Exclusive: Ofsted set for SEND inspection U-turn

Plans to remove 'high needs' section from FE and skills inspection reports expected to be scrapped by Ofsted

Stephen Exley

Ofsted want to stop learners with SEND and high needs from being isolated in inspection reports

Ofsted is expected to reverse its plans to scrap the “high needs” category from FE inspection reports, Tes understands.

One of the proposals in the watchdog’s proposed new inspection framework was to reduce the six categories in current inspection reports for FE providers to just three. Under this, the “provision for learners with high needs” section would be removed, with provision for SEND learners instead looked at across the new categories.

If confirmed, the three proposed categories in the new framework – education programmes for young people; apprenticeships; and adult learning programmes – would replace the current six. These are: 16 to 19 study programmes; adult learning programmes; apprenticeships; traineeships; provision for learners with high needs and; full-time provision for 14- to 16-year-olds.

Background: Ofsted set to scrap high-needs inspection category

Read more: What the new Ofsted inspection framework will look like in FE

SEND policy: change of heart?

Ahead of the launch of the consultation into the new framework, Paul Joyce, Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills, said the proposals were intended to stop learners with SEND or high-needs being “marginalised or isolated” in inspection reports.

However the proposed change has faced widespread opposition from within the sector. In January Clare Howard, chief executive of Natspec (the Association of National Specialist Colleges), said it was “very disappointed”, as the high needs section of reports “acted as a means of ensuring that providers were playing their part in delivering the SEND reforms, and has been a critical factor in improving the quality of provision for learners with SEND”.

Ofsted consultation response

On Tuesday, Ofsted will publish its own response to the consultation, and outline the changes to the inspection framework that will come into effect from September.

Tes understands that a high volume of responses to Ofsted’s consultation from colleges raised concerns about the move, and that it is expected to be scrapped by the watchdog in the final version of the framework.

A spokesperson for the inspectorate declined to comment.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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