Friday Update – 26 September 2014

This week we highlight Ofsted’s announcement of a wave of no-notice inspections, provide a summary of the main points of the new Special Educational Needs system and find out about the levels at which GCSE grades will be set.

Ofsted has announced plans to conduct no-notice inspections of up to 40 schools across England. These no-notice inspections will target schools where there are concerns about rapidly declining standards, safeguarding and behaviour, leadership and governance, and the breadth and balance of the curriculum. They will be carried out under Ofsted’s existing powers. Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of Ofsted, said:

“I’m giving thought to whether Ofsted should move to more routine no-notice inspections as part of our wider education inspection reforms, which we will be consulting on later this year. In the meantime, under our regional structure, inspectors are well placed to use their local knowledge and contacts to identify where these sorts of problems may be taking hold so we can respond swiftly and report publicly on what we find.”

The main points of the new system that has been introduced from the start of this term are:

  • School action and school action plus are abolished.
  • Statements are replaced by Education and Health Care (EHC) plans, which cover from birth to age 25. However, existing statements do not disappear overnight but are to be phased out by April 2018.
  • Local authorities are responsible for bringing together education, health and social care agencies to assess whether a child needs an EHC plan.
  • Local authorities have to publish a Local Offer of the support available for children with SEN.
  • Parents or the young person must be consulted over what the plan will provide.
  • Parents and young people with an Education and Health Care plan may have the option of controlling its budget.

All schools, including academies, receive an element of SEN Additional Support Funding (ASF). They are expected to provide the first £6000 per annum per pupil with special needs out of this and their regular income. Local authorities continue to be required to fund pupils with a statement or an EHC plan.

Ofqual has announced the levels at which GCSE grades will be set when the new 9–1 range replaces the current A*–G one. Grades 9, 8 and 7 will replace grades A* and A, with only the top 20% of people in this band being graded 9. This will make the top grade harder to achieve, as last year in Maths 4.9% of entrants were awarded an A*, but had the new system applied only 2.9% would have got a grade 9.

The baseline for grade 4 will correspond to the baseline for grade C, and the top third of the C grade will combine with the bottom third of a B grade to constitute grade 5. However, it is this grade 5, not grade 4 that will be regarded as the “expected standard”.

The changes will be implemented for English and Maths in 2017 and other subjects the following year.