Parents question inspectors’ special needs training

A parent of two deaf children is angry about Ofsted’s refusal to tell him if two inspection teams who separately assessed a Berkshire school for deaf children in January and October last year had specialist training.

Mary Hare School in Newbury was deemed to be outstanding by Ofsted in January 2014, but a second inspection nine months later found it required improvement. A monitoring visit in February found that senior leaders and governors were taking action to tackle areas requiring improvement

Matt Keer is one of a group of parents who submitted a complaint to Ofsted in January about their concerns that none of the inspectors had “the qualifications, experience and expertise necessary to inspect deaf educational provision properly”.

To ascertain the qualifications of inspectors, Mr Keer asked Ofsted for the content and format of special educational needs training undertaken by inspectors.

The education watchdog said that additional inspectors (AIs) of special schools received an “initial day of enhanced training”, reviewed to take into account changes to the SEND code of practice. They also attended an extra training day each year focusing on national developments in SEND.

Mr Keer then asked whether any member of the teams that inspected Mary Hare had “not completed the enhanced training programme for inspecting SEND provision” by the time they carried out the inspections.

Ofsted said that while it did hold the information, it would not release it “as it was the personal information of the HMI and the additional inspectors (AIs)”.

Responding, Mr Keer said: “This ‘enhanced training programme’ is pretty unimpressive. For one thing, it’s just two days. What it doesn’t do – at all – is give inspectors a grounding in specific types of SEN.”

Inspection experience was “not enough”, he added. “Ofsted’s inspectors need the right qualifications, front-line experience and skills if they are to inspect deaf education provision properly.” They should have a specialist teaching for the deaf qualification, he said.

An Ofsted spokesperson said teams that inspected special schools had “considerable experience of inspecting special education, including provision for sensory impairment”.

She added: “While there is no legal requirement that an inspector of schools for the deaf should hold a teacher of the deaf qualification, all inspectors are required to hold qualified teacher status. In addition, inspections of special schools are carried out by inspectors who have completed enhanced training in the inspection for special education needs and disabilities. We are confident that this provides the appropriate level of expertise in these cases.”

Ian Noon, head of policy and research at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said it shared the view that inspections of special schools for deaf children should be carried out by experts.

“It is vital that the inspectors should be able to communicate with all pupils. Parents of deaf children need to have confidence in Ofsted inspections . . . urgent action is needed to address this.”

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  1. A Byron

    Why limit to special schools? With an overarching policy of inclusion, many of our children with additional needs attend mainstream provision. Ofsted inspectors should be adequately prepared and trained to inspect SEND provision wherever this may be. How, as parents, can we be assured that schools/governing bodies are being held to account in such a vital area of its provision?

  2. I personally think it’s a very sad state of affairs that ‘so’ called inspectors are sent into schools without enough knowledge or experience of seeing or dealing/questioning the SEND provision which schools provide.
    I’ve also experienced this personally with a primary school in Cambridgeshire who recently I took all the way through disability discrimination. Ofsted were alerted to severe concerns, upon inspection ‘found’ no worries, yet 40% of parents complained….months after the school were inspected by HMI, the school had an audit conducted by it’s LA … horror is the only word to express what was found, Ofsted re-informed and they ‘sat’ on the fence…a year after this school was audited for SEND provision alone, Ofsted re-inspected under section 8, and found what the LA had found the previous year…therefore, questions should have been asked immediately why was nothing done the previous year, where was the involvement from the Governing body, the SEND governor etc.
    In my opinion, schools, just like LA’s are getting away with ‘murder’.

  3. I was criticised for my teaching of a child with microcephaly by an inspector who patently did not have the specialist knowledge we were told the team had. This explains a lot. It is absolutely outrageous that these people can come in after a day’s training (if that) to make judgements about teachers who are SEN specialists.