Ofsted to assess RSE ‘readiness’ when inspections resume

Ofsted has issued new guidance on the teaching of protected characteristics in schools, focusing particularly on the sexual orientation and gender reassignment characteristics. Ofsted says it has received questions from schools on this point. The Department for Education (DfE) expects secondary schools, state-funded or independent, to deliver teaching on lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships and encourages primary schools to do so.

Schools should integrate the teaching of the protected characteristics into the curriculum of the new relationships education for all primary pupils, and relationships and sex education (RSE) for all secondary school pupils. These subjects became compulsory in schools from 1 September 2020. However, due to the partial closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, the DfE has given schools ‘flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching’. Schools that are ready to begin teaching the subjects should do so as soon as possible, but those who are not ready have until the start of the summer term in 2021 to do so. For inspections, this means a school’s compliance with the statutory requirement to teach the subject/s will not impact inspection judgements until the start of the summer term 2021.

Ofsted currently intends to resume routine inspections from January 2021 (although the date is being kept under review). For schools which are inspected before the start of the summer term 2021 Ofsted will look at the school’s readiness to comply with the statutory guidance. For schools which have not begun teaching the curriculum, ‘readiness’ might involve having made preparations such as consulting with parents, preparing policies etc, or showing plans are in place to do so. Ofsted will comment on a school’s readiness in the inspection report, but it will not impact on the judgement (specifically the leadership and management judgement) received.

However, from the summer term 2021 the judgment will be affected. Secondary schools which do not teach about LGBT relationships will not be meeting the requirements of the DfE’s statutory guidance. Inspectors will consider this when making the leadership and management judgement, and the school will not ordinarily receive a judgement for this better than requires improvement. If a primary school does not teach about LGBT relationships, this will not have an impact on the leadership and management judgement as long as the school can satisfy inspectors that it has still fulfilled the requirements of the DfE’s statutory guidance. If it cannot do this, for example if it has failed to consult with parents, then again it is unlikely to receive a judgement better than requires improvement.

During the current term Ofsted will be making ‘interim visits’ to schools. During these visits Ofsted will not specifically explore a school’s ‘readiness’, however if a school chooses to discuss this with inspectors they may comment on it in the letter published after the visit.

With regard to faith teaching on protected characteristics, the Ofsted guidance says schools will be at liberty ‘to teach the tenets of any faith on the protected characteristics.’ It gives the example that a school could explain that same-sex relationships and gender reassignment are not permitted by a particular religion. However, in this example the school would also be obliged to also ‘explain the legal rights LGBT people have under UK law, and that this and LGBT people must be respected’.

Full Ofsted guidance: https://tinyurl.com/yy33rvat

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