- Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS)


  1.  In the absence of wider data on outcomes for deaf children, NDCS believes that Ofsted have an important role to play in ensuring that provision for deaf children is of a high quality. However, it is apparent that Ofsted inspections of provision for deaf children are not always conducted with the necessary rigour and awareness of the needs of such children.

2.  If SEN inspection judgements of all schools are aggregated, NDCS believes an impression is given where much of SEN provision is good. However, this is not the picture presented by Ofsted thematic inspections of SEN undertaken by inspectors with knowledge, skill and experience in SEN. It is also contradicted by data on attainment. Deaf children in 2007 were 42% less likely to achieve five GCSEs at grades A* to C (including English and Maths) than all children.

3.  These conclusions are supported by a RNID report from 2005, At the heart of inclusion. This quotes from Heads of Support Services who reported:

    — A lack of expertise in or experience of deafness on the inspection team.

    — Failure to observe teachers of the deaf either in the base or in the mainstream classroom.

    — Failure to provide inspectors who had British Sign Language (BSL) skills or BSL interpreters for teams inspecting BSL provision.

    — A lack of interest among inspectors in the deaf pupils as members of the school.

  Parents and professionals have also reported similar concerns to NDCS repeatedly since 2005 (see Annex A).

  4.  The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill proposes that if a school is good or outstanding, it will not be subject to a full inspection. In a debate on this Bill, the Minister for Schools and Learners stated that Ofsted has a new framework: "It is highly unlikely that a school would be judged good overall—if progress for SEN pupils is anything less than good." However, NDCS is unclear as to how the new framework will ensure this does not happen. NDCS is also unclear—given it is known to occur under the current system—what are the circumstances in which a school might be judged good overall if provision for SEN pupils was not good. NDCS believes this eventuality should be ruled out.


  How many days training on SEN do inspectors receive and does it cover low incidence needs such as deafness?

Given there are currently four inspectors with specialist training in sensory impairment, what plans do Ofsted have to increase this? Are Ofsted able to give figures for the number of specialist units or schools which are inspected per year by those who do not have the necessary expertise in SEN?

  When inspectors are visiting a school where deaf children whose first language is British Sign Language are present, will inspectors be required to be accompanied by a fully qualified and independent interpreter? How many BSL interpreters have been employed in the past year?

  Can the new framework guarantee that a school will not be judged as good overall if provision for SEN pupils was not good?

April 2009

Annex A


  An Ofsted report of a primary school in London in 2008 stated that:

    "Pupils in the PDC (provision for deaf children) progress well because they are supported by highly experienced staff who ensure that pupils enjoy their work and are fully included in school activities."


      — The unit did not have a teacher in charge who was a qualified teacher of the deaf—or who was even a teacher.

      — No evidence was provided to substantiate the claim that deaf pupils were progressing well.

      — The acoustics in the classrooms were poor and constitute a hostile listening environment.

      The inadequacy of the unit was known to the local authority, as evidenced by a Tribunal over a child who was experiencing difficulties at this school. An advisory teacher of the deaf for the local authority reported that "appropriate leadership" was not in place and that there was insufficient focus on children's progress.

    Annex B


      Glenda Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will take steps to ensure that Ofsted inspections of educational provision for deaf children are carried out by inspectors who (a) have adequate levels of training and expertise in (i) education for the deaf and (ii) communication with deaf children and (b) are accompanied by a skilled interpreter. [265779]

    Jim Knight: This is a matter for Ofsted. HM Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, has written to my hon. Friend and a copy of her reply has been placed in the House Libraries.

      Letter from Christine Gilbert, dated 2 April 2009:

    Your recent parliamentary question has been passed to me, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, for a response.

    Ofsted recognises that inspecting provision and outcomes for deaf or hearing impaired pupils requires particular specialist knowledge and skills with regard to issues such as language development, communication methods, and acoustic conditions.

    You asked how Ofsted ensured that its inspectors had adequate levels of training and expertise in education for the deaf and communication with deaf children. Ofsted has a small core team of four Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) who are specialists in the inspection of sensory impairment who are routinely deployed in the inspection of schools for deaf and hearing impaired pupils. Ofsted also requires our contracted Regional Inspection Service Providers to provide inspectors who are suitable for each individual inspection. Every effort is made to inspect special schools with inspectors who have expertise in that particular field. Where there is specific provision for pupils with SEN in mainstream schools, then every effort is made to provide the inspection team with an inspector with expertise in the particular field of SEN provided by the school. Training on inspecting special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools, special schools and pupil referral units was provided for HMI and Additional Inspectors (AI) during 2008, and is being updated for the coming year. All inspectors have access to extensive guidance available to support this area of work.

    You also asked whether inspectors are accompanied by a skilled interpreter. It is necessary for inspectors to be able to communicate effectively with deaf and hearing impaired pupils: this may require competence in British Sign Language or other methods of communication, or use of a skilled interpreter. Ofsted is reviewing these requirements for the new inspection arrangements for September, including the requirement to have an interpreter on inspection.

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