By Joseph Poppy
Ofsted, that big foreboding force, are usually the ones criticising others for being behind on their work, or not providing the necessary care. However, recent investigations by Tes have shown that Ofsted has failed to conduct follow-up inspections at several schools they failed over pupil safeguarding. Of all the aspects of a school they look at, this is perhaps the most important one. Out of 18 schools judged inadequate in accordance with the Ofsted inspection framework, in regard to safeguarding (and failed solely because of), 4 have yet to have a follow-up inspection. In any educational establishment, the safety and wellbeing of those studying should be the top priority, particularly for the under 18s and for vulnerable adults. If any school is found wanting, improvements need to be made immediately and the only way we can know if this is happening is with a follow-up inspection from Ofsted, right?
Well, not necessarily.
the safety and wellbeing of students should be the top priority
Of course, a school being failed on safeguarding issues sounds (and is) bad. However, it’s important to note that a myriad of different things fall under the umbrella of ‘safeguarding’ in Ofsted safeguarding guidance. It does not necessarily mean that a large number of children are being put in danger on a daily basis. If they were, the follow-up investigation would not be done by Ofsted. The Ofsted’s own publication ‘Inspecting Safeguarding in Early Years, Education and Skill Settings’ states that safeguarding action may be needed to protect children from a list of various threats and external issues from neglect, to emotional and physical abuse as well as prejudice.
However, in section 3.2 of the publication, Ofsted reports that safeguarding can also relate to broader aspects of care and education, such as educational visits, meeting the needs of children who have special educational needs or disabilities and online safety and associated issues. Whilst these aspects are still important and work needs to be done to ensure adequate care and protection is provided, no children are put at immediate risk. Many schools may not have the resources or the infrastructure to ‘meet the needs of children who have special educational needs or disabilities’ and in this case more time will be needed to address this, a follow-up visit will not be of much help if any.
in cases where more time will be needed to address issues, immediate follow-up visits will not be of much help
Technology also plays a role in safeguarding and not just where a school’s IT facilities are concerned. Under section 3.1 of the aforementioned publication, action may be needed to protect children from “the impact of new technologies on sexual behaviour, for example ‘sexting’ and accessing pornography.” Every teenager has a phone and every phone has access to the internet. We all know teenagers are wild beasts and will do what they do. Whilst schools can do all they can to monitor and have an influence over this, it is a very hard thing to keep track of, let alone police. If inspectors feel that not enough is being done in this regard, they can fail a school. Sending follow-up investigations for matters like this puts a strain on resources and the benefit of doing so is questionable. School leaders are somewhat powerless where these sorts of things are concerned.
I can’t help but feel the report by Tes has a somewhat melodramatic tone. As it states itself, one school was given a statement of action by the local authority, which “Ofsted judged to address the relevant areas.” In that case, a follow-up visit would be somewhat redundant. The full details as to the reason of the failings were not given and therefore, from the report alone we are unable to know the context and the severity, so judging Ofsted on these findings alone would be too hasty. Of course, all Ofsted reports are part of public domain and can be viewed, however the schools in question were not named. To get too concerned about the lack of return visits would be premature.
As long as the schools in question can show they are taking action on these findings then we should not be too concerned.
The fact is, whilst Ofsted have failed to return to 4 of the 18 schools failed on safeguarding, they have returned to 14 others. We can assume that these had more pressing concerns to be dealt with. As we’ve yet to hear about any tragedies befalling masses of children and young learners, we can assume those at the failed schools are not under any immediate threat. As long as the schools in question can show they are taking action on these findings then we should not be too concerned.
Let’s hope the students were not too adversely affected by these results. From what I remember of my school days, Ofsted came and went and most of us were oblivious to the result, or it had very little impact on a student level. Having failed, these schools can only improve.