Ofsted’s annual report 2018: Watchdog ‘concerned’ over SEND exclusions, and 8 more findings

Ofsted has this morning published its annual report for 2018. The key topics include off-rolling, SEND provision, and ‘stuck’ schools.

We have the speed read.


1. Ofsted ‘concerned’ over exclusion of SEN pupils

The row over exclusions has been significant this year. And Ofsted has now said it is “concerned” that in secondary schools pupils with SEN support are five times more likely to have a permanent exclusion than pupils with no SEND.

It also highlights that 27 per cent of pupils with SEN support had a fixed-term exclusion last year – 93,800 pupils.

But as we reported earlier this year – the watchdog’s message on exclusions has been confusing. Ofsted rated a school in Barnsley ‘good’ in January, praising leaders for a “rigorous implementation of the school’s code of conduct”.

But in February, just one month later, Ofsted wrote to all the schools in the region to warn over sky-high fixed-term exclusion rates.

Ofsted also raises concerns over school pupils being groomed into gangs. While the watchdog states “it is unlikely that exclusion is ever a sole reason”, it adds: “But it is true that we need better information about pupils who are excluded or moved to other schools for gang or knife related reasons.”

The watchdog stated they were told by parents that gangs are sending children into schools with knives in their bags with the aim of getting them excluded to make them “more vulnerable to more persistent grooming”.


2. Watchdog worried pupils with special educational needs missing out on support

The report touches on some of the massive issues being felt in the SEND sector (our deep dive into the issues from last week can be read here) – particularly pointing out that the demand from councils to undertake EHC assessments has increased by over 50 per cent since 2015 (as has the number being refused).

In 2017, there were around 14,600 refusals, a third more than in 2015.

Speaking at the launch, Spielman said we “have to do better” for pupils with SEND, highlighting parents feel pressure to go to “extreme lengths” to try and get an EHCP for their children – “something is deeply wrong when parents repeatedly tell inspectors they have to fight to get support their child needs”.

However Ofsted is already in hot water over their use of some stats. The watchdog highlighted in information released to the press yesterday that in 2017 more than 4,000 children with an approved EHC plan had received no provision, which it said was five times more than in 2010.

But a press release issued this morning by the Department for Education took at swipe at the inspectorate for using old statistics, adding that figure halved in 2018 to 2,060. They also pointed out it’s wrong to say all these youngsters are waiting for support, as many of them will already be in one school, but waiting for a place in a different one.



3. Off-rolled pupils more likely to have SEND, too

As expected, Amanda Spielman has highlighted off-rolling in the report. Analysis by the watchdog from earlier this year found 19,000 pupils did not progress from year 10 to 11 in the same school.

Of these 19,000, the destinations of 9,700 is “unclear” because they didn’t then reappear in another state school.

A quarter move to another state school, with a fifth going to alternative provision in the state sector. Thirty per cent of the pupils who move have SEND (compared to 13 per cent overall), and 54 per cent are eligible for free school meals.

“Unfortunately it is not possible to know the full story of where pupils went to, and why, from the data alone,” the report states.


4. Stuck schools more likely to have white British kids

Ofsted highlights there are 490 stuck schools – which Spielman has talked about previously. However, further analysis reveals that of these, five per cent of secondary schools have been stuck as satisfactory/requires improvement for 13 years (since 2005).

Eight out of 10 stuck schools have moved back and forth between satisfactory to requires improvement, with the proportion of free school meal pupils, particularly those who are white British, well above the national average. (More information in our story here)


5. Halfway house of academisation leads to ‘mismatch’ of support (and more school leaders need to ‘give back to the system’)

This seems like a really significant move from Ofsted, which has stated more outstanding school leaders are needed to step up, partly because they need to take on the previous LA role in school improvement for the weakest schools, “and all of which school improvement funding has been cut”.

In a pretty damning assessment of the government’s current academisation policy, the report read: “The current halfway house whereby all inadequate schools become academies and require a sponsor, but where there is a severe lack of capacity to sponsor them, has led to a mismatch in available support. Simply put, without more good sponsors, the DfE’s ambition to support failing schools will not be realised.”

Ofsted highlights that in some cases, council schools judged inadequate have been left in limbo for over 18 months before they become an academy in a MAT. However, as we’ve previously reported, one school has been “left in limbo” for SEVEN years!

The watchdog said more school leaders are needed to “give back to the system” by collaborating and supporting struggling local schools, by becoming a system leader or forming a MAT.


6. Proportion of ‘requires improvement’ schools increases slightly

Ofsted has tweaked its methodology for statistical reporting this year, to include the grades of schools that had since become academies in its statistics).

This year’s figures show the number of inadequate schools remains at 4 per cent, but the number of requires improvement schools has inched up from 10 per cent in 2017, to 11 per cent this year. Sixty-five per cent are now good (down from 66 per cent in 2017) and 21 per cent remain outstanding.

But, interestingly, of the schools inspected this year, only seven per cent were rated outstanding. Forty-seven per cent were rated good, 37 per cent requires improvement, and nine per cent judged to be inadequate.


7. Ratings of alternative provision have fallen

As of August 2018, 82 per cent of all state-funded PRUs and alternative provision academies were judged good or outstanding, down from 84 per cent in August 2017.

Ofsted inspects 350 state-funded AP, two thirds of which are PRUs run by councils and a third are academies, including 40 free schools.


8. 260 academy rebrokerages last year alone

Ofsted also reports that 260 academies transferred from one trust to another in 2017-18. This represents three per cent of open academies. Forty-nine per cent joined a multi-academy trust, and 51 per cent transferred from one MAT to another.

200 academies have been inspected since moving to another trust – with 52 per cent (150) that were less than good before the transfer, improving to good or outstanding.


9. Illegal school referrals make up chunk of inspections

Ofsted’s clampdown on illegal schools has seen the watchdog receive around 160 referrals for suspected unregistered alternative providers.

Around 110 of these settings have been inspected because Ofsted had “reasonable cause” to believe an unregistered school was operating. This represents a significant chunk of the 274 inspections carried out by the watchdog’s unregistered schools taskforce.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. There may be genuine reasons why some schools been stuck on less than good for many years. It may not necessarily be because of poor leadership or inadequate teaching. Such schools often share common characteristics:
    1 Serving a disadvantaged area
    2 High staff turnover
    3 Few previously high-achieving children
    4 Falling rolls
    5 High pupil absenteeism
    These schools are often locked in a spiral of decay – unattractive to teachers (could be career suicide to join such a school) and parents. Add a new free school, even if its impact assessment says it poses a high risk to nearby schools, and closure is often the only option. An expensive one, however, if the school is PFI.

  2. Suzanne

    An ECHP is a legally binding document. In order to get these partially implemented parents must jump through hoops following a lengthy and stressful complaints procedure, with minimal advice. It often feels although you’re chasing your tail; SENCO says “No can do,” and the SENDO is more intent on safeguarding their budget than overseeing the implementation of SEN policy in schools – it’s a vicious circle.
    Ofsted have told me, quite categorically, that they do not regulate the local authority. However, back in 2017 they produced a damning report of SEND services in Lancashire
    If a school was this inadequate it would be acadamised.
    The whole system appears to be beyond redemption.
    How can government departments openly flout legislation and not be held accountable?