Letter from Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's
Chief Inspector, Ofsted, dated 3 March 2011|
I was pleased to have the opportunity to appear before
the Committee recently to give evidence as part of the inquiry
into Ofsted's role and performance. This scrutiny is a key accountability
mechanism for Ofsted, and I welcome the chance to respond to questions
and present our evidence.
During the proceedings you asked about the inspection
of provision for pupils who have special educational needs or
who are disabled and, in particular, deaf children and young people.
A specialist, special educational needs and disabilities
(SEND) inspector is someone who:
- has expertise in a particular educational need
- has gained this specialist expertise from previous
school leadership and/or teaching experience or as a school inspector.
The following relates to inspections carried out
between from 1 September 2010 to 20 January 2011.
I hope you find the information in this letter useful.
Inspection of special schools, including those
for deaf and hearing impaired pupils and pupil referral units
All inspections of special schools, including those
for deaf and hearing impaired pupils and pupil referral units
had specialist SEND lead inspectors and team members.
Inspection of provision in mainstream schools
for pupils who have special educational needs or who are disabled
In the last year, we have improved significantly
our deployment of specialist inspectors in mainstream schools
where there is designated provision for pupils who have special
educational needs or who are disabled. As a result, a specialist
SEND inspector has been used in almost nine out of ten inspections
where there is designated SEND provision in a mainstream school.
This includes the inspection of provision for deaf and hearing
impaired pupils, where a specialist has been deployed in the vast
majority of inspections.
Post-inspection feedback from mainstream schools
with designated SEND provision is very positive. Overall satisfaction
rates are at the same high level as they are for all schools,
with over 90% of providers saying that they were satisfied with
the way their inspection was carried out. There is no difference
in the quality of feedback where a specialist inspector was not
present in the inspection team.
The specialist skills of inspectors who inspect
provision for deaf children
The recruitment criteria for Her Majesty's Inspectors
and additional inspectors state that they will normally have:
- a relevant degree and/or equivalent professional
qualification (for example, a teaching qualification, a relevant
social care qualification, a relevant vocational and/or teaching
qualification in further education or adult skills, and/or a leadership
and management qualification);
- appropriate occupational/industrial experience
for inspectors of further education colleges, work-based learning
and adult skills;
- successful experience within the relevant setting
(for example in teaching, training, inspecting or advising);
- successful and substantial management experience
in the relevant area;
- a wide range of experience within the relevant
area (for example in more than one institution).
These criteria demonstrate that inspectors must have
both a high level, and a wide range, of experience. Ofsted has
found this combination to be a valuable starting point for a successful
inspector, given the variety of provision inspected and the ongoing
changes and developments that take place within education.
In addition to this common starting point, all inspectors
must have expertise in the areas that they inspect. In order to
inspect provision for deaf or hearing impaired pupils, an inspector
must have gained relevant expertise through a range of experiences
such as being a teacher, school leader and an inspector. At present
there is no single qualification, nor a list of specific skills,
experiences and competencies required, to inspect provision for
deaf or hearing impaired children and young people.
Following recruitment, inspectors undertake detailed
and extensive inspection training, including the shadowing of
inspections that are led by experienced colleagues. It is a specific
requirement that an additional inspector may not conduct an inspection
unless this is supervised by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors or
unless the additional inspector has conducted an inspection previously
to the satisfaction of one of Her Majesty's Inspectors.
All inspectors undertake a regular programme of training
to maintain and broaden their knowledge and expertise. The annual
training programme for all school inspectors includes training
relevant to the inspection of provision for special educational
needs and disabilities. There is additional, enhanced, training
for inspectors who are specialists in the fields of special educational
needs and disabilities also. In the last academic year, this training
has included the inspection of provision for deaf and hearing
In addition to the improvements made to our training
and inspection deployment as set out above, we are working with
inspection service providers currently to produce clearer definitions
of the expertise needed to inspect SEND provision, including for
deaf and hearing impaired pupils, while ensuring that the inspection
workforce maintains sufficient flexibility to inspect the range
of provision present in schools.
The identification of schools with designated
I would like to bring to the Committee's attention
the challenges faced by inspection service providers in identifying
schools that have specialist SEND provision so that they can ensure
that a specialist inspector is part of the inspection team.
Inspection schedulers make use of a national database,
Edubase, to provide information about schools that have specialist
provision. Edubase is maintained by the Department for Education.
Current school information on the database may be entered by the
individual schools or their local authorities but it is not compulsory
to keep this information up to date. The data in Edubase are incomplete,
often significantly so, and Ofsted estimates that information
is recorded for only a quarter of mainstream schools with special
provision. Inspection schedulers therefore supplement Edubase
with information from previous inspection reports. Ofsted is working
with the Department for Education to see how the Edubase information
can become a comprehensive and more accurate database of schools'