Ofsted have published their Annual Report and for the second year running it describes another disruptive year in the world of education. Ofsted praised the efforts and commitment of parents, teachers, social workers and carers and acknowledged that for some the challenges of the pandemic proved intractable.
The report describes how:
- The loss of education, disrupted routine, and lack of activities led some children to develop physical and mental health problems.
- Children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) had additional barriers to overcome as many were unable to access the support they rely on.
- Vulnerable children at risk of harm or neglect, disappeared from teachers’ line of sight, resulting in significantly lower levels of referrals to social care.
- Some children in care felt less safe due to lockdown restrictions and broken relationships with staff. In the worst cases, increased levels of anxiety led children to self-harm.
- Long-standing pressures on care placements grew, with long waiting lists and children being placed far from their families, or in unregistered homes.
- Some children attending alternative provision became involved in criminal activity, including gang violence, and were at risk of child sexual exploitation.
- The development and progress of many of the youngest children were hampered, with some even regressing in fundamental language and social skills.
- The further education and skills sector was also hit hard. Many apprentices found themselves furloughed, or out of work altogether. And the number of learners experiencing significant mental health problems or safeguarding concerns increased.
Alongside the findings the report outlines areas that require systematic improvements and reforms including:
- Long-standing lack of capacity in the care system, and variability in the support available for care leavers, must be tackled.
- The quality and consistency of teacher education must be improved to make sure that the new generation of teachers is set up for success in the classroom.
- Alternative provision must be reformed and the loopholes removed that allow much of it to avoid regulation and oversight.
- Legislation must be strengthened and Ofsted’s investigatory powers increased to allow inspectors to find and close illegal schools.
- Support for the most vulnerable children and those with SEND must rapidly return to pre-COVID levels. Partnerships working across local areas need to do better for the children who rely on them.
The long-awaited SEND review will hopefully take account of the difficulties expressed for those pupils with SEND and their families and the consultation will reveal improvements to be put in place that will be welcomed by all within the sector.