then we've recently published a blog on our website and do have a look out for that.
Q: In secondary school too. We've got a huge number of students who have reading ages below where they should be. What is Ofsted's expectation in terms of secondary teachers phonics knowledge?
Kirsty Godfrey 22:09More and more now secondary schools finding themselves in a position where they haven't necessarily got knowledge because that expertise because it wouldn't be expected you know, you would expect that children would come to you already having fluent reading skills, and given the impact of pupils being able to read on them being able to access the full curriculum. And of course, the impact on later life, then there is that expectation that it will be prioritised and that, you know, we do have one of our evaluation criteria in the education inspection framework, which is around evaluating how well leaders prioritise reading so that pupils can access the full curriculum. It's very much time for people to think about if they haven't got that phonics expertise on staff then then it may well be needed because it's the only way out for these pupils to succeed.
Q: If you're in a school that already has developed it's own scheme, you've got books that you you've got three schemes of books, but you've ordered them in the same level as the children are accessing their systematic synthetic phonics. You will find this results are incredibly high your reading results are high. The teacher subject knowledge is high, but they draw upon different schemes - would Ofsted frown upon that?
Kirsty Godfrey 23:19No, is the quick answer! There's no requirement for schools to use a validated programme. We know that there are many schools that are using programmes not on that list and they've developed them themselves over time. They're working really effectively. What we will do as inspectors is evaluate how well that programme has been implemented and ultimately the impact that it's having on all pupils being able to learn to read well.
Q: just following up on the question about secondary readers because students come to us not fluently reading, what is the research some of you've carried out as to whether phonics is actually the most effective way of achieving that outcome fluency?
Kirsty Godfrey 23:59As I sort of mentioned earlier, we can't get away from the fact that, you know, writing is a code for the sounds in spoken language and therefore, that has to be fundamental. It underpins word reading, and therefore, phonics isn't an option. It's not a pedagogy. It's a body of knowledge that children need. Your your question, though, around why children have gone through primary and perhaps not received that is because actually, similar to you were saying in secondary schools, that staff wouldn't necessarily have that phonics expertise. We know that in the past, key stage two teachers wouldn't have had that expertise either. And actually, you know, there's a there's an expectation that children will go into year three with that knowledge. And that's not always the case. So they may well not have had the quality and the quantity of the practice that they need to embed that alphabetic code knowledge. That's the issue really, it's not that it's the wrong approach. It's that it hasn't been effective.
Q: What are the best strategies at secondary for those who aren't enjoying reading?
Phil Minns 24:56I was just gonna go back to what I've said already, really, which is that we teach children to love reading really early. And so we you know, we're dealing with children in the secondary school or pupils in secondary school...it's a really tough call, it's a really tough thing to actually get them to that level of love. That will carry them over learning it whereas that's why we've got to focus on it when they're very young. If we've you know, our children in reception Key Stage One we really need to be getting these key things in because it carries them through the next stage. It's a protective factor that prevents the likelihood or reduces the lucky that they're having those troubles lecture.
Q: So just as a follow up on that one, if if the most crucial factor then in developing and maintaining fluency and reading is to get that love of reading, would you say that for those secondary pupils who have come through who are struggling, who've got no belief in themselves, taking some time out to focus on developing a love of stories and books is something that you would encourage even though that would perhaps, delay the start of the progress.
Phil Minns 26:02One of the things you got to remember with those, those young people in the secondary school who are feeling unsuccessful, is to teach them to read is going to drive up their feelings of self esteem. Because we teach them to do something they can't do. Now. They need to go back to some of the basics. Sometimes you might want to do that out of the way of others, but teaching them to do that will generate a feeling of positivity towards that and also helps them to learn that if they can do that, they can do other things.
Tuesday May 24, 2022
Apprenticeships: what’s the landscape like?
Tuesday May 24, 2022
Tuesday May 24, 2022
Chris Jones 0:04 Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of Ofsted Talks. Today, we're talking all about apprenticeships, and I've got a stellar lineup of guests with me to talk about what is an incredibly important topic. So get them to introduce themselves. First of all, we've got Ian Bamford in tell us about who you are and what you do.
Ian Bamford 0:25 Thanks, Chris. Hi, I'm Ian Bamford, I'm the Chief Operating Officer for Paragon skills. We're a national training provider, predominantly focusing on health care, childcare, education, but also some service sectors such as Business Admin, customer service and management. And yet we predominantly work in apprenticeship sector levels to right the way through to level five we don't work in higher apprenticeships. And the I've been at Paragon skills for about seven years now.
Chris Jones 0:55 Thank you, Ian. And I'll go to Jess next.
Jess 0:58 Hello, my name is Jess I'm a manager at Way Ahead Leisure Pursuits limited. This is a day service with people with learning disabilities. We have three services and a respite unit.
Chris Jones 1:12 Excellent. Okay. And Alex
Alex Grant 1:17 I'm Alex, I'm one of the directors at Way Ahead Leisure Pursuits limited. We have a range of cohorts going through on training programmes. I'm a social worker by background but I've also done lots of training in the past and that's been quite useful to try and help staff grow and develop. And obviously we are quite lucky in that we have a dedicated training provider which makes it quite easy for us to try and help progress people. Some of them have may not have had a very positive learning experience previously.
Chris Jones 1:46 Great and we have Ofsted's own Paul Joyce. Paul.
Paul Joyce 1:49 Hi, Chris, hi colleagues. So I'm Paul Joyce, and I'm Deputy Director for further education and skills at Ofsted.
Now, I'm going to start with with the big picture if you like because you have to those of us who aren't steeped in further education and skills and training on a day to day basis like you all are here. There is a there's a wide range of kind of routes for people to go down isn't there and apprenticeships is just one of them. And I invite Paul perhaps just to say a few words about all the different training providers that Ofsted inspects and where apprenticeships fits into that landscape, if you wouldn't mind, Paul?
Paul Joyce 2:28 Sure, Chris. Thank you. So we've got about 2000 providers in FE and skills that we inspect. The vast majority of those providers do offer apprenticeship provision. Many of them offer other types of provision as well. But apprenticeship is by far the largest provider type we inspect. And since the introduction of the apprenticeship Levy, we've seen about 1500 brand new providers into the market primarily for apprenticeship training. And that's most of the work that we do now. As Chris says provider monitoring visits to new providers and inspection of apprenticeship provision.
Chris Jones 3:09 Thank you very much. Ian presumably you've been on the end of an Ofsted inspection?
Ian Bamford 3:14 I'm actually an Ofsted inspector myself a part time inspector. I've been on both sides, actually. So yeah, I've been a nominee probably five times now on the in a number of providers. But also I've carried out over 100 inspections as well, since I've been with Ofsted on a part time basis.
Chris Jones 3:31 Right so in terms of bit more about your work on apprenticeships specifically.
Ian Bamford 3:37 So in terms of apprenticeships, we work with mainly adult care, childcare, education, leadership and management and the service sector we work with a number of large levy organisations so when you say larger levy organisations, they are paying a contribution towards the apprenticeship Levy. We also work with SMEs small and medium enterprises. And again, that can be a combination of small independent nurseries, it can be small, independent care homes, and we've really sort of shifted that focus since the introduction of the levy in 2017. Because spreading your cohort across a number of different sectors meant that you weren't able to specialise in the particular areas and actually weren't able to give the relevant training towards the knowledge skills and behaviours within apprenticeship standard.
Chris Jones 4:30 Right. Okay, so you're in a good position to tell us about how that's changed over time. What's the kind of what's the latest state of play in the apprenticeship sector and what's been the kind of COVID impact on that?
Ian Bamford 4:44 The biggest impact of COVID obviously, has been the way that we've worked with learners and employers is very much switched to remote delivery. We were in a very fortunate position because actually pre COVID We were working towards changing our delivery models. So we did do more remote delivery, which was good for us because we were able to switch literally overnight to start delivering remote delivery through our learning management platform through teams. And that enabled us to really work with learners. I think on a more regular basis, when it was face to face, we were perhaps seeing learners probably once every six weeks, now we're able to interact, teach, train, and engage with our learners probably every one or two weeks. And I think what we have also seen, as we've seen, learners actually respond really well to the change of delivery delivery method. And in particular, within the adult care sector, there have been some real challenges as part of COVID. And I'm sure it'd be the same within way ahead. Leisure has been some real challenges in terms of the COVID implications, the number of staff that are within care homes or within nurseries that actually were off with COVID, it meant that we actually be very flexible in terms of working with our learners working with our employers, sometimes a very short notice, an apprentice would have to be pulled off of a training session, and actually go there and do the day to day running, if you like of aspects within the care home. So it's been a real challenge in terms of working with our learners. However, we're going through the other side of that now, COVID is still there, we're still having the same sorts of issues around staff absences, and staff issues. However, the remote delivery enables us to really be flexible in terms of meeting at particular times, rather than having to travel 50-60 miles to go and see somebody face to face, it's really helped around that.
Chris Jones 6:40 Yeah, that's all sounds, all sounds good. And lots of practical challenges, but also some opportunities. As as a result, as, as in so many sectors, just tell us a bit about how the pandemic has impacted you.
Jess 6:56 Because I'm doing a level five at the moment, but it did impact me was getting my work done, because we had staff off so much with sickness, I've had to go on the floor and support the clients and have to cancel meetings, as well as I still keep in contact with the learners that you've got here as well that are doing levels. And it was quite hard at first like everything's done remotely when they would come in and shadow, watch the staff and everything. But now everything's done by feedback and appraisals. But it's worked really well. And they're all the all the all the tutors are very good at keeping in contact with you setting up meetings and get to know them through teams.
Chris Jones 7:42 Yeah. So just so you you are you both doing an apprenticeship and looking after trainees? Yes, yeah. Okay, so that puts you in an interesting position, isn't it? Yeah. So
Jess 7:52 I see both sides. Yeah.
Chris Jones 7:54 Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship,
Jess 7:56 Because I've already done and NVQ, three, and ILM to an NVQ. Five. And now I'm doing an ILM five.
Chris Jones 8:05 So it's just a natural kind of progression for you. Is it?
Jess 8:08 Yes it just gives me gives me more knowledge of my job. And you can never not learn. Can you?
Chris Jones 8:14 Yeah, that's true. Yeah, that's true. All right. Alex, I'll come to you kind of what's the what's the current landscape? From your perspective? What are the current challenges and opportunities?
Alex Grant 8:25 Well, I mean, Ian and Jess have covered some of them. You know, it's been a really tough couple of years, you know, and it's right when they said, Well, everybody's I remember the first day, the pandemic, and they said, Everybody's got to stay at home. And I drove across Southampton, and I saw two other cars, because we had to keep going, because we support individuals whose mums were nurses. So if we didn't provide the care, they couldn't go in and work in the hospital. So we had to keep going. And so the first few months were quite sort of stressful. But actually, what we found is there's some been some real benefits from COVID. And, as Ian said, you know, we've moved to more sort of remote learning, and one of the things I think that's really good is, is that through using teams, the cohorts of learners have been able to have more group sessions. And I think that's been really useful because actually, whereas before, they might have a one on one with their with their tutor. Now, actually, you can have three people on the same course you might be in three different bases, whereas logistically, we couldn't, you know, get them all in one place to have a meeting before they can now have a group meeting group session, and they learn not, you know, they learn not just from their tutor, but they learn from their peers as well and they can share worries and concerns and I think that's been a real positive I think there's a much more sort of ethos of having a cohort of learners all progressing together and supporting each other and the support from Paragon is excellent. Jess's support of the of the staff is fantastic, but actually what's really nice is when you see them supporting each other saying Why didn't I understand this question or how that relates to help out that bit that I do at work and someone else will intervene. So they have like a what they might have a whatsapp communication, and someone else will put, you know, another learner who's perhaps had a really negative experience of learner will then sort of say, well, actually, I thought it could be this and this is why and It's really nice to see them learning together, people come into social care quite often, they may not have had a chance to go to university, they might have a very sort of poor education experience. They're very hesitant to learn. And then you know, you actually, so it's like, it's great to see like Jess, she's gone from the three to the fourth. I've got people doing that, too. So we've got one learner, I think, who's 71 is doing doing their level two? And it's great. You know, that's what should be always when you heard the term apprenticeship, I used to think, oh, you know, 18 year 16 to 18 year old, actually, modern apprenticeships, is everyone learning. At Paragon, as Ian said they've worked to have specialisms who rather do a lot of different types of qualifications or areas of qualification. They've specialised, and what's really good is that are linked with Paragon, they understand the business, and they understand the role, and they understand the demands on the staff. And so I think that's been, I don't know if that's unique, but it's certainly been really useful for us. Because when when staff raise something with their tutor, the tutor knows what the role involves, and knows what the challenges are. And I think that's been really beneficial as well.
Chris Jones 11:05 That's great to hear. Thanks, Alex. Now, Paul, come back to you for a second. So Ian, and Jess and Alex have spoken about some of the challenges and opportunities of of the pandemic and also, more broadly in the sector at the moment. offsets obviously done plenty of work in the last couple of years on on apprenticeships, and how does that stack up with what we're finding more broadly.
Paul Joyce 11:26 And, Chris, I think you're right, we've just heard a good example there of some of the challenges and opportunities that exist. And we've certainly seen that through the monitoring that we've done, sort of through the pandemic. And indeed, some of the inspection work we do now. I mean, it's in apprenticeships are great, we've heard a really good example there, where providers work really closely with employers who work really closely with their staff. And that three way relationship, when it works, it works really well. And it provides a really valuable learning programme. So it's really nice to hear that you've got providers, employers and apprentices speaking so highly of the programme.
Alex Grant 12:09 And actually, I have to say the other thing, there's a fourth sort of person involved as well. So we've worked really well with the apprenticeship hub, the southern apprenticeship hub, because they've been really helpful in using the apprenticeship levy so that I can get the funding in to get more learners on the programme. So although it's a three way process, actually, there's a fourth partnership, that really helps as well. So just think it's worth a mention that making sure that we could plug it into some of the courses are really expensive. And we as a small business couldn't afford that. But the apprenticeship Levy, is fantastic.
Paul Joyce 12:40 That's good to hear collaborations working well. Alex, we, we do see that on a lot of the activity we carry out. But sadly, that's not yet universal. You know, we we do need to improve apprenticeship practice. So we share best practice. And you know, it's it's a good experience everywhere, we've worked really hard on the levy transfer, which basically enables small, small employers that have reached either their cap of 10 learners or unable to contribute the 5%. We're actually we use the large levy organisations to support that. And they use their levy money to support those small and medium organisations. So we've worked quite hard on that, because we realised that there was a real gap in terms of that information and sharing a practice. So it's good to hear that. That's working really well.
Chris Jones 13:29 Jess, I want to come back to you because I'm interested in your experience of actually being an apprentice because it must be difficult balancing the demands of the of the course itself with the day job.
Jess 13:42 Yeah, so it can be difficult, I do tend to do a lot of my learning from home, in the evenings or something. But it was really good, as I've seen the different the changes from pm coming out to visit you and doing and having your meetings with your assessor in the service to going to remotely. And I think, to be honest, I find it a lot better doing it remotely. Because it can be done in your time. If you're running 10 minutes late, you can just email your assessor and just say, I'm really sorry, I've been stuck at work. I'll be 10 minutes.
Chris Jones 14:21 Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And is it how straightforward is it to kind of take what you learn back into your into your work? Can you do that straight away?
Jess 14:30 Yes, because I've got very good assessor, and he's very good at explaining things to me and how and how my my ILM can relate to my job and everything is related to my job what I'm doing now.
Chris Jones 14:44 Yeah, that's good, isn't it? And so, what what do you think you'll do after you finished your apprenticeship without how will that help you?
Jess 14:52 It just gives me more understanding about managing my team and different conflicts that can happen in between the team and how Different. All my staff like to learn or when I speak to them how different I need to speak to one member of staff to a different another member of staff.
Chris Jones 15:10 Yeah. Oh, that sounds great. I'm sure my my team at work would say I benefit from a bit of that, a bit of that training that you're getting just that sounds really good. Do you think do you think you'll carry on learning and developing after you've done this apprenticeship?
Jess 15:24 I've said no to after after every four of them, so I can never say no.
Chris Jones 15:29 Okay, so as a chance, Paul, you mentioned that the example of of good practice that we're hearing about here is, is not universal? I think it's fair to say that we see that through through our inspections, isn't it? We've we've expressed some some concerns about the the apprenticeship landscape and the quality of some apprenticeships, suddenly.
Paul Joyce 15:50 Yeah, we have Chris, I think the the important thing to say is, fortunately, the majority of apprenticeship provision we do see is, is of good quality. And we do see things like remote learning, which obviously has its place, although it won't replace face to face, but when it's done properly, it can work really well and can be really powerful. The thing, Chris, with apprenticeship provision we've heard here, but you know, a really strong case where there's a need for it, where employers want it, where employers are working really well with apprenticeship providers. And that's the key here, for an apprenticeship to work, there's got to be the need. The training has got to develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours. And sadly, where we see apprenticeship provision not working well. By and large, Chris, it's because we're not seeing enough training taking place. We're not seeing the development of those knowledge, skills and behaviours that are required. And sadly, it's a it's a, it's a poor experience for the learner and the employer, which can damage the brand. And actually, the brand is a good one. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Chris Jones 17:07 And what happens in those cases, Paul, either that, that training is not up to scratch.
Paul Joyce 17:13 So Chris, we've, we were concerned and our our Chief Inspector organised some some new provider monitoring visits with the amount of new providers that were entering the market was was the concern. And these visits give us an early look, an early indication of how provisioning is shaping up. Sadly, about 20% of those providers aren't making sufficient progress. And where we find that to be the case, we report that to the to the funding agency, and it's the funding agency that are able to take some action. And Chris, typically what they'll do is to suspend apprenticeship starts until provision improves. So our inspections drive that improvement, but it's the Education and Skills funding agency that sort of take the enforcement action, based on our inspections.
Chris Jones 18:09 I see. Okay, good to know. And I'll come back to you am let's look to the look to the future. What do you think that kind of, is there? Is there a next big development in this space? Or is there something that Paragon wants to wants to do differently going forward
Ian Bamford 18:25 As an organisation, it's about growing. And it's about ensuring that, as Paul was saying, it's about finding those employers that have the need, and really want to develop knowledge, skills and behaviours against particular standards. And I think it's really important that we do that and really understand the impact that that apprenticeship is going to have on individuals, but as for the employer, as well. So I think it is more of the same. I think there are going to be some changes over the next few months and years. Certainly, I mean, it'd be wrong with me to say there aren't issues around cost of living, but certainly, you know, in terms of paying our staff is going to increase. However, things like funding isn't going to increase. So there's going to be some real push and pulls in terms of value for money, how well we're going to be able to do certain things and what differences we're going to have to make to be able to make sure that we keep quality at the heart because obviously being an Ofsted inspector as well. You know, this is not about just signing up people on apprenticeship for the sake of it actually, it's about having the The Apprentice on the right programme, the right starting points, and really delivering a high quality programme to meet those individual needs and driving so that we get good pass rates at the end of that, you know, and what we're seeing is we're seeing some real positivity in terms of some of the high grades around merits and distinctions. So really, it's about continuing to improve that quality and making sure we're doing it for the right thing you may you may have heard of the spirit of the apprenticeship, we have to do things in the spirit of the apprenticeship. This is not about funding training that perhaps was there before the levy, this is about actually genuinely funding a need for those individual learners or individual employers, but using the levy funding as a vehicle to be able to support that.
Chris Jones 20:18 And Alex, it sounds like you're having a good experience with with apprenticeships, presumably, that will continue.
Alex Grant 20:24 I think the key thing here is, again, it's worth forgetting the fact that actually, we work in the adult care sector. So if the staff were more skilled, if the staff were able to give a skilled intervention, it directly benefits the service users or the clients or the indeed, the vulnerable adults or children over it might be. So the, the more that we can upskill the staff team, the better the service can be. And that that's, that's if you're in care, you want to get the best care that you can, you know, otherwise, why do it. So actually helping staff to understand why they're doing what the what the theories are behind what they do, you know, what the different types of discrimination is and how like important languages, they're all factors that help staff be better at their job, the care sector, right, because it is under terrible pressure. You know, I hear other providers across the city saying, you know, why is someone going to come and work in social care when they can go and work in a supermarket chain, I won't mention in particular, but for 15 pounds an hour, when they might only be getting 10 pounds an hour in social care. So what can we do that help staff to sort of stay for longer or feel more valued, while actually training is a really real key factor. And if I can get new staff in and, you know, talk to them about would you like to do some training, this is what the benefits are, you know, the the level three is the industry standard, but you've not done anything before, perhaps you could do the two and three, I know that they're likely once they start the course, and it's a positive course and to get the right supports, they're likely to stay in remain in that position until they complete the qualification. And then at the end of that, it may be that they move on to something else, but they might move on to something in care that's better paid. So sometimes we the staff move on and go and work for the NHS, for example, where they've kind of developed a care pathway, they've come into care, because they they care, you know, and actually I want them to continue that pathway and training is, is a key factor in that I don't want them to just despair, and then go and work in retail because that's where the money is, but that's not where their heart is. So if we can help them along that journey. And I guess the other thing with Ofsted, during the inspections, if they if Ofsted is able to come back and go, when actually you know what the workforce are really trying to be upskill they're working very hard. Well, hopefully that means we've got a bit more leverage to go back and say actually, how can we ensure that people who work in care have paid accordingly? I don't disparage anything else. But you can earn more money doing something that's perhaps less challenging, less skilled, that's not quite right. But actually, getting a trained skilled workforce enables everybody empowers people to actually go, You know what, I'm worth more than this. We now need to fight and lobby to get them the pay that they deserve for the role that they do.
Chris Jones 22:54 Absolutely. Just just to pick up on Alex's point, you've obviously had an opportunity, lots of opportunities to do training. Where were you? Oh, is that? Is that something that's important to you in terms of choosing a career choosing a job?
Jess 23:09 Yeah, I think training is the most important thing. You know, to that it sets your pathway of where you want to be. And I very much believe you should do the job you enjoy. Yeah. And the training training is helping you to do that as exactly because I've said I've done a few with through way ahead. It's trained me from being a support worker, to a manager through doing the training.
Chris Jones 23:33 Paul, I'm gonna come back to you. Yeah, it feels like the apprenticeship landscape is changing quite a lot. We've got degree apprenticeships coming in at the moment. What what do you see as the as the next steps for for apprenticeships on a on a national scale?
Paul Joyce 23:50 Oh, fantastic question to to conclude with Chris, who could have a whole podcast just about this. You're right. It's it's always in the news. It's obviously a real big policy initiative for for government. There. There remains lots of questions about the levy and the use of the levy. There are some some questions around flexibilities and endpoint assessment. And we've heard from Ian and Alex some of the some of the challenges. So I think Chris, they'll continue to be lots of lots of discussion, lots of debate about how this can evolve. I think it's I think that's right to happen. For me, the most important thing to remember the learner at the heart of the programme, we need to make sure that an apprenticeship really does develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours really does benefit learners, employers and the economy. And I think if we have those high level principles, however, things develop or however things evolve, they won't go far wrong.
Jess 24:57 Thanks, Paul. Ian, how does that sound to you?
Ian Bamford 25:00 So I mean, I think here is a place for the degree apprenticeships, most definitely. But I think what we can't forget. And I think yes, it's a real life example of this. We can't forget the level 234 And five, you know, I think it's really important. Alex said earlier that actually there's a misconception that apprenticeships is for young people. And it's also really around the trades, but actually, it's far from that it's a whole raft of different sectors, and it's every age group. So I think it's really important that we don't lose that balance between the level 234 and then the higher level degree apprenticeships, you know, I think they do have their place, but not at the cost of the, you know, the level two threes and fours. There's no reason that somebody that doesn't start on a level two adult care programme that doesn't end up going into nursing, or somebody that works starts on a level two childcare early years programme that does end up going into teaching. So there's some real progression routes for people to go through from that level to right the way through to level five. But there certainly is a place for degree apprenticeships, but it's about them being used in the right spirit. Again, I go back to that apprenticeship spirit. We've heard of a number, certainly in the sector in the last few years where we've had degree apprenticeships, we're actually there just replacing what was been commercial training beforehand. So you know, I think it's really important that that we don't lose sight of that.
Chris Jones 26:20 Yeah. And I think that point about lifelong learning is really important. Alex gave the example of I think you said a 71 year old Alex, you've got doing doing an apprenticeship. I mean, if I'm able to do an apprenticeship when I'm 71 I'd be pretty happy with that. I think but I mean, the that's the that's the way the the economy is going, isn't it? It's it's people are changing careers more often. You're taking more opportunities to do to do lifelong learning. So apprenticeships being a really important part of that, of that landscape. Thank you very much to Jess, Alex Ian and Paul - that brings us to the end of the Ofsted talks episode on apprenticeships. A fascinating subject, a hugely important one. And thank you to all our guests today. I'll see you next time on the Ofsted podcast.
Wednesday May 11, 2022
School inspections: answering some common questions for Ofsted
Wednesday May 11, 2022
Wednesday May 11, 2022
We're often asked questions about inspections. Here, hosts Chris and Anna answer some of the most popular!
Chris Jones 0:08 Hello, everybody, and welcome to this latest edition of Ofsted Talks the Ofsted podcast. My name is Chris Jones and I'm here with Anna Trethewey. Nice to be here, and a special podcast today because not only are we going through the offset mailbag, and answering some of your questions. It's Anna's last edition of the podcast. And so we're saying goodbye and thank you to Anna, for all her work on the podcast episodes that we've recorded up to now. And Anna, why don't you tell us a bit about what you're doing next?
Anna Trethewey 0:42 Yes, sure. So I'm heading over to a Multi Academy Trust. I'm going to be head of change management over there. And it's been a delight to be at Ofsted. It's been a delight to do these podcasts too Chris. Not least because I get to chat to you, but also just the variety of experts and the breadth of our work has been been really interesting to dive in more to - but should we get cracking we've got a good few questions here from our listeners.
Chris Jones 1:02 Why don't you fire some questions?
Anna Trethewey 1:03 I actually am. So I get the luxury of asking the questions in this podcast and and unpicking where I'm not quite clear on things which is quite often why some of our inspectors do so let's hear more about this. So the first question is, what actually is curriculum intent?
Chris Jones 1:19 This is a good question. So I think there are some misconceptions around curriculum intent. Curriculum intent is simply the curriculum you intend to deliver. So it's what's written on your curriculum map or in your schemes of work or your lesson plans. Something like a vision statement or an ambition. Lots of schools I see have the ambition to teach the best that's thought and said, or to create a love of learning, or whatever their version of that is, those things can also serve an important purpose, but they're not really what we mean by curriculum, which is simply what do you intend to teach? Why have you chosen those things? Why do you put them in them in that order? And intent obviously, is one aspect of how we look at quality of education. So the other aspects are around implementation and impact. So implementation, simply is the curriculum being taught as intended. How is assessment used to identify the gaps in learning? And how is the curriculum adapted? In the classroom in order to close those gaps? The how is the intent of the curriculum implemented in the classroom? And finally impact - so are the children learning what you intended them to learn? Can we see that say in standardised test scores? Can we see it in evidence? Can we see evidence of it when we look at children's books or talk to them? Those are the kinds of questions that inspectors to be asking themselves. I think it's also important to say that none of these elements will be judged in isolation. We look at intent implementation and impact for several subjects in each school. And inspectors consider the totality of that when they decide on a grade for the quality of education. They consider what's consistent and systematic across the school, and certainly not, for example, marking anyone down because a group of children could remember a key fact from their history lessons or anything like that.
Anna Trethewey 3:22 I think is a really important one to them to just outline to stop some scare stories out there. So you've just at the end that it started to describe some are deep dives, what exactly is a deep dive, what happens during one?
Chris Jones 3:34 So deep dive is the method inspectors use to gather the evidence they need around intent, implementation and impact within a curriculum subject. So it involves talking to the subject lead, observing several lessons often going with the subject lead to do that, talking to the teachers of that subject, looking at children's work, including those children who are lower attaining or have special educational needs. Talking to the children, again, often this is with a focus on the lower attainers. So we can understand the provision that's been given to them where appropriate, that will also include looking at the standardised test results as well. The inspector gathers all this evidence, and then they triangulate, which is a complicated word but basically means comparing evidence against other evidence to build up a consistent and fuller picture. And in fact, it might mean discounting some evidence because it isn't supported by anything else the inspector has seen. And only by completing all these activities, will inspect to have enough evidence to build that full picture of the school's strengths and weaknesses in each subject. And that process might take an inspector a full day to carry out
Anna Trethewey 4:53 it's pretty big risk process that kind of looks at it from all angles. A jigsaw puzzle? I heard Amanda mentioned this just recently again, and we've said it all the way along the line, which is Mocksteds and consultants, you know pretty pretty much aren't a great use of money. Why do we think that? We need to keep saying it.
Chris Jones 5:11 So, in general, we think that schools are better served when it comes to their real life inspection. By working on that curriculum and teaching rather than paying someone to essentially pretend to be an inspector. We all know that time for CPD and money for CPD is really limited. And in our view, giving say the English department a day together to review their curriculum, or sending a year for teacher on a course to build their science knowledge. We think those things serve children in the school, far better than a Mocksted, and we'd expect those things to also contribute really positively to an inspection outcome.
Anna Trethewey 5:55 And even in a way that a leadership team might go and see outstanding practice elsewhere. And yeah, so another purchase or I'm just hitting you with all these,
Chris Jones 6:04 it's fine, you can come in.
Anna Trethewey 6:06 The next question is we hear this quite a lot. We've done some blogs about it to alleviate concerns, but someone here was asked I work in a small school. How would the intersection reflects our context?
Chris Jones 6:18 So you're right. We do get this a lot. And it's important to say I think the inspectors do understand the challenges small schools are facing, many of our inspectors will have worked in small schools themselves. Many will be working in small schools currently because if we draw upon it people who are serving in the sector, and they understand that leadership in a small school means balancing a huge number of different roles. And we're no less ambitious only anyone is any less ambitious for what pupils in those schools can achieve. But of course, smaller schools may have gotten to those outcomes by different rooms and we're clear in the inspection framework that bringing in a curriculum off the shelf can be just as good as designing it yourself. We also know at schools with challenges such as teaching multiple year groups in each class. They have to think hard about how to plan that curriculum. In any case, whether it's an Ofsted requirement or not. And actually these schools should, should naturally be well prepared when it comes to an inspection because of that thinking.
Anna Trethewey 7:24 I'm just going to put a shout out there to some of the schools you're quite right. They've got to think really hard. If you're teaching a year five and six class together. You certainly have to reflect and update you can't rely on doing the same thing each year. So actually, I think it's a hats off to those people doing some really sterling work. Absolutely. If we're looking to you know, speak to a particular teacher and a subject in a small school and they're not available, what's the best thing to do?
Chris Jones 7:49 So there are really practical challenges when it comes to inspecting small schools. As I said, a number of staff members in smaller schools have lots of different roles. So the head teacher may also be the DSL they may also have responsibility for curriculum subjects. And of course, they do the day to day running of of the school. So inspectors know that they have to work with the school to plan the inspection really carefully. So for example, they'll minimise the amount of time one particular teacher might have to spend outside of class because of course, that means someone else has to has to cover for them. And the number of deep dives we've carried out in a smaller school would typically be fewer than in a larger school. And this kind of practical consideration also extends to key members of staff who are not present at the inspection for whatever reason that that might be. And that would certainly could impact which subjects are chosen for for a deep dive. Part of the part of the initial conversation between head teacher and inspector is working out some of these practical challenges and we're particularly alive to that in smaller schools. So obviously COVID has had a huge impact.
We know that we don't need to kind of rehearse all the reasons why, but but inspectors are carefully considering that impact. It will always form part of one of the initial conversations with leaders and inspectors will listen to leaders accounts of how the pandemic has impacted them has impacted us staff has impacted the teaching on pupils learning in their school. And we shouldn't forget that. We have had inspectors in schools since September 2020, which from the vantage point of April 2022, feels really close to the start of the pandemic. It wasn't actually long that we had inspectors not in schools at all. So those inspectors have visited many schools in the time since then, whether that's been to research visits, monitoring visits, or more recently, doing the full suite of inspections again. And of course, as I said earlier, many are serving school leaders and they understand all too well, the impact that pandemic has had, and the inspection outcomes for this academic year are strong actually and more schools than previously are improving their greater good. And this I hope gives us all some reassurance that inspectors are taking that impact into account and certainly not marking schools down because of the COVID impact
Anna Trethewey 10:25 and linked question and one that I think we've had a few rumblings about so how would Ofsted use the data from SATs and GCSE inspection?
Chris Jones 10:34 So at the moment, we don't have up to date data from standardised tests. The last time standardised tests were done, as we all know, in the normal way was back in 2019. So actually at the moment, very little was being made of SATs and GCSE scores on inspection. But it is true to say that from next year we'll have access to the performance data from the exams taking place in summer 2022. We know of course, as everyone does that the pandemic hasn't affected everybody equally. Some schools will have had more days where they've had to close than others have. Some will have had fewer children who can properly access remote learning whether that's because of it kit or not having somewhere quiet to work at home or not having internet access or whatever. The cause of that is, of course some schools have been disrupted by incredibly tragic events over the last few years, whether that's among staff or students. So the impact has been uneven and inspectors are there for when they have access to performance. Data from this year will be really sensitive and that in their use of that data. So inspectors will know that the 2022 exam data is not comparable really with earlier years. They won't be looking at the kind of 2019 to 2022 trend won't be that word make huge amount of sense. And of course there'll be there'll be aware of the uneven impact of the pandemic on pupils and schools. So, like this year, exam results will play less of a role in judgments made about schools next year as well. Of course we know that data is only ever one input among many into inspections. I've described the deep dive process which can touch on data when that's kind of external and standardised but involves so much more than that as well.
Anna Trethewey 12:38 Yeah, and I think it's so you put me in the picture. It's part of the wider picture, isn't it? and foremost the questions that inspectors want to ask but of course, it's only part of the story that comes out through through that professional dialogue and inspection. So a similar question around attendance data, how we'll be using that. So...
Chris Jones 12:55 in the same way as the exam data, in all honesty, with with sensitivity and and with care, I think you know, inspectors approaching inspection, looking to capture school out whether that's on attendance day to exam date. Or or anything else they understand what's happened over the last two years and and they are doing and they will continue to tweak that carefully.
Anna Trethewey 13:20 And so some schools have needed to alter their curriculum plans due to the pandemic will that be taken into account as well.
Chris Jones 13:27 Yeah, absolutely. So people will remember that when we launched the education inspection framework back in 2019. We included what we call transition statements which recognised at that time that some schools would be developing that curriculum and it wouldn't necessarily be having the impact that they might have hoped yet. So we said in the inspection handbook, that if those curriculum plans look good, I'm on track to be delivered. Essentially, that was okay by us. And we would we would take that into account and after the pandemic The same principle applies schools, many schools are re planning and redesigning their curriculum to address the gaps in learning that are resulting from the pandemic or in fact further, further reasons. Many schools will have been planning and replanting, and so those transition statements remain in the handbook, although serving a slightly different purpose now, so if schools are in that process of of planning their curriculum or replanting their curriculum, they do still have the protection if you'd like from those transition statements, which says if your plans are in place, they look good, they're on track to be delivered. Then that's that's okay.
Anna Trethewey 14:42 And I don't think any of us imagined that we'd be using the transition statements for such a purpose. So question about special schools will welcome inspectors consider the impact on special schools as these have had to operate under different parameters. To mainstream schools.
Chris Jones 15:00 So the CIO inspector leading every inspection will want to understand the impact of the pandemic on the school no matter what type of school it is. And of course, we know that special schools have had more restrictions than others. At times this is meant that they haven't had the ability to take children and young people into the community, for example, to get some of the skills they might need to move towards living independently of the children would have had severely curtailed access to services like speech and language therapy. So we understand all that and in fact, we've we've published various bits of, of research and analysis that describes this. So So inspectors know that but we also know of special schools that are doing fantastic work to get these aspects back up and running and we want to be able to sing their praises and reporting on the good things that are happening as well.
Anna Trethewey 15:52 Last COVID question and actually last, last question overall for the podcast. Will the inspections look at how staff and students mental health is supported following the COVID 19 outbreak?
Chris Jones 16:02 Yeah, I think we all know that mental health both children and adults is is a really important part of the post pandemic landscape. And as part of the personal development judgement on an inspection, inspectors will absolutely look to understand how schools are supporting pupils mental health, and we also know that often that will be best done through giving them as normal a school experience as possible. With good structures, good routines, well behaved peers. And of course, sometimes there'll be specific issues that need a school wide response, such as misuse of social media, and inspectors will ask pupils and teachers about these issues. It will remain a big focus of the person development judgement,
Anna Trethewey 16:52 then we've seen some of the impacts on physical health as well haven't we?
Chris Jones 16:55 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So yeah, we'll be really key to understand how schools are getting back up to the full range of PE and extracurricular sports and all the kinds of things that really things that really have an impact on on the physical health, which, as we all know, can quickly translate into into more positive mental health as well. And I just want to mention the leadership and management judgement as well because of course that concerns how well leaders are doing for their staff. So we talked to staff about the support they get with workload, for example. And if either pupils or staff are concerned that their welfare is not being supported, they would be able to tell an inspector in confidence. And whilst inspectors can't investigate an individual incident, they would certainly look to understand whether this was more widespread. So I think more important than ever, as we all know, that inspections focus on these issues as well as the core academic.
Anna Trethewey 17:53 And something that we also heard on those early research visits was about how lonely it can be as a leader, particularly during the pandemic. So how will we talk to how we kind of looked at that issue on inspection? That's
Chris Jones 18:05 absolutely right. And we know from various bits of data and survey work that we've done and the others like teachers have done, that the burden of the pandemic has really fallen on leadership in schools. So we will talk to governors and trustees on an inspection and one of the things we might well ask them is how they're supporting the leadership in the school to deal with all the challenges that remain, kind of as we emerge from the pandemic, right.
Anna Trethewey 18:35 Okay. Thank you. Well, those are all the questions I was going to throw you so well done to those of you who carry on listening because now you've made it to the clarification parts. So there's a few kind of Ofsted does Ofsted doesn't pieces that waft around in the ether. This is a chance to fast some of those myths. Chris, do you want to just give a bit of a rundown of some of the things that we commonly hear is misconceptions.
Chris Jones 18:54 Sure. And we can never do too much myth busting. And these are all things that are are in the school inspection handbook. So please do look them up there and use that as a tool if if you need but I'll just pick out some of the ones that I think it's important to get across. So there are some things that often will not do, we're committed not to doing so we're not great individual lessons. We don't advocate a particular method of planning or lesson planning, or an advocate a particular method of teaching or assessment because of course, it's up to schools to determine their practices. And it's up to inspectors and leadership teams to have a conversation on inspection about those on the merits of the things that they have chosen to do. So we will not advocate a particular method of planning teaching or assessment for things that we certainly don't require schools to provide. And it's important to say this because we do hear repeatedly that Ofsted has demanded this that or the other and in most cases that's not the case. So Ofsted doesn't require schools to provide evidence in any specific format. All that we need is for you to be able to explain it to an inspector. It doesn't need to be in a specific format. And that includes curriculum planning, as well. curriculum planning doesn't need to be in any specific format. We don't need any evidence for inspection beyond what's in the handbook and the types of things that I've described to date. We don't need a written record of teachers or or feedback to pupils. We know that whole class verbal feedback can be an extremely effective method of providing feedback to pupils. You don't need to write down for offset that that's what you've done. We are not going to ask for individual lesson plans. We're not going to ask for predictions of attainment and progress scores. And we're not going to ask for performance or pupil tracking information. We've done away with any requirements as you know to to look at schools internal data. And finally, there are some things that we were not kind of looking to specify. So we don't specify how planning including curriculum and lesson planning should be set out the length of time it should take to do that or the amount of detail it should contain. Or we don't specify the frequency type or volume of marking and feedback. And we don't specify the content or approach to head teacher and staff performance management. Those are just some of the edited highlights from the mythbusting. As I said, you can see all that in the school inspection handbook. And more.
Anna Trethewey 21:36 It's good to raise it because sometimes it helps us set out exactly this what we do and don't do. Great. Well, I think that's everything, Chris, thank you for letting me grill you thoroughly. Thank you to listeners out there. Obviously if there are more questions, please do get them in but for now, I'll say thanks very much, Chris.
Chris Jones 21:52 Thanks very much. Good luck!
Thursday Apr 14, 2022
Thursday Apr 14, 2022
Thursday Apr 14, 2022
Ofsted Talks hosts talk to Ofsted's Chief Operating Officer, Matthew Coffey, Ofsted illegal schools inspector, Sue Will and Ofsted Policy Officer, Katherine Street about illegal schools and what more Ofsted needs to close them down.
AT – Anna Trethewey
CJ – Chris Jones
MC – Matthew Coffey
SW – Sue Will
KS – Katherine Street
AT: Hello and welcome to this episode of Ofsted talks. This week we're going to talk about illegal schools.
CJ: Yeah, that's right offset has had an illegal schools team since 2016. I'm going to talk to one of our inspectors who has been on that team since the beginning, about what it's like to turn up and knock on the door of these places and what we find.
AT: And later in the podcast, I have a really interesting chat with Catherine from our policy team, who talks more about what new powers we need to get to make those inspections more effective. But first, let's get a bit of history and background from Ofsted’s Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Inspector Matthew Coffey.
MC Hi Anna. Yeah, I'm back to coffee. I'm Ofsted’s Chief Operating Officer. And I'm the deputy chief inspector for Amanda.
AT: That's great. So can you just talk to me a little bit about how and when this issue of illegal schools was first brought to Ofsted attention?
MC: Okay, well, that's a good question. I'm not sure there's a real precise answer because, actually in the legislation there's always been an issue of, an acknowledgement that unregistered schools exist, but pre 2016, we used to wait until the Department for Education would commissioners to go in and do an inspection of a suspected illegal school, but it was in 2016, where the Chief Inspector of the time recognised that there was an increase in those commissions from the Department for Education, and more and more Ofsted was getting intelligence directly that illegal schools were operating that we worked with the Department to set up a team that would really respond to what we saw was a growing notification of unregistered schools and so I think the imprecise answer is 2016. But it's always been an issue prior to that.
AT: Okay, thank you. And we've got a number of settings, haven't we? We've investigated since that time. I've got the number here is 850, which is you know, that significant number really, when you think about it across those years?
MC: Yeah, I do remember back in 2016 where, you know, within the first few months of setting up a relatively small team within Ofsted, to look at this issue. We were we started talking about the tip of the iceberg and within the first few months we had about 56 potential unregistered schools. That were on our case list and more and more kept coming and ever since that time, you know, that there's just a lot of notifications about potential unregistered schools, coming from a lot of very concerned people. So it's really good that people have got their radar tuned into the damage that unregistered schools can do and they want us to do something about it.
AT: Great. That's really useful. We're going to hear a little bit more about that later in the podcast and we when Sue will discuss the process for investigating. And I guess actually, let's go right back to basics a little bit before we dive into more detail. What is an illegal school for the listeners out there?
MC: Yeah, absolutely. And on hopefully the definition of an illegal school is set out in legislation and it talks about if there are more than five children being given a broad education or if one of those children you only have to have one child actually if it's a looked after child or a child on some kind of support plan that would take us into the realm of being an unregistered school. Why I say it's a double edged sword because that definition of a broad education allows some people to kind of wriggle out of the legislative definition by saying actually we're not offering a broad education. We're offering a very, very narrow education and we do find ourselves in in some frustrating legal debates that are actually exposed to us that the legislation is imprecise, actually, it's too broad and we really want it to be a bit more focused to get those people that are kind of surfing on the edge of what's right and what's wrong. And that frustrates us if I'm honest.
AT: Yeah, that's helpful, helpful outline. You've talked about the damage that those schools, why should we be concerned about them?
MC: Oh, listen, in my time in Ofsted, I've been into a good number of these places and really you know, doesn't there's not many things that shocked me, but I have been shocked in unregistered schools. I mean, they are filthy. The ones I've been in that they really are very disorganised. Nobody knows who the staff are. That are teaching these children. Nobody knows because nobody's checked. Nobody's done any of the DBS checking. They could be absolutely anybody and they could be teaching anything. You know, so not to any kind of curriculum that we would understand, you know, stuff that people have just made up and of course, we all know the power of education is that you know, adults generally professionally qualified adults are imparting important information in a structured way to children, you know, that that's all out the window in unregistered schools. They're getting, you know, taught anything and actually in some of these places, parents are paying good money for it as well. I mean, he's just wrong on so many levels.
AT: Yeah, there's absolutely that bit of Would you want this for your own children and I imagine some of the things you've seen, really do question that.
MC: Yeah, and these children you know, they've been taken generally out of some kind of good mainstream education to be educated in a way that the parents are told is the best way to educate children and you know, some of it is with good intent. And don't get me wrong. There's not just this world is just not full of 100% Bad people there are there are some people are trying to do a really good job but they just don't get it right. And we need to you know, hold them to account some people just didn't realise and recognise that they needed to be registered and you know, they, they've been given the opportunity to register and then become you know, very good schools in the future, but I'm afraid that is the exception rather than the norm.
AT: Okay, and I'm going to ask you one of those sort of annoyingly tricky questions now, because I think the answer is we're not quite sure. But do we know how many illegal schools there are and how many children tend to be in them?
MC: Well, we don't; not only is it a tricky question, it's really frustrating question because you'd think that, you know, in 2022, we really should know and particularly layer on COVID and, you know, lots of children that, you know, were forced to be absent from school, but those that didn't come back you know, we just don't know there isn't a register that nationally available so that we can see the number of children that are homeschool educated, and whilst not exclusively do homeschool educated children end up in an unregistered school. It is one way through we've we've clearly identified that through the work that we've done since 2016. Nobody knows. These things, you know, like walking through many of our high streets you see a pop up restaurant or a pop up this so you get these pop up illegal schools. They you know, they really are at the top of chip shops and other places, in guarantees, the one that I referred to where we were very worried about children was in an industrial estate, you know, behind one of those big, you know, metal garage doors, you know, I mean, who wants to be educated in somewhere like that? Nobody knows the answer, I'm afraid but we're working really hard and take every opportunity to say to legislators, you really need to, you know, give us the powers that we need, but you also need to clarify the legislation on what defines a score and ensure that there is a register available so that we know the likely numbers of schools or certainly children that would be vulnerable to being in one of these schools.
AT: And we've heard so when we talk about this sometimes unregistered schools can be referred to as well as illegal schools. So just what's the difference there? Because it can get a bit muddled a counter?
MC: Yeah, I guess it goes back to that definition that I talked about the imprecision of the definition. If somebody really clearly breaks that definition is educating children is giving them a broad education or attempting to and there's more than five children. You know, this is this is an illegal school. There are some schools that are doing you know, very small things that are on top of a mainstream education some alternative provision that is specialist that doesn't need to be registered. So that's an unregistered school rather than an illegal school. So, you know, the clue is really the title of illegal and, and I guess, you know, it does come down to the precision of the legislation. Some people also get it all a little a bit mixed with supplementary schools. And a supplementary school is normally of a faith-based nature that is there to educate children in the tenants of a particular faith. They are out of our purview, but I've got to say you know, there has been occasion where we've been concerned about the creep of the scope of what those supplementary schools are doing. And when a supplementary school starts to, you know, encroach on other educational aspects of a child's life, that's when it starts to creep into being a potential, you know, illegal school.
AT: Yeah. Okay. Thank you just touched on. One aspect I was going to ask about actually so we hear quite a lot about unregistered faith schools. Is it true that, you know, most unregistered schools are faith based or is it a bit more of a mix?
MC: It's not true. Actually, you know, there is a relatively small number of faith based illegal schools about a fifth of all of the settings that we inspect in this world have a faith ethos, and it is a very quick assumption that people will make.
AT: and I guess with that, and with some of the frustrations that you have, you know, this is a really obvious question to ask, but I would imagine you'd be delighted to be able to close this close some of the schools down so why can't we do that?
MC: Yeah, well, I guess it comes back to you know, the legal aspect and what we've done in the team, but I'm sure Sue will talk about this a little bit more. Is we've recognised that it isn't as simple as we'd all like to think and maybe back in 2016. We didn't think it was that simple. Find an unregistered illegal school, issue a notice and close it down. But, you know, the tests that you need to go through in order to achieve that prosecution, which in essence closes it down is a very, very high bar. I think it's true to say a lawyer may well correct me, I think it's true to say that this legislation was designed never really to be, you know, used as a prosecution vehicle. It was really introduced as a deterrent to stop people from doing it in the first place. And we soon realised that when we started to have to go through Crown Prosecution Service tests, so we now our team has been recalibrated to have the inspectors on the frontline but also a team of lawyers that are really versed in, in how to collect the evidence that passes the various legal tests and it's made us better as an organisation. Having said that, whilst the legal challenge to close something down might be difficult. Having a bunch of Ofsted inspectors coming along and issuing with you with a notice to say you're doing wrong. Cease and desist is also a very powerful tool. And we can celebrate a tremendous amount of success in closing those down by non legislative means. So you know, we don't measure our success and how many prosecutions but we managed to get it's how many of these schools that we managed to stop operating.
AT: So that's, that's really useful. And I guess So Katherine is going to talk a bit more detail in the podcast later on around some of the specific asks and things that we think should change in legislation. But you know, just briefly, what's helping to change some of the situation here what's being done?
MC: Yeah, well, I mean, we can; being a civil servant. I understand the wonders of the civil service. I also understand sometimes the frustration of the bureaucracy and I know it's not an easy thing to get new legislation in and to get it changed. But we've been campaigning for a long time to get it changed. And we've been working very, very positively with, with the Department for Education, who are committed to, you know, enacting new legislation that give us powers that we need, and also clarify the definitions in a way that I've already outlined. Some of the powers that would really help us is the ability to seize evidence at the minute we can't, we can only photograph it and that's really frustrating, particularly when you do go somewhere and you find that children are being exposed to educational in inverted commas. material that is not appropriate. We can't take it away. All we can do is to photograph it as part of our evidence bundle, walking away knowing that it's still there and that causes a great deal of frustration. I must also give a really positive shout out in this space to local authorities. Because they you know, I think we've worked very well with local authorities and they understand the damage that unregistered schools can do and so they are very quick to alert as to concerns that they may well have and of course, at their disposal and fingertips they've got a lot of officers of the local authority that are out on the streets, day in day out, you know, collecting refuse or parking or whatever it might be. And we found that, you know, by educating their own staff, they can see where there are unusual places that children are seen going into, you know, like in an industrial estate, and that comes back to them and then they come and talk to us. So that's a really good example of you know, cross governmental, working together for a shared aim and objective.
AT: Matthew, that's a really helpful overview. Thanks ever so much for your time really helpful.
MC: You're very welcome. Take care.
CJ: Really fascinating stuff there from Matthew. I so frustrating that we just don't know how many children are attending these settings. And I agree with what Matthew said in 2022 we really shouldn't know.
AT: Yeah, I agree.
CJ: Next, we're gonna listen to one of my favourite interviews so far in the podcast. It was so interesting to hear firsthand what it's like to go into these places and what we find when we do so let's have a listen to my interview with Sue.
CJ: So I've got with me Sue Will from Ofsted’s, unregistered schools team. So tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
SW: Hi there. As you said, my name is Sue Will I'm the senior HMI in the unregistered schools team. I manage the inspectors who conduct the investigations into unregistered schools up and down the country.
CJ: Excellent. And that's what we're going to talk a bit about the inspections of unregistered schools that we that we carry out now tell me a little bit about how an inspection goes down because presumably we don't give them a day's notice that we're doing a normal school inspection
SW: No, That’s right, absolutely not. So Ofsted receives referrals from a number of different sources about unregistered schools come from all sorts of people, members of the public, the police social services of the schools, and a referral comes in and the staff will start an investigation really into what we know about that provision. What we need to do is to establish whether we have reasonable cause to be able to go in and inspect. So under the legislation Ofsted has powers so enter premises if we reasonably believe that an unregistered school may be in operation. So we all carry all sorts of open source searches find out as much as we can about the setting before we go out. And then as I say once we've established reasonable cause we go out to the setting unannounced and then we will turn up knock on the door to conduct our inspection that day. So yes, those that we are visiting, want to know that we're coming out to see them
CJ: And paint a picture for as to how many inspectors that we are we talking about what kind of buildings are they turning up to?
SW: Well will really that depends on what we can find out about the setting before we go out. If we've been able to establish that is already a relatively small setting with small numbers of children, then we will you know we will you know decide how many inspectors we want to go accordingly. If it's a big site, where we've been able to work out that there could be a couple of 100 children, then of course, we will extend those numbers. Now sometimes, of course, we don't know. You know, we're not able to find out that that information. So generally, I would be sending two inspectors out or most inspections at least two people would be going out.
CJ: And are they have a regular school inspectors or do we give them special training or they got certain backgrounds?
SW: Okay, so all of our staff were originally Ofsted staff have all received extensive training. Our training is actually conducted at the Police College. So our is a criminal investigation. So all investigations need to be conducted under PACE conditions to ensure that when we collect evidence, it's admissible in court and so we you know, all of our staff have to learn those procedures and to make sure that they adhere to those in order to get if we have to get a case into court, but then the way we were able to do that.
CJ: So we are acting a bit like police officers then in that case that we?
SW: Absolutely as I said it's a criminal investigation. So if you think about it, the end result could be somebody's going to prison. I mean, that's that that could be the end result. So of course we have to make sure that we've secured that evidence in a way that we followed the investigation process thoroughly. As I said, all of our evidence is being collected in accordance with PACE. We conduct interviews, we take statements. So yes, sort of. We're following you know, we do the type of work that police officers would be doing.
CJ: Yeah. And these places these settings can be in a variety of buildings, can't they? I don't imagine many of them are in the old Victorian schools that we see around or nice, modern, new school buildings. Tell us a bit about where these places tend to be.
SW: Well, I think we hit the nail on the head there. I think we've seen settings in all sorts of places. Ranging from sometimes in school bill, old school buildings that used to house schools, but are no longer fit for purpose. So we've seen groups move into places like that. We've been to settings on industrial sites. We've been to, I once went to a setting inside a caravan. We've been to settings that are being run in domestic premises. So to be honest with you anywhere where you could, you know, have a roof over your head, probably you know, you're likely to find an unregistered
CJ: I’m interested in the caravan. How are they how are they running a school within a caravan?
SW: So this was a setting that we went out to a couple of years ago now was an unregistered AP that was running on farmland, and they had a six caravans on the site where the children were receiving their education. So for them to go from one subject to the other they would have to come outside of Bonn caravan and go into another cross a muddy field in the rain. So it wasn't really probably the best place to be having your schooling.
CJ: No. And so our inspectors turn up they knock on the door, they press the buzzer to the industry or state or whatever it is they do. What's their, what's the typical reception that they get?
SW: It differs there are some people who are doing this who don't actually realise that they're doing anything wrong, you know, they fall into it. Maybe there might be sometimes that they're good people who wants to try and do good things. And that's a bit mistaken really. And those people generally when you knock on the door will tend to invite you in and will welcome you in and that that's one that's one side if you like. There are another group of people that you will knock on the door and they'll hold you at the door. And the reason that they're holding you at the door is because they could be ushering children out of the back door and across the road. Or we've had a situation where children have been ushered through corridors that have been built in between houses, so that when, now whether they've been put in place for when Ofsted turned up, but certainly there are well rehearsed procedures I'm going to say to evacuate children from buildings for when we do turn up. So we have those situations. And then we've had other situations where people have been abusive when we've turned up. We've had inspectors who have been abused and there's been aggression shown towards them. And in fact, in our first year of operating, there was a provider who was a provider who was prosecuted for a racially aggravated offence against one of our inspectors at the time.
CJ: So I'm interested in these people that they quite clearly know they're doing something wrong, you know, if they're if they're holding an inspector out the door so they can get the kids out of the building or hide documents or whatever it is they know that what they're doing is not right, whether they know it's illegal or not, but they know that it's not it's not right, don't they?
SW: Absolutely. Yes. I mean, as I say it's well-rehearsed, but then they're often you know what once we get into the setting, they'll be the people who will be less than helpful, I'm going to say, yeah, so they will be the people who won't offer to tell you anything about the service that they're offering. Who won't offer to tell you the children about the children who are at the setting, because one of the things that we will want to do is to get the names and details of the children because whilst Ofsted is there to investigate unregistered schooling, and we are the only people that have access to these settings, so if it's an unregistered setting, there isn't anybody else with a statutory duty to be able to go in there. So one of you know, well say one of the most important rules we have placed that we've gone in there we have one chance. So if we observe concerns for the children's safety and wellbeing, we like to make those referrals to the those agencies that can do something about it, whether that be the local authority, whether that'd be the fire department or whether that be the police. And in order to help those children. Of course, we want details about those children, their names, dates of birth and addresses and so on and so forth. And so often those are the people who are not forthcoming with that sort of information who don't want to help us and give you give, perhaps give you an example of one case there. As I said, trying to get details about the children sometimes is really very difficult. And so you'll put a question in a different way to somebody and I would say to someone, and this did happen, I said you know, you have over 200 children in the setting, you must have a list of names. I was being told that there wasn't a list on the premises. And we'd said you what you must have a list of names that have you know, have children at the setting. Because for fire, you know, just purely if there was a fire alarm, you would want to be able to check those children out. And the answer that was given to me was that no list was required, because God would make a decision whether those children were going to survive or not. So that was really quite, quite worrying.
CJ: Yeah, absolutely. So you're not going in there and doing a typical Ofsted inspection. Then you're not looking at the quality of education and the personal development all that this is this is about establishing the facts of what's happening in this place.
SW: Absolutely. We're going in, as I mentioned at the beginning to conduct a criminal investigation, so we're looking at evidence to be able to prove one way or another with evidence that's pointing towards an offence that an unregistered school is taking place, or evidence that an unregistered school isn't taking place. Do you know where the investigator so we're looking for both ways.
CJ: Do we get a chance to talk to children very often who attend these places?
SW: Most certainly what when we're in the settings we do. I mean, that's something that all of the team try and endeavour to talk to the children. Again, different provisions are very differently sometimes there isn't a problem, you know, sometimes those that are in charge are happy for the children to talk to us. And then there are other times where children are actively discouraged to talk to us. And we've had I've had I've been in settings where I have been engaging in a conversation and an adult has walked into the room and has been very angry. That the fact that I was you know that we were attempting to speak for children ushered children out raise voices. So yes, there are there are settings where people will make it very difficult for us to be able to try to talk to the children.
CJ: And is there ever a language barrier?
SW: Yes, yes. Sometimes. Yes. Sometimes there is absolutely.
CJ Do we ever take interpreters or people that speak that language as inspectors.
SW: We don't take we haven't taken anybody out with us. We've certainly used interpreters to look at some of the evidence that we've been able to secure on some of the visits but today, we haven't taken interpreters out with us. We're a bit in terms of what we need to collect on that day. We're able to ascertain whether they're children of statutory school age, generally by looking at the children we can observe what the children are doing. So to date, we haven't done that.
CJ: And what happens if you see if you go into a place you establish that this is this is essentially an illegal school. It's not safe for the children. Are we able to do anything about it at that point, do we just have to walk away?
SW: So if the setting is unsafe, as I mentioned before, you know we're looking at having one chance so we need to take the opportunity to do everything that we can and generally we would come away and as I said make those referrals but there have been occasions where it's been so bad when we've been on site that we've called those agencies whilst we're on sites, and we've asked them to join us. Certainly, I've been involved in inspections where we've called the local authority, for example, and said you need to come down here now we believe that children are at risk and can you come and join us? Members of my team were conducting an inspection, only the back end of last year where they had to call the local authority and the police to join them because they were worried for the safety of the young people.
CJ: What was going on in that setting?
SW: Again, information wasn't being shared. We were very, very worried about the premises. Some of these buildings, I mean, I mentioned to you that you know, the different types of buildings, but within those buildings, some of the premises that we've seen have been really quite bad, really squalid dirty, with electric cables falling down. No fire procedures padlocked fire doors. So when we've had real, you know, cause for concern about the children's safety where we haven't wanted to leave the children there, then then, you know, that's when we've called those agencies because we've been happy that they've, you know, rather than coming away and making that referral and then waiting for them to tell us that they've been there, we'd rather be there and when they turn up at the door,
CJ: And what about parents do encounter parents? What, what do you think if you put yourself in a position of some of these parents, what's their what's their motivation for sending children to these places?
SW: That's a really, really interesting question. It's something that we all ask ourselves that there's two different types of provision as we've mentioned before, there's the alternative provider and very often, perhaps those parents don't have a choice in it patch those children are placed at the setting because there isn't anywhere else for them. To go. So those parents maybe aren't doing that through choice. You're they're not they're not choosing to send, send the children there. But the other group of the other group of settings that we've spoken about, for example, some of the religious settings, those parents would have actively chose them and when you want us have to question why you do that some of these buildings as I've mentioned to you are cramped, tiny with no facilities, as I have said dirty. You know you do have to think what why would why would you do that? Why would you want to keep your children out of school where perhaps the school that's just a down the road from where they live that have the most wonderful things on offer art rooms, science labs, drama rooms, gym gymnasiums, why would you choose to send your child to essentially a broom cupboard? I went to set it once that was no larger than a broom cupboard. And the boys were sat in there having their lesson. So you have to do have to wonder parents have never spoken to us at those settings. Certainly if they were present during the visit, we would we would try and speak to them. But often when we're conducting our inquiries after a visit, that they often wouldn't want to talk to us and we would try we would absolutely always try to speak to people but they haven't often come you know, haven't taken up on our offer for questions, but it is something that we you know, continually ask ourselves.
CJ: Yeah, I mean, it must be a fairly compelling religious or cultural reason that's behind that decision was significant because like you say that it's a big that's a big trade off to have to make to send your child to some of these places that they must know I'm not I'm not actually suitable for children to be.
SW: And sometimes you want as I say, you, you go into the settings which really is heartbreaking. I have to say to you. Here we are 2022 in some of the biggest cities, and children are in sometimes I describe it as Dickensian rows of tables with broken chairs and they're sat there and why would you do that and how let down they must feel you know that they won't be able to compete with their peers, they often will have gone through this system and then you know, they're not having what you and I would consider a formal education. They're not taking examinations at the end of it. When they're not being prepared for life. You then must feel very let down. So yes, the question is, why would you do that?
CJ: Tell me a bit about what happens after the inspection then? So inspectors have gathered their evidence they've got the paperwork that they can that they can establish where do they go next?
SW: Well, if one if during the inspection is a small part of an investigation, I'm going to say that's something you that you do as part of an investigation. But if when we're out on site, we identify that there is evidence to suggest that an unregistered school is running. Then we would serve a warning notice to the person in charge who we identify as being the person in charge. And the warning notice sets out legislation. And it explains that you should cease operating as you are at the moment and then we will come away and we will carry on with further inquiries, that that may be all sorts of things where that you know, depending on what we found on site, but that often that visit will open up a lot of other avenues that we need to explore as part of the investigation. Sometimes we'll go back and we'll go back and sometimes that the people who have fallen into this by accident that didn't really mean it to turn into an unregistered school, they've done it sort of unknowingly, they will have been the people who have changed their ways. Who have made sure that they are now complying with the law. And then there are others who haven't who you know, who are carrying on in the way that we found them, you know, at the first visit, and it's that stage where we have to consider what to do next. Because obviously to prosecute somebody for running an unregistered school is I'm gonna say our last resort we'd rather do things without prosecuting people. But you know, when we've found you know, some of these dreadful conditions that I've told you about where we've warned people that it is an offence, sometimes we're left with no other option but to prosecute them. So we then work with the Crown Prosecution Service to put together a case file with a view of prosecution.
CJ: What how difficult are processes is that kind of do we need kind of super high standards of evidence to get the Crown Prosecution Service to take that on?
SW: we work to a very high level Yes, we work and we collect our evidence, mainly in the form of photographs. Currently, that's how we collect our evidence. And yes, we pull together our case files that are scrutinised, reviewed, and several times over to be able to put this this case file together. That's ultimately of course signed off by the Secretary of State and then taken forward by the Crown Prosecution Service, the complex case unit of the Crown Prosecution Service, in court.
CJ: It does sound complex. The inspectors wear cameras don't know is that is that so that they can gather evidence is that for their safety?
SW: Well, we use a body worn video camera for two purposes. And the first is the evidence Absolutely, it's a first-hand evidence you can then see it, it's there. And really there's no argument there in terms of what you can see. But yes, your right foot for inspector safety, as you know as I mentioned to you before, sometimes we're met in fairly hostile situations, and it is hoped that if someone is being filmed on camera, they're less likely to do something that they shouldn't do.
CJ: So through presumably we we do go into some places and conclude that they are, in fact operating completely lawfully do we?
SW: Well to gain entry as I mentioned earlier, one we have to have reasonable cause to believe. So as long as we've got our reasonable cause, we can go in there and that's because we believe that there's likely to be a school there. But after we've conducted that inspection, and we've, you know, observed the setting we've collected evidence, we may establish that a school isn't operating. And if that is the case, we will thank those who are in charge for their time, thank them for their cooperation, because they generally are the people of course that will cooperate, and then we go on our way.
CJ: Sue. That's been fascinating. Thank you so much. Really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.
SW: Thank you.
AT: Wow, Chris, that was really interesting. It must be quite intimidating for our inspectors turning up at these places. Not entirely sure. They will find.
CJ: Yeah, but it's such important work. As Sue said, often were the only people who get access to these places.
ST: Yeah. So listen to my interview with Katherine, where we talked about what might make that role easier.
AT: Hello, Catherine, thanks so much for coming and chatting to us today. Can you just introduce yourself a little bit before we get started?
KS: Sure. Yeah. So I'm Catherine Street. I'm a Senior Policy Officer in the unregistered schools team.
AT: Right. And you're going to talk to us a little bit about the kind of what next what will be helpful in terms of us being able to tackle this problem better. So I'm going to start off. I mean, it's not a small question, but really helpful for your take on it. So if we could just start off and I'm going to ask what changes do we need to make it easier to tackle illegal schools?
KS: Sure. So we need legislative change in three areas. So we're asking the Department of Education to make kind of changes to the law around our registered schools. So firstly, we need better registration requirements. So at the moment, there are a couple of loopholes in the registration requirements, which means that some places which you know, I would think of as a school don't technically counts as schools. And so that means that they don't have to register and the unregistered schools team can't really do anything about them. Secondly, we need better investigation powers. So we need to be to help us to do more thorough investigations and to gather all of the evidence we need to find out if an illegal school is being is operating, or to and if we do think there was one operating to gather the evidence, we need better investigation powers. And then lastly, just to make sure that when if we have prosecuted someone if someone has been found guilty of running an illegal school. The courts and the magistrates have the right sentencing options available to them, which means that they can't just carry on as they were before. So those are the kind of three areas of change that we really want the Department for Education to make as soon as they can. So their next kind of the next opportunity they had to change legislation we think there should be definitely be on their agenda.
AT: Great. That's really helpful overview and we really are so limited on what we can do. At the moment. So yeah, that's really helpful. Catherine. So in terms of can you just talk us a bit through what the current registration requirements are and why they're inadequate?
KS: Sure. So I'm most places that offer full time education to children. So it's four or more children, or children with either one charter child who's looked after or has an education health care plan, they have to register. There are a couple of loopholes in the law, which mean that the places that we would think of as a school don't actually have to register as a school. So you know, our inspectors will go into the settings and they'll see places where that are kind of running Monday to Friday during school hours. Lots of children. These are educational places, It's a school, classrooms. It's a school and but because of this loophole around the curriculum that they teach or the content of the education, it means that they don't, they don't they're not required to register at the moment. And so even if our inspectors see things that we find really concerning, and we have seen places with really were we don't think the education looks like it's very good, where we have kind of their safeguarding or health and health and safety problems. They don't have to register because they they're not delivering a suitable education, which is which is the language in legislation so we just need the Department of Education to close that loophole. And that's a real priority for us to make sure that we can move these children into places that are illegal and safe and have some oversight of them. And then there's another issue around defining what is full-time so we just need a bit more clarity in the law to make sure that anywhere that's providing all or almost all of the child's education counts as a school as well. So it's less kind of tied to particular number of number of hours and more about if it's a place that's really taking the function of a school. And I'm not I'm not talking about places that are supplementary to school, so we're not concerned about football clubs, you know, morning prayer groups before school, Sunday schools, music lessons, these are places that are really taking the place of the school and we think they should all have to be registered.
AT: Yeah, that's really helpful. So that's the kind of sizable that first step next in terms of investigation and prosecution what would make that easier because that's quite often where we come in, right?
KS: Yeah. So when we have reasonable cause to believe a school's operating and this isn't kind of your average Ofsted school inspection at all. These are just criminal investigations. And when we think a school might illegal school might be operating, we have reasonable cause. We need the right powers to mean that we can gather the evidence once we're in the setting. So for example, to search that's kind of the basis of most of our investigations. We need to be able to apply for search warrants. There's not something we can do at the moment. So we can do those real really thorough searches, so we can have the police with us when it's appropriate when it's necessary. And then we also want to be able to seize evidence. So this is actually something that other parts of Ofsted, who also conduct these criminal investigations can already do. So they can seize evidence on for example, in early years and social care when they're doing those criminal investigations. With the school with the illegal schools investigations. We can't at the moment so we just want those same powers to be able to seize evidence. Again, something we only use when it's appropriate. We wouldn't kind of be just taking every piece of paper that we could find. Yeah. We also want to be able to require information so we can ask for information about the setting. And that has two purposes really. So firstly, to be able to help us to gather the evidence, as I've talked about before, and also we want to be able to gather information about the children so that we can pass that information on to the local authorities to help them with their safeguarding role. So that's also something that's really important to us to be able to safeguard the children in the settings that don't have any kind of formal oversight and that in many cases are illegal. And we also want a bit of an extension of what's called the prosecution time limit. So we have six months to prepare a case at the moment and we want to increase that to 12, which we'd use when we needed to, we would still try and do it as quickly as possible because we really want these faces shut down as soon as we can as soon as we can, but sometimes we do need a little bit of extra flexibility.
AT: Yeah. Now that makes sense. And that bit about requiring the information. We talked so much, don't worry about the importance of sharing information, especially when they're safeguarding, you know, how do other agencies work together to ensure they're all working in the best interest of children? I think that is actually really, you know, would help close that loophole. Yeah, I guess.
KS: Yeah. And we want to know who the children are on the setting. So if we can ask an adult to give us that information, particularly because some places and many often in urban areas, will they'll be told you for more than one local authority, so we can tell the local authority where the setting is, but we that doesn't mean that that all of the children will have kind of the right local authority informed and that information will be given to the to the right people. So if we know who the children are, ideally, where they live, then we can pass that on.
AT: Yeah, great. Okay, brilliant. So then we kind of come to the last step, which is prosecution, and then what happens afterwards. So can you explain just a little bit about how we prevent these schools from carrying on after a prosecution because some do don't know You know, we know.
KS: Yeah, yeah. I think before we kind of started up prosecutions, we somewhat naively thought that once we prosecuted a place but we found that that hasn't so we've done six prosecutions so far and two of those were the same place twice, because we prosecuted them once that the individuals got kind of fines community service order, found guilty. Basically carried on and so we had to go through the whole process again. So what we want is that is for us to is for magistrates are in for courts to have the right sentencing options so they can hand down a sentence that prevents the person from carrying running that centre setting or similar settings. It means that that that's the sentence they're given that we could monitor that properly. And we you know, that would, that should kind of close these places down and mean that the children can move on to proper schools to legal registered places to a legal setting where somebody's looking at the education someone's looking at their safeguarding that will be important checks that are made and registered settings, children and settings that are that have those checks, which I think every child deserves.
AT: I'd really agree. Well, thank you. That was a bit of a whistle-stop tour I realised you know, there's three big areas that are asking for change, but they feel vital really don't then in making sure that we can continue to keep children safe and provide them with the education and care they deserve.
AT: Well, Chris, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss this hidden part of Ofsted work in a bit more detail.
CJ: Yeah, me too. And I've got to say that I'm sure we will keep banging on the government's door for the powers we need to help us investigate these places, and ultimately to help these children get a good and safe education.
AT: Exactly this. Yes. Thanks for listening today, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed the episode. And please do go back and listen to our previous episodes. If you haven't already. And we'll see you next time.
Tuesday Mar 29, 2022
Prison education: a review of reading education in prisons
Tuesday Mar 29, 2022
Tuesday Mar 29, 2022
This episode is a recording of the launch of the Prison Education review of reading education in prisons, with Amanda Spielman HMCI and Charlie Taylor HMIP and a panel discussion followed by questions. The event was held in March 2022 in London.
AS: Amanda Spielman
CT: Charlie Taylor
SC: Sally Coates
BM: Bridget McKeown
FC: Francesca Cooney
LJS: Louise Johns-Shepherd
KG: Kelly Gleeson
KGO: Kirsty Godfrey
Welcome to Ofsted talks. This podcast was recorded live at Ofsted and HMIP’s joint launch of ‘Prison education, a review of reading education in prisons’, which took place on the 22nd of March.
AS: I want to thank everybody who's worked on the report. It's a joint effort between emotionally spiritually HMIPrisons and Ofsted many, many experts have been involved with, drawing on people who've gone before - I'll talk about you in a moment, Sally. But it's a phenomenal piece of work. I'm so happy that it's come together in this sort of very clear and I think, urgent way. That's really a very important push [that] a huge proportion of prisoners need and aren't getting, and that there are very obvious and clear ways to make it so much better than it is today. I've got the pleasure of introducing Dame Sally Coates who in 2016, published her independent review of education in prisons, it made a strong case for putting education at the very centre of the prison regime, and for making prison governors accountable for and able to choose the education that best meets prisoners needs. But since then, there's frankly been little improvement, I think, in the quality of prison education. And the pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to making it worse. But I think it would be valuable to have this panel discussion because I think drawing on the experts in this panel, and this audience helps us exert the right, the right pressure, the right push in the right places. Sally is now of course director of secondary academies at United learning, as well as being patron of the National Citizen Service Trust. Thank you for agreeing to chair this panel.
As Amanda says, my day job is running academies up and down the country for the biggest multi Academy trust in our country. So I'm responsible for about 60 secondary schools so my passion is education. And when the Secretary of State at the time Michael Gove asked me to lead review of education in prisons, I had never stepped into prison, I knew very little about prison, people just don't know what goes on in prison, unless they work in a prison or indeed or unfortunate enough to go into a prison. I like to review with a very expert panel and Natasha, who's here, was actually on the panel. But I think both Natasha and I knew very little about prison education when I when I started the review. And it was a real eye opener, going into prisons and going to classrooms, particularly as I'd been in classrooms for most of my working life, either as a teacher, or indeed, running schools. I saw very little good education, I did see some, we did see some, but we saw very little, and most of the classes we saw would probably inadequate if indeed, in mainstream education. And it was a very depressing experience. We went into 10s of prisons up and down the country went into female estate, the male estate. The review, was published in 2016. And we made a whole series of recommendations, all of which were accepted by the government at the time. And to be here, six years later, reading this report, which I read, you know, I'm really, I think it's a really good thing that this report has been commissioned. And I read the report with great interest. But I also read it with frustration, disappointment, and in some ways, anger, that we are still talking about the same things that I was talking about in 2016. Some things have changed, governors do have more accountability, and what happens in classrooms, particularly around literacy, which we know is so important, that very little has indeed changed. And I do hope that today, we have a discussion, and we take some of the recommendations that have been put forward by this report that something actually happens. We need some action now. Otherwise, in six years’ time, we'll be sitting here again, hearing yet another report and saying again, nothing's changed. So I'm going to open the discussion, but first of all, I'm going to ask the panel to introduce themselves.
Hello, I'm Bridget McKeown. I'm the Library Manager at HMP Manchester.
SC: Thanks Bridget Francesca.
FC: Hi. I'm Professor Cooney and I'm the head of policy at the prisons Education Trust. And we also call in the prisoner Learning Alliance.
CT: Charlie Taylor, Chief Inspector of Prisons.
AS: Amanda Spielman, chief inspector at Ofsted.
LJS: Louise Johns-Sheppard, I'm the Chief Executive of the Centre for literacy in primary education but co-authored the report with Kirsty
KG: Kelly Gleeson administrator for the building futures team with the prison reform with lived experience of prison.
SC: hanks very much. So I think I'm going to start by asking Kelly as you have had a lived experience of prison, what your experience of reading and and literacy was in President What is it really like?
KG: It's, it's really bad. Sadly, I've actually been to prison four times, since 2010. Never again, it's really bad that the wages for education a pound, but you can go into a job in two pounds, 22 pound 50. As a mother, and I know for the women as well that were movers or wanting to keep the contact with the family phone credit is so expensive, people need to buy toiletries, etc. So they will go into them jobs and avoid the education side of it just because it doesn't pay well, they can't keep in contact with the family even more. So if you can't read and write you need that phone credit, you know, because you've taken away that the written contact to your children or your family. It's been the same all the way through. I mean, I've kind of done a tour of the country with women's prisons. And it's been the same since I've since 2010. education classrooms are chaotic. You've got some really, really complex women in the women's estate that have been through such traumatic experiences, adverse childhood experiences, in a classroom with one tutor that can't manage, you know, can't manage a classroom of all these people. There's not enough support. There's not enough one to one, there's not stuff for that. So it's a bit of a mess, if I'm honest.
SC: Okay, thank you very much. And Bridget, would you like to comment on that, because obviously, in from the perspective of libraries, and how they work within prisons,
BM: We're quite lucky in our library, and I don't want us to be the lucky library, I want us to be the library that everybody sort of aspires to be, because we have a dedicated officer. And that isn't the case across many of the prisons, I think we're one of the few that have a dedicated official, what that means is that we have somebody who can support us with Shannon trust, we have somebody who can support us with any groups that we want to run. We've got somebody who supports us directly if we bring people in to do activities, because they're there, and they can go and get the people that the demand because it's a men's prison, and bring them to the library and take them back. And where that falls down, unfortunately, is the regime is stuffing is the priority that library is given within the within the prisons, it can be. And for me, you say you're passionate about education? Absolutely. I'm passionate about reading about reading for pleasure. I've got a seven year old grandson who's learning to read and he's probably at a similar age to reading level to some of the people that I'm working with. How are these people functioning in daily life, if we want people to come out of prison and have opportunities and be better, and change their life around if they're coming out with the same skills, failing them? It's absolutely failing them.
SC: And I think Natasha, remember, we went to Grendon prison. And I sat in with the rest of my power couple of people, my panel, and about 60 men came here all sat around the outside of the room, and one by one went round and introduced themselves. And almost all of them had had very expensive education when they were at school. And one man, I'll never forget, I'd been in prison for 40 years, and I still can't read. I mean, absolutely shocking. I was just stunned by that. 40 years in prison, and he still can't read. And as we know, many people in prison come from traveller background or come from, you know, disadvantaged homes where they have dropped out of education for one reason or another or being permanently excluded. And then they get into the youth justice, and then the prison education prison system. And it's just continues, and then they come out and obviously reoffend because they have no skills to do anything else. So Charlie, perhaps you have, you could let me know why the barriers, why is nothing changing?
CT: I think it's a huge concern. I come from education background as well used to be a head teacher of a special school. So I came into this world with a huge interest in education. Whenever I whenever I meet a person, I always ask them about their education experience, what it was like for them at school. And so many of them for whatever reason, fell out of education, some were never in school at all. Some were kicked out of school, usually in about year seven or eight, and never got back into any sort of meaningful education again. I think the reason why progress hasn't been made is because it hasn't been a priority. And I think there has always been a temptation within the prison service to focus in on things that are incredibly important, but nevertheless, to the exclusion of other things. So the focus on security, the focus on stopping stuff, getting into prisons, stopping violence, and stopping and stopping prisoners escaping, those things are all incredibly important. But that has been at the detriment of learning to read and pushing the quality of education. I also think that is an accountability issue, because governors are not accountable for the quality of education in their prison, in the same way that we as head teachers absolutely would be. And therefore, because there's an accountability gap, it's something simply that governors do not lose sleep over. They don't get judged on how good the education is on their prison, that the provider gets judged on that the prison service doesn't make the quality of education a priority for it, when it's judging the success of the governor. And therefore, until we get to a stage where governors and leadership within education, are responsible for the quality information, I think it will be hard to make progress.
SC: So I'll be asking the panel wants to comment on that. Francesca?
FC: Yeah, I mean, I absolutely agree that prison education is not a big enough priority, and it's really noticeable. But in the white paper, there are financial commitments to security aspects of prisons, but there aren't clear financial commitments to how much more resource is going to go into education, if at all. And he and I would say the other thing that really comes out of the report is how contracts are getting in the way of delivery contracts are not enabling good delivery of prison education. And that really needs to be locked up.
AS: Yes, I've visited one prison where the contract was very clearly get directly getting in the way of confusion, a bit of intellectual confusion, I think about the education that's needed. I think, in the in the new approach to functional skills, and the new qualifications is actually a recognition and built and built into the lowest levels, the entry level qualifications, the need, actually to teach, teach reading from the very, very basics. I think functional skills qualifications, as they get used in practice, often sort of tend to miss out that better and be and the teaching becomes more about making the best of what reading skills you've got in the real world, but not addressing the problem. That means that the even that at level one is more than half the prison population can cope with. So I think I think we've got to get that understanding more deeply through all the people who are who are responsible here. I also think that the incentives that you took talk about Kelly, some of those seem like very quick fixes. I can see there, there are many difficulties with staffing that make things hard, but not that hard, but not insuperable. But things like differential pay, right pay rates, need no extra staffing, and they should be remarkably simple and straight and straightforward to implement, there should be no disincentive for prisoners to take part in to take part in education. And it should be a fundamental principle.
FC: They're just going to pick up on a couple of those barriers. One is around the what Amanda was saying about the curriculum, driving functional skills driving the curriculum, and therefore being focused on something that isn't necessarily right for the vast majority of people in the classrooms, which is, you know, has not not changed. But I but I also think there is an issue around the skills of the staff who were in those, those classrooms, not that they're their teaching skills, but their their subject knowledge and the pedagogical knowledge. And, and again, like, like mentors, it's not about the prison regime. But some clear training, when 50% of the people who are coming through your classrooms cannot read at a functional skills level, then those teachers need to have some training around the subject knowledge and the pedagogical content that enables them to teach reading. And at the moment, they don't end with the best will in the world. We saw teachers in classrooms that entry level three, so the lowest that they the lowest level of possible entry, who had come from hairdressing or carpentry. And it's that thing of putting somebody into teach those prisoners in their classroom, there's no way they can have that, that subject knowledge. But that commitment to teaching would be a really, really important thing, I think, and is currently a barrier. And the other thing I think is about seeing reading and its widest purpose, because these are adults who we can't force to necessarily engage with reading a book, every prison we went to, we asked the question to people who weren't engaging, or we asked a question to the staff, why do you think people don't engage, and they talked about the stigma, the stigma of not being able to read, and that's why they didn't engage. But all a lot of those people have family context that they do want to engage with their children. They have, they have legal things that they want to look at, they need to read their menus and those kinds of things. So giving the importance of reading really, really high profile in the prison, removes that stigma to a certain extent and says everybody's working towards this. Everybody's working towards it. So it's important.
AS: Yeah, thank you. I can't imagine being locked up in yourself 23 hours a day and we're not having access to a book or not being able to read a book even if I had one. Kirsty Godfrey, who's going to give an overview of the findings of the report. Thank you, Kirsty.
KGO: Thank you, Amanda. So I'm Kirsty Godfrey, one of her majesty's inspectors. And yes, I've visited all of the prisons as part of this research project. And today I'm just going to share with you some of the main findings. So in terms of background in particular, our research aim to find out how prisoners reading is assessed the provision which is in place to improve their reading, and how much progress prisoners make. We carried out research in six prisons, and the visits involved discussion with prison leaders, leaders in the education departments, teachers, librarians, and prisoners. We also visited classrooms when there was English education taking place. Our research showed that prisons do not give do priority to improving prisoners reading, and that those with the greatest need often receive the least support. There's little opportunity for prisoners to learn to read. And so as well as missing out on the benefits of reading in prison, many will be denied the opportunity to learn the essential skills they need to resettle in the community. We identified some systemic barriers preventing prisoners from receiving effective support to acquire or improve their reading skills. So I'm now going to highlight some of those barriers. First, we found that reading education is not given sufficient priority in the prison regime. Reading is not a distinct part of that core education offer. The importance of learning to read or improving prisoners reading is all too often overshadowed by a focus on acquiring qualifications. Meeting contractual obligations around enrollment on courses and passing of qualifications prevents education leaders from prioritising, making sure that all prisoners learn to read while gaining a level one qualification was often a name for education departments, as this is a requirement for much prison employment. This results in some of the entry level courses not been considered a priority. Even though those entry level courses, which are suitable for non readers or those that are in the early stages of learning to read, meet the needs of as much as half of the prison population. Early Reading provision then often relied on Shannon trust, a voluntary organisation that trains prisoners to mentor fellow prisoners who are learning to read and following COVID-19 in the restrictions, the Shannon trust programme was much slower to be reintroduced than English functional skills courses that took place in the education departments. Also in the prisons, we visited systems to assess prisoners reading ability and identify the reading needs and implement solutions to monitor progress were largely absent. Information on the progress that learners were making while learning to read was extremely limited. And this was one of the key areas that we aim to carry out research on. Yet the lack of information recorded about it meant that we couldn't find out how much progress prisoners were making. Consequently, leaders and education managers did not have the necessary information to even begin to address prisoners reading needs. Our second main finding was that education provision was often not organised in a way that supports prisoners to improve their reading. Very few prisoners, except in one of the prisons visited were receiving any form of English education. As few as 2% of the prison population were enrolled on English courses. The pandemic appears to have exacerbated an existing problem about the time prisoners spend on education. Prisoners were generally not able to attend a combination of both work and education. And with work being paid for more, it often encouraged prisoners to work rather than access education. We also saw limited communication between education departments and libraries. And of course, a closer partnership could have been used to align the library offer with the educational programmes and provide further opportunities for prisoners to practice reading for a range of meaningful purposes. For example, through the story book moms and dads initiatives and others The key finding was that the curriculum was not well designed to improve prisoners reading.
The way in which the curriculum was implemented, was not focused on teaching prisoners to read or develop their reading skills. There was also a lack of understanding about the content of the entry level courses for English functional skills. And so education departments, we're not using a reputable structured phonics programme to teach reading. As stated in the subject content for these courses. And field few teaching staff had the subject knowledge and training to know how to teach reading. Course Materials and Resources were often not suitable in teaching adults to read. Teachers made frequent use of text extracts rather than whole books, lessons focused on comprehension, and neglected the basic building blocks necessary for learning to read. This meant there were not enough opportunities to practice and improve reading. And finally, a critical finding, which runs throughout the whole report comes as a result of many of the barriers that I've already stated. And that is that prisoners with the greatest need to improve their reading, generally receive the least support. So we hoped that the publication of this research and the recommendations it makes will bring about significant improvements to the way prisoners gain and improve fundamental reading skills.
SC: Thank you. That's terrific Kirsty. Thank you very much. Can I take some questions or any points or comments? Yes, thank you.
KG: Hi, I'm Kate green Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston. I'm also vice chair of the all party group for Penal Reform. And I particularly wanted to, first of all, say how depressed I actually am at this event. And I very rarely come to events like where reports are being published, where I feel quite so much despair. It's absolutely shocking to hear that the most high need prisoners are not receiving professional teaching, that there's no incentive on either prisons or prisoners to participate in education, and that we have people who are literally a captive market for education, and we can't actually deliver it to them. I find it incredible, actually, that we're in this situation. I wanted to ask two questions, if I may, Sally, first of all, given the propensity of short sentences, what can be achieved? I mean, ideally, I would like to see far fewer prisoners in custody on short sentences but exacting we are where we are, what can be achieved with those prisoners? And secondly, could somebody describe to me the screening process that takes place particularly because I know there's a high incidence of, for example, dyslexia, among the prison population. So it would be really useful to understand how prisons first identify the needs. Before we get into all the depressing stuff we've been hearing about meeting it.
KG: The things that we thought might work for short for short sentences, where we saw practice that that was helpful was in terms of engaging prisoners with texts and with books and giving them the opportunities to, to use those those texts and books. We didn't see in the visits that we made an assessment that we have prisoners on entry that we thought would help the teachers to teach reading. And we didn't see continuity between prisons. So we talked to several prisoners, who told us that they were doing a qualification that they had already done, because the information about the assessment hadn't passed on. But more than that, that the assessment was so broad, that it didn't actually identify those specific skills or gaps in knowledge that those prisoners had that could have enabled the teaching to happen. If the assessment was right, I think the teaching could be more focused to those people on very, very short sentences.
CT: I would I think it's worth just saying that the moment many prisoners are assessed by giving, being given a long form to fill out many page long form to fill up in which they tick the boxes. I think it's question number three on that form is, do you find it difficult filling out forms, I sat in HMP Leicester with a pile of these forms in front of me, just going through them, and at least half of them had ticked the box, I find it difficult to fill out forms, they then had to fill out another whatever it was six or seven pages have formed. So if the assessment isn't dynamic enough, then there isn't really an understanding of so it may be that they got dyslexia, it may be that they've never been exposed to literature. or been taught properly in the past? It may be that they've got learning difficulties, it may be that the English isn't their first language, there are a whole bunch of reasons why people may not be able to read. And until you get a proper diagnostic test in place, you just wait no matter what.
Yes, I was gonna say, I think the really important point here is this, this very large slice the prison population has, essentially they've all experienced reading failure, they've virtually all been through primary school, at least, without succeeding in learning to read. So whatever particular sort of learning difficulties you might be able to label with them with, they've all essentially got this huge discouragement and the need for something that is very well structured, systematic takes them into small steps, that minimises of clutter and redundancy that focuses on that on the core job of teaching, reading in the simplest, clearest possible way to maximise the chance of experiencing that feeling of making progress. And getting towards being able to be being able to read well. And that need is fundamentally the same for pretty much every kind of reading difficulty there out there answer 17 different ways to teach men or women to read, depending on exactly what the label is. So concentrating on getting that core quality and having trained training training people to be competent to teach, that is the thing that could make the most difference for the greatest number in the shortest time.
BM: Can I just say we, I mean, within the prison, within many prisons, I'm going to notice somebody here from the Shannon trust, there is a reading programme from the children trust, which is a very, very comprehensive programme that, that you work through the thing. The thing with that is it and it's wonderful, please don't think that I'm saying it's not his again, it's the priority of it. It's a voluntary organisation, it is a charity. And although they do have a seat at the table here and H NPPs. It's not being pushed from the front, from the from the SLP. From the governors, it again falls down in that priority, but in answer to question directly within the shadow trust and the reading programme, even somebody on a short sentence that wants one at the expected is 2020 minutes a day, five days at five, five sessions a week, if they have that they can make really, really good progress.
Ian Merrill, Shannon Trust: Thanks, Sally. Just to build on Bridget's point there. Welcome the report. Thank you for it, I can understand how a lot of the emphasis is going to be on improving mainstream education. But what we wouldn't want to get lost here is the opportunity to scale up peer-led reading programmes that use phonics turning pages as Bridget mentioned, that's my slight concern. The organisation is now ready to scale. I'm sure there are other organisations in the voluntary sector who could do more, it simply requires some pretty modest investment. We know what to do with that investment, we can do a lot more, and we can open the door for a lot more people to mainstream education. It's not either or.
KG: So what's happening is that people tend to say in answer to the question, what do you do for for people to help them reading? Oh, Shannon trust? Yeah. And, and so absolutely agree with everything Ian said about scaling up and all of those things, but you can't. You can't use it as an excuse not to do it properly in the mainstream.
Sam Duncan: Hi, I'm Sam Duncan from UCL Institute of Education. I'm really happy to hear this report, because this has been my experience for 20 years, that those in prison with the greatest needs are the least well served, to questions stroke kind of comments about how can we push this forward. One thing that I think will make a big difference is not to have group teaching in prisons, which combine entry one, entry two and entry three, this spans a massive range of reading need. Entry. One is where people are really learning to decode to understand the sound symbol relationships, it has the greatest stigma, entry, three people are really brushing up more or less, they have those decoding skills. They're developing fluency, particularly in male prisons, where there's so much violence and prisoners feel so vulnerable, perhaps also female prisons. Having those two groups together mean those with the greatest need, who need to learn the decoding, will not speak up in group sessions, and will hide or act up will get banned from sessions, and they won't, that won't work. So I know it's more expensive dividing them. But if there's any way we can push for that, and I'd be happy to be part of that, I think that's one thing. The second exactly as you've said, there's an issue with the teacher education of people who are teaching and we work on teacher education programmes. It's very difficult. It's difficult to fund having good CPD is very difficult to find, but in my experience, what's been happening over the last 15 years is good adult literacy teachers haven't been able to make a living doing their job. The pay and conditions have meant that they've had to leave the profession. So expertise is lost expertise is haemorrhaged every year. And therefore, the really important thing, as a colleague said before about assessment, you know, knowing how to really assess a need, that takes a lot of expertise. And if if there's not the pay and conditions to allow teachers to build careers as adult literacy specialists to maintain those careers, it's really it's a losing battle. So I know those are very hard things, but those are the two key things I would recommend we really focus on because I think this report is spot on.
Matt Hancock: Thank you, Matt Hancock, I'm going to admit something at the start. I was in DFE for two years as the Minister responsible for prison education just before your report came through. And I'm not often shocked anymore. But I've been really shocked by this report today, because absolutely nothing has changed for the better. If you read this report compared to then, and that was eight to 10 years ago. And I know from that experience, that the fact that the responsibility sits both between MOJ and DFE makes it hard to provide leadership right at the top. And so it's wonderful that Ofsted and HMIP have come together because it needs both of you and then both departments to make change happen. I come to this because I've got a campaign for better support for those who are dyslexic, but really ultimately, that's about literacy. So my question is what can we do in terms of actions implementing your report Sally will be a good start, but in particular, in the accountability space, because it seems to me that all of the suggestions that have been put together will only be unlocked if prison governors feel they've got skin in the game and even something as simple as that their rating is determined by the proportion of prisoners who leave their prison illiterate for instance would then have knock on consequences throughout the the system. There is no magic bullet of course, there's a huge number of things the data issue in my local prison, absolutely furious that they never get the data so when they do assessments, the prisoners the first thing that every single prisoner says is I've already done an assessment is Why do I have to bloody well redo it? And that's they blame GDPR I mean, I bought through GDPR it did not stop that. And that can be fixed. So, but my point of that going into that is to say there are huge numbers of small things that need to be fixed. But getting the accountability right surely will help to start or other big things that we should be calling for as well.
AS: We are part of the system of prisons, prison inspections, we inspect, and it's educationist with within purposeful activity, part of prison inspection where the findings are consistently until overwhelmingly very, very poor through the entire prison system there in not many prisons that get that get a good on that category. And this has been the case for a long time. And yet, it doesn't seem to exert the pressure that you would that you would expect it to given its value.
CT: Absolutely, I think it's a frustration of anybody who's occupied this chair, is going back to prisons, the same prisons again and again. And writing what is often a very similar report when it comes to the concerns that we flag and it's 40 years on since it was first started in its current form. And I dug out the original chief inspectors report. And the second paragraph of it begins by saying there are too many prisoners locked up in their cells for too long with nothing meaningful to do. So to some extent. Some of the frustrations back then have not changed in any way. And and it is as Matt says that prioritisation of of prisons, the prioritisation of reading in prisons. And the fact is, it's it's not that hard to teach people to read, actually, there are some people who find it more difficult than others. But actually, we know how to teach people to read, we can make progress here. You know, this isn't rocket science, it isn't some unbelievably difficult process. Actually, we do know how to teach people to read, and people can make progress. And, you know, I was really struck by I met a guy in Belmarsh, who, who had just started within three days, it started a 30 year sentence. And he had one thing he had a book that his lawyer had given him. And it was Wild Swans that people may remember by Jung Chang, but it came out, he'd read it three times. And the only way that he was going to get through that sentence was by finding some meaning elsewhere. And being able to think or talk about the cultural revolution, actually was giving him an opportunity to think differently about himself and about the world he was in and make some sense of what he was going to go through for the next 30 years. But if it's not a priority, if it's not something that that governors that presents the prison service focus on, if there is a sense that you can simply oversee Prison Education, with a few giant contracts, and then all you need to do in order to improve things is just turn the dial a little bit on a contract, a fantasy that if we just get the contracts, right, we'll solve the problems with prison education, instead of understanding that actually, it's about the context of individual prisons, it's about having brilliant people like Bridget, who are in prisons and making things work. But actually, as Bridget says, Manchester is extremely lucky having her and she does an amazing job. But if you don't have a Bridget and you don't have a prison who buys in, then progress just isn't made.
AS: How many more reports and how many more such pieces of research is it going to take to to make the changes? And we've talked a lot about accountability? And when is that actually going to happen? And when are we going to get really impatient, which it feels that we are in this room, and it feels that the people in this room could make the real difference? And have all the know how we have all the know how we also know what we should do and what we ought to be doing? Should we not really push for the doing on it now and and that really feels quite urgent to me. I want to express a small note of optimism here. And you're absolutely right. But I think one of the things that has changed in the last 20 years is I think our national understanding of how best to teach reading and especially what's most effective for the children who will have the greatest difficulty learning to read has come on in leaps and bonds. And I think the extent to which that is accepted and being built into every primary school in the country. The current incarnation of inspection does that so much better than any previous incarnation. So I think the preventive piece is getting a great deal better, I think we'll see fewer children with these difficulties. And it will be very interesting to see sort of to what extent that flows through into sort of behaviour later in people's school careers. Not all the things that make young people come off the rails. There are there are many young people being taught in it not not just in youth institutions, but in alternative provision in SEND schools as well as mainstream schools. Getting this understanding could really help sort of shift practice and rebalance attention. But we need to make sure that prisons don't stay walled off. From from from, from these these developments, these shifts,
CT: I was shocked by some of the stuff we saw going on, the incentives are in the wrong place. The incentives for governors are in the wrong place the incentive to lock unlock prisoners in order, they can get involved in mentoring schemes, the incentives to focus on the importance and progress and educational progress that the prisoners make is in the wrong place. The incentives on providers are in the wrong place. They're focused in on qualifications, as opposed to people actually making progress wherever they are. So there continues to be a big tranche of prisoners who don't get any access to teaching at all. And the incentive for prisoners is in the wrong place, as well as, as Kelly, so eloquently put it, where you're better off, you're better off, and you get better paid, walking around the prison with a wet rag, wiping down sell doors. And there is a greater incentive to do that. Because you get enough money to get through the basics, then there is of going into education, and learning to read. And that, to me is a hugely wasted opportunity. But also the way that assessment works, the assessment isn't thorough enough, it doesn't give a good enough description and understanding of the issues of prisoners, but also the fact that the information doesn't get out. So the fact that the sharing of information between different prisons doesn't happen, and the frustration again and again, that I get from talking to prisoners, who tell me that they've done these tests before they've done this qualification before elsewhere. And yet, they're being asked to go through and do the qualification, again, in a different prison. It costs 45,000 pounds to keep someone in prison for a year, on average. It does seem extraordinary that that that huge cost to the taxpayer, that if someone comes in, unable to read, that they go out, unable to read. So I hope the government takes us seriously. I hope the we can build some impetus and some momentum here, in order that we can begin to really make a difference for that group of prisoners who could do so much better who could get so much more out of the time that they spent in prison.
Tuesday Feb 15, 2022
School Exclusions and Alternative Provision
Tuesday Feb 15, 2022
Tuesday Feb 15, 2022
Hosts, Chris Jones and Anna Trethewey talk about schools exclusions and alternative provision. Anna talk to Ofsted's Anna Heavey about what Ofsted looks for on inspection. Chris talks to Danny Coyle from the Newman Catholic College and Anna Cain from the boxing Academy about complexity around exclusions and keeping children in school.
AT: Anna Trethewey
CJ: Chris Jones
AH: Anne Heavey
AC: Anna Cain
DC: Danny Coyle
AT: Hello and welcome to this episode of Ofsted Talks. Today we're going to be talking about exclusions and alternative provision.
CP: Yes, Anna – we are. A challenging topic. We are exclusions are really difficult for schools and no headaches excluding likely are but unfortunately sometimes they are unavoidable. So this podcast is going to explore how we can ensure that when exclusions are necessary that children are being excluded are supported in the best way possible and have access to the best alternative provision to help them get back on track.
AT: Yeah, it's massively important. So first up, I talked to Anne Heavey from an Ofsted policy team. And we had a really interesting discussion about what we look for around exclusions and alternative provision on inspection.
CJ: And then I took part in a fascinating discussion with Danny Coyle, from the Newman Catholic College and Anna came from the Boxing Academy, which is an alternative provision and we discussed the effect exclusion can have on children and some ways to reduce it.
AT: Brilliant. Okay, first let's have a listen to and talk about exclusions and inspection.
AT: It's lovely to have you along. I wanted so for listeners out there. This is Anne Heavey from Ofsted. Can you just talk a little bit about who you are
and what your role is pleased?
AH: I am Anne Heavy. I'm a member of the school's early education policy team. So I help the organisation think about how we're inspecting schools the methods that we use and the what we're hoping to achieve as we're doing that through handbooks, our guidance and our inspector training.
AT: Cool. Okay, great. So that means that you are very well placed but my first question What does Ofsted look at when considering exclusion levels on inspection?
AH: So there are a few bits of information that we will have about the school, which I'll go through and I'll also talk about what we actually lay out in our handbook about what we look at. So to begin with, our inspectors will have access to information about suspensions and exclusions. Historically, that have taken place in the school. And they will pull out quite interesting information. So they'll look at the number that have taken place, and also the reasons that have been recorded for both suspensions and exclusions. And they won't be making any judgments at that point about whether or not that exclusion should have happened or kind of this is automatically terrible or brilliant, but it will help set the tone. And one thing that I would just like to draw attention to is we do see no specific reason or not specified often listed as why an exclusion happened and it is likely that the inspectors will want to find out a little bit more about what's underneath those suspensions and exclusions because if we're not sure why they happened, how can we learn from them and reflect on maybe how we refine our processes and provision? We will also right at the start of the inspection The inspector will ask the school to provide records of their exclusions and a few other things like use of internal exclusion arrangements. So we'll be looking in the round. How behaviour and attitudes are managed as part of that behaviour and attitudes judgement. One thing I would really like to flag is that we're very clear in the handbook that we don't think excursions in and of themselves are a bad thing. Headteachers do have the power to exclude if it is in the best interests of their school community. However, what we will be guided by when we're considering the schools use of exclusions and suspensions is whether that was a last resort, and what is the culture and the actions within the school that help everybody to achieve really well and access a safe environment. We certainly won't look at a school and think there are no exclusions that must be great automatically or there are lots of exclusions that must be bad. We want to know why what's going on and have that rich discussion.
AT: So my next question is, you know slightly philosophical you touched on it already, but is exclusion a necessary part of school life?
AH: That's a really good question. I think it's important that we remember that it's a legitimate action to take in some circumstances. So is it a necessary tool in the toolbox for a headteacher to run a safe and productive school? Yes. However, is it something that we think headteachers relish? No, I think we can recognise that it's a difficult process for everybody involved there as we know lots of consequences and implications. And it's, it's yeah, it's difficult. So we know headteachers will be making difficult decisions to manage the balance between maintaining that school environment maintaining a safe and productive situation for everyone and also the best interest of that child. So it's a necessary tool, but it's one that should be used very, very carefully. And with a lot of consideration.
AT: Thanks Anne. That was really helpful. I'm going to move on to alternative provision now. So if you could just lay out for me, what is alternative provision, we often just go to straight to AP, don't we? So what is alternative provision?
AH: Well, thanks. Nice, easy question.
AT: I thought you'd appreciate that.
AH: I think I'll start by just highlighting that it's a really diverse sector. And I'll wimp out of immediately answering your question and say that AP really exists to support those children who for whatever reason, ordinary mainstream education isn't working, what isn't the right thing at that time. So the cohort of pupils that access AP is very diverse. And, you know, we've just been speaking about exclusions and I think it's very important that we recognise that yes, it is a primary destination for many children that are excluded. But AP settings also work with children who may be out of school for medical reasons that may have experienced bullying, and have other reasons to not be engaged with mainstream education. So it's an incredibly diverse sector. And to attempt the you know, what is alternative provision question? It's it is that it's the alternative that is necessary in the moment to support a young person or a child to make progress and to learn, hopefully to reengage with mainstream education, but certainly to secure a meaningful next step or destination. So I hope that answers your question, but it’s a good one to start with.
AT: I think the difficulty in pinning it down is sometimes you know, you come at this question, sometimes with more questions, actually. I think it's certainly understandable. I'm going to ask another broad question for you, but one that it'd be helpful to get an understanding of, what kind of standards do we see in alternative provision.
AH: So for listeners that have already read our annual report,
AT: Thank you the geeks of you're out there.
AH: Well, there's a really helpful table within the school section, which compares the inspection outcomes of different types of school. So for those providers that are registered, and that we inspect, we can see that a lot of them are good or outstanding. Actually, if we're being frank, it's a really strong part of the sector in terms of inspection outcomes. So we can see there are a lot of providers out there that are delivering really high quality provision. I'm now going to caveat some of that. We're gonna talk about registered provision, I think at the moment and some of the concerns that we have about providers that aren't registered, but as I said earlier on the cohort that access AP are extremely diverse. And have got a lot of complex circumstances in their life. So you could have a really strong provider, that isn't the best place for a specific an individual child. So our concern is as much about the quality of the provider and the quality of education, the state that the status and training of staff and, and their contextual safeguarding knowledge, as it is those that commission the place for the child, whether it's a school or a local authority, how well does that Commissioner understand the specific needs of that child? And have they thought this is this the best possible provision to secure the best possible progress and put in that necessary support for this child, or crudely is this just what's available? And so that's a concern. I have another concern which I'd like to share, which is the use of part time provision. And as you all know, the education inspection framework is underpinned by our concept of a really coherent, high quality curriculum. How can we be sure if a child is receiving a patchwork of provision with some time spent with one provider some time spent with another and maybe they're at school as well, that that adds up to a meaningful and coherent whole and that someone is holding the reins of that provision and sure that it adds up to something that is genuinely worthwhile in every moment for that young person. And let's be honest, this isn't an issue for the AP provider necessarily, this could be an issue for the commissioning school. We do see cases when we're on inspection, where the child has been sent to the nearest convenient space, which could be great, but isn't the great thing for that pupil. So that's, a concern.
AT: So I was going to ask you, what can be improved about this revision? I guess? You've already touched on some of the kind of commissioning arrangements there. Are there any broader messages or you know, specific things providers? That are listening? Any comments on that please?
AH: I think one of the things we're really interested in is how that next step is secured. So it's it's tricky as next one. We're on inspection. We're looking at the provision that's available for children that are there in that moment right now. And really what is so crucial is that that AP empowers and secures a fantastic next step. And that could be to a special school back to mainstream to a different AP to post 16 provider. The destinations are as diverse as the cohorts. Yeah, but it's a big ask on providers, and I think we should be really honest about just how big this task is to understand every pupils needs put in, place that bespoke package and then secure that next step for them. That's a lot to ask. But we are worried about destination breakdown. And what happens particularly at post 16, where the, you know, the statutory role of AP just doesn't exist. And if you think it's a bit of a cliff edge, you know, you've had a lot of support. We know a lot of providers really build around their child. And then if you've had that at the end of your key stage four, and it's not there isn't a bridge into what comes next. You could fall over and who is going to catch you and who is going to make sure you have you know, the progress that has been made at that setting is carried on to that next step. So that's something we would really like to work on. And that's not just providers, that's everyone involved in that destination. And then the other thing we're really are concerned about is the use and our kind of sector knowledge of unregistered providers.
AT: Yeah, I was going to ask for this. So for people listening out there who don't really know what I mean by registered and unregistered, can you just give us a brief definition of that and then talk through some of the concerns we've got.
AH: So a registered provider is one that is known to the Department for Education and that we can inspect so we know quite a bit about registered providers and we will continue to inspect and understand what's going on in those providers. And as I said, the inspection outcomes for registered providers are pretty, pretty strong. Unregistered providers are just that. So they're not necessarily providing while they're not providing a full time operation and frankly we just can't be sure about the quality of suitability and safety of the provision on offer. Now, I don't want to sit here and just do down everyone that's involved in the sector. That's not my aim. Because we know as I said, right at the start, this is a really diverse sector. There are lots of providers out there who are employers who are, you know, community service providers that are providing a really bespoke, really unique offer to that child. And again, I said earlier, we've got to make sure the provision is the thing that child needs. So we need to find a way that doesn't drive great providers out of the system who are providing that great service, but it is it is not okay. And we are worried about the fact that some of our most vulnerable children are being sent to settings that we cannot be confident or safe. And that is a very low bar. And it must be reasonable to expect us to make those checks about the suitability and safety of those providers. And we will hold to account in our provider inspections, those that aren't properly checking out the providers that they're commissioning, so when we inspect a school we will always ask are you commissioning AP for any of your pupils and we will look into that and we will we will be very concerned if we find out this suitability checks haven't been taken out. But yeah, repeating that question, is it okay that some of our most vulnerable children are being sent to settings that we know almost nothing about?
AT: Thank you. That's a really helpful question, I think to pose and finish with. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.
CJ: That was really interesting, Anna. I think the points made around registering AP at the end are really important. It's a low bar, isn't it ensuring that all children are in safe and supportive environments but we're not even there yet.
AT: Yeah, yeah, you're right. It is. So your next guest specialise in a supportive environment. That's right, isn't it? Right? Yeah, they do. So let's have a listen.
CJ: I am very pleased to be joined today on the podcast by Anna Cain, who's Principal of the Boxing Academy, Danny Coyle, who's Head at the Newman Catholic College and both of them have some fantastic insights to give us on this whole issue of exclusions, alternative provision and the issues around them and ask them to introduce themselves and say a few things about their work as a starting point. So tell us a bit about yourself and about the Boxing Academy.
AC: Hi Chris. So the Boxing Academy is even in the field of alternative provision quite alternative we’re the only school in the country with boxing on the curriculum and inspected by Ofsted, I'll have you know. Boxing is it's the values and ethos of the school so we're providing an alternative education rigorous and ambitious and aspirational but using the ethos or fear of a boxing gym to create something different. So that's the alternative part but actually it's quite traditional school as well.
CJ: Brilliant more broke Come on, Danny oversee you tell us a bit about your school.
DC: Okay, thanks very much for this Yeah. Danny Coyle that teaches you in college here in in houses in northwest London. A boys school year seven up to 11 with a with a mixed sixth form. I think what characterises this school most is this deep commitment to show an inclusive ethos as hopefully will become a part of our joy the cause of this podcast. We fundamentally really no child should ever be good enough. And therefore everything follows from that, you know, the bigger the curriculum, the belief in second and third and fourth chances that high quality relationships.
CJ: Brilliant. So we're gonna talk about that exclusions and about alternative provision. But Danny, why don't we start with as you said, inclusion. What does What does inclusion mean? Mean to you, Danny and how do you how do you support that?
DC: We could spend the entire podcasts talking about? You know, in recent years, I've started looking at it from a wider societal perspective, actually, you know, in my younger years as headship and being involved in the pastoral system in schools, it was very much looking at the four walls of the school, and now come from it from I want an inclusive society. And therefore, as a headteacher, you know, we do have a power we do have authority to try to put our vision into practice. And so my belief and aspiration for more inclusive society can be lived, for example, you know, we ensure that the curriculum meets everybody's needs. Talk about this later, but for far too many years in this country, you know, schools have curtailed the curriculum, so it's exceptionally narrow a huge focus on the academic big three or four. Which means those children who could flourish in art or drama or sport and off certainly don't get their talents. Don't get opportunity to have their talents. maximised.
CJ: Yeah, good stuff done. And how about you, Anna? Obviously your school you're dealing with children often been excluded in a variety of senses of the word. So how, what does what does inclusion mean to you?
AC: Well, in our school inclusion? We try not to use the word actually, because we know we're alternative provision and many of the young people who come to us they've had inclusion done to them and it's not a word that they're comfortable with. So, you know, internal inclusion can quite often be quite a terrifying sentence to say to a young person. Slightly broader - I couldn't agree with Danny more actually, this could be a boring podcast that this way because they were in danger of agreeing on lots. But you know, we are, I've always looked at this is that society benefits if these young people are able to become successful adults, that is, to me the point of education, not GCSE or a certain type of academic learning. Schools are here so that we help young people become successful adults. What inclusion means in terms of daily practice is we're really not keen on excluding kids, not even for a couple of days. I think maybe every year there's one or two fixed term exclusions and they will only happen because a spaces needed to put something else in place. I've only ever excluded one child permanently from the Boxing Academy. It was because I was simply left with no other avenue. I can't tell you that we do this, this this and this because every year is different. Every child is different and we are constantly reviewing and trying to be as flexible as we can to meet their needs. But the bottom line is, they all deserve to be successful and they all deserve to go on and be successful adults.
CJ: That's really that's really interesting that you've to do extremely low numbers of fixed term and just one exclusion in your time there and how do you how do you manage that? Because presumably there is there is bad behaviour there are serious incidents.
AC: plenty Yeah.
CJ: so. So what's your what's your response to that?
AC: So just to be clear, the Boxing Academy is like I say, there is no typical AP anyway, and we're even more untypical. We do specialise in taking referrals of young people that are absolutely not able to get a place anywhere else. And it's usually because they have some sort of record of aggressive and violent or threatening behaviour. What we do is we sort of de stigmatise the whole thing around violence. So the first few years at the Boxing Academy and I've been in a really long time now. We spent an awful lot of time arguing and trying to convince people that boxing doesn't make people violent. And so quite often we find that, you know, the young people who come to us have been through a lot of different negative experiences, but they've learned they're usually quite smart. They've learned if you behave in a certain way to threaten someone or if you flip a table or whatever it is that they're going to do. You get yourself removed from the situation that you're not very happy about. And there could be lots of reasons for that. But this is a tactic. When they come to the Boxing Academy. They'll say, Well, you know, might have a frank and full discussion with a member of staff which involves say, Well, if you do that, I'm going to punch you in your face. At which point the staff member will go, oh, hang on a minute. If you want to do that we have to go and spa so you don't have to have a medical we'll get the gloves and we'll do it properly. And at which point, we usually find that the young people are really astonished that that threat doesn't just immediately revolve resulting in exclusion It might sound a bit odd, but once you remove that sort of power, if you like, it's a sort of a weird sort of power that children held by throwing their weight around. And we're like, everyone who was a boxer, we love fighting, but we do it properly. So if that's really is that really what you wanted out of this, they almost always don't really want to have a fight or some sort of altercation. A lot of it will be to do with it de-escalation we do a huge amount of work around trauma and attachment problems. You know, it's very easy to see where these children have got these, you know, have developed these behaviour problems from and it actually takes a remarkably small amount of patience and listening to get them to a point where they don't feel like they need to do things that cause them to get excluded.
CJ: Fascinating. Not every school has a boxing ring. The ability to do that. Danny. Your school is much more conventional, but what has Anna said, either resonates or doesn't with with you in terms of how you deal with that that type of behaviour.
DC: Well no, we haven't permanently excluded a child since 2017. There have been many occasions when that would have been the easiest thing to do. And we have a wide raft of interventions and sometimes it doesn't work and you have to try something else. But that was a conscious decision to be in a situation where children don't get permits to live in their school. Because I worked in schools before where you know, it's a weekly it's a weekly events. Yes we do fix over solutions. I did one this week for racial abuse. Not great, but it'll be better. It'll be better next week when the person comes back. The most common reason why young people get permit excluded is for constant defiance, consistent defiance, begging for schools on a regular basis. So constant defiance means that it isn't working for the school. It isn't working for the young person. But let's try something different. That's all we're doing here and like Anna as well we've done tonnes of stuff on adverse childhood childhood experiences here and the impact of trauma and also how many, many children with autism for example, just see the world differently than we do, so again, it's not a subdivision, really. To start up with division and keeping children in school is a good thing.
AC: I just wanted to agree with you that thing you said about no permanent exclusions. Its choice. I'll be honest with you. There are times when everyone's got their head in their hands. We've had young people placed with you can go eight, nine months down the road and everybody's like, nothing is working. This kid is such hard work. They aren't responding. At which point we saw, you know, there's a lot of teamwork and collaboration and support, but we like to remember that one to remember that one. That one took 14 months, and then suddenly one day to the next different child. It's if you make the choice not to exclude and to be inclusive like this, then it forces you to find a way to make it work. And I know a few schools like Danny's, but actually not very many that just say it doesn't matter what happens. We are not going to do permanent exclusions. And at that point, there's a different scenario.
CJ: Thanks Anna. Of course it’s really important not just to think about the child who is potentially being excluded but head teachers across the country are weighing up really difficult decisions about the impact that some of this poor behaviour is having on the rest of the school, the rest of the class. And sometimes headteachers are having to make really difficult decisions to exclude because that is not just in the best interest of the pupil under discussion but is in the nest interests of the school community and the best in of their classmates who are trying to go about their education and get as much as they can out of their schooling as well so really difficult decisions. Danny, I’ll come to you next, what do you think about this really difficult balance about trying to keep children in class as much as possible but also respecting the authority of the teacher and making sure that those classmates don’t lose out.
DC: I think we need to see things slightly different. I'm not saying we abdicate responsibility, I believe in authority. I believe in teaching that you know the powerful knowledge that we talked about at the school. We have authority of teachers because we know stuff, and that children don't now believe in strong classroom control and teaching on corridors and all that sort of stuff. No, we just walked in from the playground 800 children and they line up, their not silent, but they line up and go to class. So you have to run a good school authority and the most essential because at the same time when children make an infraction it's not the end of the world. But can I just go back Chris because the curriculum we can't forget the importance of that. You know, I think schools, good schools, outstanding schools, whatever that means, and now getting more opportunities to think about a broad wide range of curriculum where you get to do a bit of drama and sport and PE during the course and but we get boxing we don't do it as you know as a CT we do as an after school. activity. The whole thing about high quality teaching, having really knowledgeable, committed caring teachers in school is the start of everything. You know, the curriculum foundations in place, their visions in place, a high quality teaching in place, or in our school, and I've learned this more and more now. Over the years is the importance of literacy. You know, if you consider that 50% of prisoners in UK jails are functionally illiterate, you know, so in other words, they've got a reading those below the age of 11. If we could rectify and improve that, that that literacy level, arguably, we could improve the number of people getting kicked out of school and then men end up in jail. You know, we often say the limits of my language are the limits of my world, which is Wittgenstein obviously, but the fundamentals of running a school, the fundamentals of running the Boxing Academy. are based upon real high quality teaching, a fabulous curriculum, and a huge focus on literacy.
AC: It's amazing how many young people come to us and we obviously we get some details on what the schools think their levels are and their abilities. And actually they can't read properly. And what they've done is developed a way to get out of being found out for that over the years. It's not always the case, but it's often part of it.
CJ: I agree. We can't, we can't overstate the importance of being taught to read and being taught to me as early as possible. And we've actually we discussed that on a on the podcast we did about prison education we discussed as Danny says, so many prisoners are functionally illiterate. And you know what part did that play and actually, them ending up where they are? And what does what does success for the children in your school look like then? Anna? What are you What are you aiming for
AC: So obviously, we were offering a reduced but totally you know, tailored curriculum a GCSE is enough to get them into college or into whatever they want to do. And the reason it's a reduced number is simply because all of them have got enormous gaps in learning. So there's a huge amount we strongly believe in all of our success in terms of careers and outcomes has back this up, it's better to get five decent grades at the best that you can, but to be sort of getting 10 very, very low grades that won't get you anywhere. So that's just the academic side. The truth is that really what we're doing is we're offering them a chance to turn it all around, turn their experience in education into a positive one. I think that a large number of young people who come to us genuinely do not understand the point of education. I think they probably think that education is an elaborate punishment and so we spend a huge amount of our time bringing them to a point where they understand the point of education, they understand how to be successful in it, and they have aspiration and ambition for the future.
CJ: Yeah. And for those differs young people that come to you as a result of having been excluded from a mainstream school. And you're able to turn them around, you're able to get them to college, able to do to make them see the value of education. Do you think does that then prove that the kind of the exclusion was the right thing to do in the first place? Are you happier they're with you then then they're mainstream school.
AC: That's a really interesting one because somebody had we had an argument about that the other day. I think, I mean, a lot of the young people who come to us are not permanently excluded. They are on a duel registration referral. And I really admire mainstream schools that make decisions like that which because it is in the best interest of the child. I don't know. Some people may not realise but the process of being excluded a uniquely damaging and distressing period. It's a long period. I would really like to see that not being part of this, this landscape. But unfortunately, it is. We have a lot of young people who come to us on that duel placement, but for the ones who have been excluded. I do understand that sometimes schools don't have a choice. In some cases, it has triggered intervention support from agencies that would never have been able to pick up the problems for this child or the child's family sometimes. So there are occasions on which exclusion was the right thing to do. I do believe that not mainstream is never going to be for everybody. And I would like to see the language around using alternative provision, far less. It's talked about in some schools like a flip a punishment. If you don't behave you're going to get sent to somewhere that will sort you out or often. The referral is the right thing for the young person, but it hasn't been presented to them or their family as a positive step. And I don't believe that needs to be the case because actually, it usually proves that they've been moved to us and that they were are in the right place.
CJ: I know what us to hear from a pupil called Sam, she is at university, but she was excluded in her GCSE year and finished time at school as an alternative provider before going to college. So let's have a listen to her experience.
AT: Can you talk a little bit about what happened to you?
Sam: Secondary School I was pretty good for a few years and then all of a sudden around. I say year nine year term my behaviour kind of like declined due to like my own mental health and like issues I had at home. And I did reach out like many times throughout the whole time I was in secondary to my school, and it was always kind of said that help would be put in place and I kind of never was. So then every time I got like excluded for something minor, it's all kind of built up. And then eventually, there was like, quite big incident, a couple of big incident and so sort of in the beginning of Year 11, but that basically kind of rather than kind of helping me, they just sort of sent me to a pupil referral unit for the rest of my school time. But it's I feel like a lot of that could have been prevented if I had the intervention earlier because it wasn't like there weren't aware of things that I had going on. So yeah, that sort of thing.
AT: What was the process of being excluded? Like, did you have a meeting with your head teacher or were your parents involved?
Sam: Yeah. So like after, wherever it happened, I was on exclusion while they decided what to do. And then the decision was made to put me in a pupil referral unit. I didn't really get a lot of help to because obviously, I was taking a lot of GCSE is and most of that wasn't taught and pupil referral units didn't really get any sort of much at all help for my school and how to revise and stuff like that. Like I was kind of just kind of left, hung out to dry a bit I felt
AT: When you were excluded is how did that make you feel?
Sam: It was quite a rejecting sort of feeling because it was I'd been I had been trying to get help for quite a while. So it's kind of like, Yeah, it did. It did definitely. There was it was definitely a feeling of rejection kind of thing. And it felt like but you can't deal with me if that makes sense as I didn't want to deal with me. It just Yeah, didn't feel very nice.
AT: Is there anything in the process that you would have liked to have happen differently?
Sam: I guess just a little bit more support as well. Especially because just kind of thrown into like a pupil referral unit with you know, obviously kids that were like, significantly worse than me. I didn't like I never had any sort of like, violence or anything. You know, I mean, so to be lumped in with kind of kids who did have those sorts of things was obviously it kind of felt like just being pushed aside and like, not able to be amazed and it definitely made me feel a bit lost. So I think it's an extra support would have been would have been a lot better.
AT: Can you tell me a little bit about what your pre was like? Were they helpful? How did they support you?
Sam: Yeah, okay, obviously, it's quite, quite daunting environment and obviously the quality of teaching there isn't isn't great at all, which obviously isn't the fault of the Pru because they have so many kids. There are so many different levels, kids that are in school for quite a while. And the teachers tended to be quite supportive, but there was just more so you know, they'd like to tell the teachers they're doing everything they can with extremely limited funding and limited resources. Like it felt a little bit prison like at times, but like the teachers there obviously there's nothing they can do about it. So I found that to be quite supportive or feels quite daunting and kind of sort of scary at times.
AT: So you took a GCSE as well. Did you go on to further education college?
Sam: Yeah, once I got my results, I wasn't really sure what we're gonna do. Then once I got my results, I actually managed to kind of get a bit lucky I did quite well. So I did end up going on server education, but I'm sort of like most kids, pretty much every kid I went to PRU with didn’t end up doing that. So that kind of just shows that there's not really that much support and pay for these kids. It's kind of like you're just cast aside and then you can't really get back into the mainstream.
AT: You’re at university now?
Sam: Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, but yeah, I do count myself quite lucky in comparison to a lot of my peers in that sense.
AT: Thank you so much for chatting to us
CJ: Danny Sam was talking about the fact that she felt her exclusion could have been prevented. Sounds like that something that you're familiar with?
DC: Yeah. As I've said a few times now, you know, you got to get in school teaching is one of those jobs where things can change very, very, very quickly. So you're going to get incidents from time to time. I would I would never say the headteacher shouldn't have the right to purposely because you know, sometimes things can happen which are exceptionally serious, you know, we are part of society. And we reflect that. Well, as I keep saying By and large, young people are permanently excluded this is the constant infractions of school rules.
CJ: And she said that the excluded gave her a strong sense of rejection. Do you find that children who come to you have that?
AC: Yes. And well I mean, I mentioned briefly earlier about the actual process we reenforcing that way to stun even young people who've been sent to us on a on a dual registration placement so they haven't been excluded in the school is still responsible for them and still has contact with them. They often feel rejected and I'm not surprised she found rejected I thought both way she talked about the PRU was really sad because she was saying you know the quality of teaching is not great, but that's not their fault. And I'm thinking I don't agree with that. I'm sorry. It's just awful that even the child I mean, I know there will be lots of people who mean well in certain places, but for the child to pick up that the quality of teaching is not very good and to make excuses for the play. I think that's heart-breaking. I think it's a really good indicator of what's wrong with how we do this in this country. It just should be alternatives, and they shouldn't be second choices or second best.
AC: AP genuinely isn't rigorous enough. And we don't even know what how many Opie's there are in this country. There's no proper definition of it. Nobody can agree on how it's supposed to work. The funding is extremely patchy. And some of its full, you know, the variation in quality and is it's actually quite extraordinary that we are in this situation I don't know about you are probably Ofsted, I know Ofsted feels a way it's an absolute dog's dinner. But what that means is that the really vulnerable children that nobody cares about, never get and you know, I just think that there needs to be I'd like to see alternative provision, not a second choice or the dumping ground. So the young people we have seriously a lot of them if they haven't been able to turn stuff around at the Boxing Academy and by the way, I'm not pretending they come out perfect, but what we can do is effect that that ignition of that change now that inspiration that understanding how to go about improve things and getting things right. If they hadn't come to us they would have ended up causing society a massive amount of distress and actually money, but I don't see any real drive to try and make it more systematically more even handed and fairer. So yeah, I think that just broadly that is something that we really need to get right.
CJ: Yeah, couldn't agree more and we don't even see we don't have something as basic as registration for all alternative provision you know will be providing pretty serious amounts of education in an alternative setting and not even have to kind of register or be accountable to any to anyone or these are some of the most vulnerable children we have. Yeah, I think Ofsted is called for a long time. For for all alternative provision to be registered and that's such a low bar to go for as net if we can't even do that.
AC: Yeah, I do think it's really good to be shining a light on this we need to stick keep talking about it. What happens is reviews get published and proposals get published or some, you know, think tank does a report and nothing changes. You're still dependent on the right people in the right school on the right day to intervene and try and save a child for whom education isn't working. And it simply should not be left to chance like that. So yeah, I'm just glad that we're still talking about it.
AT: That was really interesting. Thanks for sharing that. But they obviously do a range of things to meet their needs at the school community. It's great.
CJ: Yeah, and I'm really pleased that we've been able to do this podcast and have this discussion. Conversations around exclusions often heated and polarised and it's important to get the views of some people who have been through that process, but also some people who trying to manage it the best they can.
AT: And I think in any debate as ever, it's always important to think about, well, what are the things that we can agree on? It's really important that alternative provision is the best it can be. Everybody wants that to be the case. And it's been good to hear a range of different views and opinions in this piece.
CJ: So thanks, everyone who took part in this podcast and thanks to you, and thanks to everyone who listened. See you next time.