Schools under fire for ‘weak’ careers advice and poor data sharing for high-needs pupils

Schools are giving high-needs pupils “weak” information about their post-16 options and failing to provide sufficient information about pupils who move on to other providers, Ofsted has warned.

The watchdog’s latest thematic report, which focuses mainly on the work of further education providers, is critical of the advice given to high-needs pupils by schools and a lack of detail available to post-16 providers about the pupils they take on.

Ofsted visited 17 providers and spoke to 1,600 young people between January and March last year. They found that many, particularly those with more complex or profound learning difficulties or disabilities, had received “insufficient information” about the full range of opportunities to them.

The report warned that schools often recommended a post-16 provider within easy reach and where they had established working relationships, rather than “considering individual learners’ educational and support needs, interests and aspirations”.

It comes more than three years after Ofsted warned, in its August 2012 report on progression of high-needs learners, that schools, local authorities and other agencies did “not work together sufficiently well to ensure that learners were adequately prepared for transition between school and post-16 provision”.

In today’s report, commissioned to update on progress made in this area, Ofsted warned that the sharing of information between schools and providers was “generally weak, even in those schools where learners were taking part in taster and link courses”.

Ofsted said more than half of the providers sampled did not receive “sufficiently detailed information” about learners’ achievements, progress, career aspirations and support needs, adding: “Too much of the information passed on was descriptive and failed to provide a clear picture of the abilities of the young person and the barriers to their learning.

“This was especially the case for learners with fluctuating conditions, such as those on the autistic spectrum or with poor mental health. Consequently, FE providers had to rely on their own resources to assess learners’ needs and abilities to ensure that appropriate arrangements for specialist support could be made.”

In the worst examples, “key information” regarding the behaviour, mental health or other personal circumstances of the young person was missing, Ofsted said, adding that it often resulted in delays in designing programmes.

Ofsted deputy director Paul Joyce (pictured) said he was “disappointed” with the progress made since 2012, and said it was “imperative” that schools and providers worked together to collect and analyse information about pupils.

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