Education Select Committee question Ofsted Chief Inspector in second virtual session chaired by Robert Halfon MP

News / Wed 29th Apr 2020 am30 11:38am

IN the House of Commons Education Select Committee’s second ever virtual session in their COVID-19 inquiry, the Chair, Robert Halfon MP, and his colleagues questioned Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, and the Chief Operating Officer, Matthew Coffey. The accountability session covered a range of subjects including the inspection body’s support for vulnerable pupils, its new inspection framework as well catch-up tuition post-coronavirus and faith schools.

With the temporary suspension of routine Ofsted inspections of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Chair opened the discussion with questions about the redeployment of Ofsted employees to assist with the Government’s COVID-19 response. In particular, he was keen to understand from Ofsted’s COO what “specifically” is being done to ensure local authorities are:

“Adequately safeguarding children in need and also identifying the other children potentially at risk” who are not in school.

He cited recent figures from the Department for Education, which holds that:

“Only 5% of children in need and pupils with EHC Plans are attending school”.

The Chief Operating Officer explained that their “unused capacity” (230 staff) have been:

“Working methodically…to identify those children who haven’t been seen in school, making phone calls where necessary…to enable the local authority to then go out and see those children where necessary but I am not aware that any of our inspectors have been out to see children in their homes.”

Mr Halfon also questioned whether Ofsted’s “hands-on” work with local authorities will have a “long-term impact…or just meet COVID-related needs”. The Chief Inspector welcomed the Chair’s suggestion of a “wider tutoring programme” with “an army of volunteers” (including the “many retired teachers” that “now work as Ofsted inspectors”) to help with catch-up tuition for those who have missed out on learning through school closures. She described Mr Halfon’s initiative to support disadvantaged learners as:

“An idea with a lot of potential.”

During the discussion, the Chair also urged for support and understanding of faith schools.

Mr Halfon concluded the session by asking Ofsted to set out more detail on their actions to support vulnerable children at the present time and and thanked the Chief Inspector for her “comprehensive” answers.

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