Friday Five: Ofsted’s Big Listen, in-depth inspections, home-school transport cuts, trans guidance consultation, broadband


15th March 2024

1. Ofsted launches ‘Big Listen’ consultation on its work and future

Ofsted has launched a new consultation for school staff, education organisations, and parents. The consultation is seeking views on four areas of Ofsted’s work: its reporting, its inspection practice, its culture and purpose, and its impact. While this initial consultation is designed for adults, a survey designed specifically for children and young people will launch later this month.

The consultation has been launched after a year in which Ofsted has come under increasing pressure following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, and new chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver is keen to show the watchdog is changing its approach and learning from the past. The Big Listen consultation has not been universally well-received, however, with Wellspring MAT CEO Mark Wilson writing in TES that the review is ‘not asking the right questions,’ and criticism from alternative provision leaders that they have been ‘ignored’ in the consultation. Whatever the findings of the Big Listen, Ofsted’s future looks set to remain a contentious issue.

The ‘Big Listen’ consultation is here.

2. In-depth inspections would cost millions, Ofsted warns

This week has been a big one for Ofsted, which hasn’t just been in the news due to the Big Listen launch. The watchdog is currently facing fresh scrutiny after suggesting in-depth inspections would cost an extra £8.5m a year. The warning was issued in response to the Education Select Committee’s latest report into school inspection, which called on Ofsted to provide more detailed reports and to replace single word judgements with a new approach.

‘We have continually been asked to do more with less’ was Ofsted’s response, with Oliver expanding that ‘we have to accept that anything we do has to be within the budget constraints we have.’ According to the inspectorate itself, Ofsted’s funding is 29% lower in real terms than in 2009-10.

More detail on the inspections debate is here.

3. Transport funding cuts impact pupils with SEND in Birmingham

Cuts by Birmingham City Council to its home-school transport service could leave nearly 900 pupils with SEND without appropriate transport to school, according to reports this week. 5,048 pupils with SEND currently use the service, including 861 16–19-year-old pupils. However, while councils are legally required to provide school transport for SEND pupils aged 5-15, they are under no such obligation for pupils aged 16 or over, and Birmingham City Council have announced that they will be cutting this service for pupils aged 16+ from September.

These cuts will save the council £7m, part of £52m in cuts to its schools and families budget that was approved by councillors last week.

The council has faced backlash this week after the plans were announced. Sabiha Aziz, a local campaigner who has two children with SEND, told i-news that ‘we’re in a situation where we’re losing this vital service, which will result in either [her son] Adam not being able to get to college, or my husband having to give up his job to get him there.’

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said ‘the service is transforming the way it helps students to use transport. It is aiming to be a sustainable, cost-efficient service which helps students to develop their independence.’

The full article is here.

4. DfE lawyers warn of high risk of legal challenges to new schools trans guidance 

Schools face a ‘high risk’ of legal challenge if they follow some aspects of the government’s draft trans guidance for schools, it’s been reported this week. Leaked legal advice obtained by Schools Week indicates that the Department for Education’s lawyers warned officials of the risk of successful legal challenges that may be brought on against certain aspects of the guidance. The government seemingly chose to ignore these warnings, with several legally contentious paragraphs left in the published draft guidance. The assertions made in the guidance that there is ‘no general duty to allow a child to social transition’ or that ‘primary school aged children should not have different pronouns to their sex-based pronouns used about them’ were flagged by the DfE’s lawyers as misleading. Several unions, including the NAHT and ASCL, have announced plans to review the guidance for clarity and its impact on education staff’s workload. 

At CfEY, this week we facilitated a session with our Young Collective, our group of young people aged 16-25 who are heavily involved in our research, to issue a response to the consultation on the guidance.

Read the full article here

5. Schools across the east of England to receive ultra-fast broadband 

The government has announced a rollout of ultra-fast broadband services to 91 primary schools in hard-to-reach areas across the East of England. The regions set to benefit from the scheme are Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Cambridge. The initiative aims to address connectivity issues in isolated spots, with each school expected to have gigabit broadband access by December 2025. The project, part of the £5 billion Project Gigabit is a joint effort by BT, Openreach, and several government departments. 

CfEY has worked on a project in collaboration with CityFibre, as part of their engagement with Project Gigabit, to scope access to high-speed internet and EdTech across various geographical areas in the UK.

Read the full article here.

That’s all for this week! If you found this blog useful, please be sure to share/tweet it and follow @theCfEY, @Barristotle, and @conorcarleton for future editions.