One in 7 Ofsted teacher training reports never mention SEND, new research finds

One in seven Ofsted inspection reports of initial teacher training providers failed to make any mention of pupils with special educational needs over the past decade, research has found.

Fifty out of 354 inspections over the last ten years didn’t mention special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) once, according to literacy charity the Driver Youth Trust.

Of those, 10 providers were still graded ‘outstanding’ by the inspectorate.

It comes after chief inspector Amanda Spielman placed a new emphasis on improving outcomes for pupils with additional needs at the launch of Ofsted’s annual report in December.

She said “we have to do better for pupils with SEND” and raised concerns about delays to support for high needs children. Meanwhile her annual report mentioned SEND pupils 28 times, compared with just eight times in Ofsted’s 2017 report.

However, in a press release the Driver Youth Trust warned that “while Ofsted claims it recognises the importance of SEND, it is failing to carry through its commitment during inspections on the ground”.

Chris Rossiter, chief executive, said the research “highlights an increasing need to match up rhetoric and action”.

Although it was reassuring Ofsted recognised SEND as a “key component of effective education practice”, he added it must form an “integral part of teacher training”, with that focus “reflected and reported on through the work of inspectors on the ground”.

The research highlights an increasing need to match up rhetoric and action

On average Ofsted’s reports on ITT providers mentioned SEND just once, the research also found.

It came as part of a wider report called Literacy Difficulties from the Driver Youth Trust, which warned 49 per cent of all classes have at least one pupil with dyslexia, who make up 10 per cent of the population.

However pupils with a literacy difficulty are sometimes “not categorised as SEND at all”, meaning the government is probably underreporting on the prevalence of pupils who struggle to read and write.

Meanwhile a 2018 survey by the Department for Education found that “teaching reading and comprehension in secondary schools” and “assessing the progress of SEND pupils” were the two areas where newly qualified teachers felt least prepared from their training.

The finding echoes the Carter review of initial teacher training in 2015 which identified teaching about SEND as an area of weakness.

But an Ofsted spokesperson said “the fact that not all reports mention SEND is not an indicator of either the evidence gathered at inspection, nor the importance we place on this vital area of provision”.

All Ofsted’s initial teacher training inspections “look at whether trainees are being taught to recognise signs of SEND” as well as whether they can plan effectively for pupils with different needs, they said.

The inspectorate is currently developing the new ITT inspection framework to begin in 2020, in which training teachers on SEND “will be a top priority”.