Ofsted annual report 2017/18... What you need to know in relation to safeguarding

January 2019

On the 4th of December, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman launched her annual report for 2017/18. So what are the key points you need to know in relation to safeguarding? Read on...

Safeguarding in schools

The report highlighted that safeguarding in schools has improved but the proportion of schools with ineffective safeguarding arrangements remains high, at 10%. All schools (97) that had ineffective safeguarding were inadequate in their overall effectiveness. The chief inspector states the whole sector needs to offer better provision for children.

Education and deprivation

Whilst statutory services have largely been protected from funding cuts, early help and prevention services have been greatly reduced. This means that there are children who are not being given the care they need in order to be safe. Schools are expected to tackle an ever-growing list of societal issues. Children and young people from poorer backgrounds, who face challenges in the home, or who struggle with learning, have an up-hill struggle when it comes to education. Whilst the report recognises that providers are getting more of the basics right, it calls for education and care professionals to ‘reduce that gradient’.

The report also recognises that there is a shortage of specialist mental health provision and an uneven distribution across the country. The chief inspector states the whole sector needs to offer better provision for children.

Neglect and child exploitation

There has been a focus on tackling neglect of younger children, but unfortunately the same is not true of older children. Older children often come to the attention of agencies for reasons other than neglect and are vulnerable to exploitation.

The report calls for a culture shift so that presenting behaviours such as offending or doing harm to others is recognised as a potential sign of neglect. There needs to be greater understanding of the needs of older children so that underlying trauma is addressed and their needs are responded to appropriately. Basic needs for parental care are often unaddressed because they are older. The report highlights how crucial it is that professionals recognise the vulnerability of older children and that they are still children who need parenting.

Further information about adolescent neglect in a report published in by The Children’s Society the can be found in the government on the following websites:

Knife crime and gangs

Knife crime and criminal exploitation have featured heavily in the press recently. Ofsted have studied knife crime in London focusing on the role of schools and how they are teaching pupils on the dangers. School leaders, including heads of pupil referral units (PRUs), told Ofsted that all children are vulnerable to grooming by gangs and to becoming perpetrators and victims of knife crime. As part of the study, parents reported, that gangs are sending children into schools with knives in their bags with the aim of getting them excluded to make them more vulnerable to more persistent grooming. As such, schools adopting ‘zero-tolerance’ need to consider how this may be placing children at greater risk, all children need to be safeguarded. Ofsted aim to gather better information about pupils who are excluded or moved to other schools for gang or knife related reasons.

Unregistered schools

Over the last year unregistered school have hit the media headlines. Worryingly, there are children who attend unregistered schools where values of democracy, liberty and respect are disregarded, and pupils are at risk of radicalisation. In October, we saw the countries first successful prosecution of an unregistered school. The report recognises that more needs to be done to close the legal loopholes that currently stand.

Outstanding schools

Concerns have been raised about consequent gaps in knowledge about the quality of education and safeguarding in outstanding schools exempt from inspection. 67% of the 149 outstanding schools inspected by Ofsted, declined from outstanding. Of those schools that had their inspection converted to a full inspection, only 7 kept their outstanding grade, 55 declined to good, 35 declined to requires improvement and 10 declined to inadequate.

In those schools who moved from outstanding to inadequate, safeguarding was often not effective. In some schools, pupils did not feel unsafe or were frightened. Other emerging themes included high use of temporary exclusion, fare too low expectations, particularly for disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils and the needs of children with SEND were not met. Other issues highlighted included poor governors, and no training or support and guidance for staff. The report acknowledged that this was not reflective of the excellent work of the majority of outstanding schools, but raised the concern that without routine inspection there may be other schools like this that are yet to be known about. This has led to a call for the exemption to be lifted.


Complaints to Ofsted this year included safeguarding concerns such as knife-related incidents, attempted/actual suicides, self-harming and allegations of sexual abuse. Of the 1,930 qualifying complaints, the large majority concerned the leadership and management of a school, pupils’ well-being, or both.

Off-rolling (years 10 &11)

Between 2016 and 2017, 19,000 pupils dropped off the school rolls between Years 10 and 11 and over half did not reappear on the roll of another state-funded school. 300 schools were recognised as having exceptionally high levels of pupils off-rolled in these year groups. Further analysis found that the most vulnerable children were more likely to be those who were taken off roll - those eligible for free school meals, children looked after and some minority ethnic groups. Steps now being taken to address this include using this data to prioritise inspections and high off rolling will be highlighted to inspectors.


The report highlights that too many local areas are providing a ‘sub-standard service when it comes to SEN provision.’ Although frontline workers are dedicated and professional, improvement in many local areas is too slow and inconsistent. Many EHC plans have not been successfully implemented. As a result, the gap in outcomes for children with SEND continues to widen. The report states the identification of SEND is weak and those who do not quite meet the threshold for an EHC plan have poor outcomes. Other main areas of concern are:

  • a continuing trend of rising exclusions among children and young people who have SEND
  • mental health needs not being supported

  • children and young people who have autism waiting up to 2 years to be diagnosed (some not being educated at all during this time)

  • a continuing lack of coordinated 0–25 strategies and poor post-19 provision, which means some young people just doing the same things for 6 years more after age 19 and not moving into employment.

Secure estate

Inspections of secure training centres continue to reflect serious concerns about the experiences of children held in them. There are concerns about high levels of violence and about the safety of children and staff, and about the understanding and management of risks and safeguarding procedures.

Over the next year

Over the next year, Ofsted’s research programme will explore many of the themes discussed in the Annual Report. This will include projects looking at:

  • teacher workload and well-being

  • managing the most challenging behaviour in schools

  • how faith schools successfully navigate potential conflicts between their religious beliefs and equality legislation

  • factors leading to good decisions for children in care

  • creating the environments for great social work practice to thrive

  • SEND in mainstream schools