Ofsted

Ofsted snubs calls for annual safeguarding audits

Yvette Stanley, national director for social care at Ofsted, said safeguarding could not be separated from the "culture and leadership" of schools

Yvette Stanley, national director for social care at Ofsted, said safeguarding could not be separated from the "culture and leadership" of schools

12 Oct 2022, 17:47

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Ofsted

Ofsted has rejected calls to separate safeguarding from its main inspection framework and instead conduct yearly audits.

It comes after headteachers suggested it should “decouple” safeguarding from other aspects of school inspections so that safety measures were checked more frequently.

But during a women and equalities committee hearing on attitudes to girls and women in schools and other educational settings, the inspectorate stressed other aspects of inspections fed into safeguarding.

“We are absolutely passionate that you can’t disaggregate safeguarding from the culture and leadership of the school,” said Yvette Stanley, national director for social care.

“We absolutely don’t think it’s the right thing to separate [safeguarding from inspections] and do those in separate places.”

She added that the move could “end up with a competition of inspectorates and judgments”.

Inspections help Ofsted understand ‘culture’ of schools

The evidence session on Wednesday afternoon was part of an ongoing committee inquiry set up to explore the prevalence of misogyny within the education system.

At an earlier hearing in June, Keziah Featherstone, co-founder of WomenEd and a member of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, called for a yearly safeguarding audit.

“Every school would get a visit every year to look at how well they are looking after their children, rather than not being seen for 12 years, as I know is the situation with schools near me,” she said.

Timings of inspections depend on the Ofsted grade previously received by a school. Those rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ usually receive an inspection every four years, after the recent exemption for top-graded schools was removed last year.

Schools deemed to be requiring improvement or ‘inadequate’ receive a graded inspection within 30 months of Ofsted publishing its previous report.

Andrew Cook, Ofsted’s regional director for the North West and West Midlands, emphasised the importance of a holistic approach.

“This is something that is to do with leadership,” he said. “It’s to do with personal development, it’s to do with behaviour, it’s to do with the curriculum [in RSHE].

“So actually there’s lots of bits of the jigsaw that you put together to understand what is the culture of the school. I think a separate safeguarding audit would just not pick up the same thing.”

Under Ofsted’s education inspection framework, inspectors make judgments on the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management at a school.

Last year, Ofsted published a review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges after online campaign Everyone’s Invited exposed its prevalence.

The inspectorate had previously faced criticism for its approach to identifying the issue within schools.

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