Conflicted Inclusion? Ofsted’s New Framework and SEND

My first impressions after reading through the draft Ofsted framework, I am glad this is a draft!  There is no subtlety in the construction of these (defensive) documents in telling us that children/ young people with SEND were an afterthought.  Despite its assertions for its existence, you don’t have to read too much to identify that its purpose is still as disjointed and conflicted as ever, negatively impacting on its role to promote inclusion.

Is Ofsted a school improvement service? Is it the ultimate accountability system? Is it the carrot/stick to name and shame? …Or, is it the billboard to signpost parents/carers/learners; informing them of which school they should apply for? It cannot be the ‘Force for Improvement’ it claims to be, if it is trying to be everything else as well.

With the changes to the National Curriculum, and then Assessment, the struggle with the Children’s and Families Act and SEND Code of Practice, and then austerity and the school/ social care/ health funding crisis; it is now, more than ever that we need to refocus on what we want from our education system to influence our future society.  If we understand our desired state, (e.g. more people in work/contributing, less people in prison/in hospital/secure unit), we can identify the indicators of success… and Sir Alan Sugar et al will tell you, it’s not from the EBacc!

Regardless of whether a child is labelled as having SEND, it is difficult to understand how having ‘the same academic/ technical/ vocational ambitions for almost all learners’ is a good thing for the population of pupils in a school. What happened to person centred planning and differentiation? Expecting the same from everyone contradicts the values of equality and diversity advocated in the very same consultation handbook.  When coupled with the emphasis on results from national tests and examinations that meet government expectations, reiterated throughout, the picture looks bleak for anyone who breaks the mould, let alone anyone who has additional needs. This perverse situation not only creates anti-inclusive practice, but also demotivates and demoralises the very people we are trying to help.

As you continue to read the draft, it is difficult to miss the attention on teacher workload.  Although it is accepted that workload contributes to retention, efficiency and effectiveness of teaching, it is disconcerting to see it in the criteria and take precedence over responding to the individual needs of pupils, ‘without the unnecessarily elaborate or differentiated approaches’ of adaptations to teaching methods.  This is irresponsible phrasing will not support their promise to call out ‘off-rolling’ and the increasing exclusion numbers.

If Ofsted are serious about their role in large-scale school improvement, they need to let go of their need to be everything to all.  Perhaps they wouldn’t then need to increase the number of days for inspection, arrive on-site the afternoon before, or conduct no notice inspections (calling just 15 minutes ahead of the inspection…), perhaps they could streamline to save time and money to reinvest into making SEND an equal feature, with the alignment of all processes and structures in the final draft.

This blog was authored by Sabrina Hobbs the Principal, Severndale Specialist Academy, Shropshire and a member of Headteachers’ Roundtable Core Group.


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