Ofsted unveils new inspection framework for all education settings

By Joanne Parkes

| 13 May 2019

Ofsted's new inspection framework, published today, will reduce the amount of data schools, early years settings and post-16 education providers are expected to collect, the inspectorate has claimed.

The new inspection framework will put the "real substance of education at the heart of inspection", says Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman

A central aim of the Education Inspection Framework, to be used across settings from September 2019, is to free up teachers and early years providers from having to generate and analyse data for inspections, giving them more time to teach, Ofsted claims.

However, the National Education Union has questioned the claim, with the union suggesting that schools would still be measured, but could be prejudiced by unfair national comparisons.

The inspectorate claims the framework, which includes new inspection criteria, will make it easier for Ofsted to recognise and reward settings - early years providers, schools and colleges - that are "doing the best they can for their pupils, particularly those working in challenging circumstances".

All inspection judgments will continue to be awarded under the current four-point scale: "outstanding", "good", "requires improvement", and "inadequate".

Off rolling, where schools remove challenging pupils from their register, will be assessed under the "leadership and management" judgment, with settings likely to receive an inadequate rating for this where there is evidence of the practice taking place.

This power was previously questioned by the Association of Directors of Children's Services, which said that a short school visit may not be sufficient for inspectors to prove that persuasive tactics have been used by schools to encourage parents to home school their children.

A new "quality of education" rating, which was supported by three quarters of 15,000 respondents, is the key judgment category.

Inspections will look at how settings have achieved their results, encouraging a "broad, rich curriculum and real learning", not "teaching to the test and exam cramming", said the inspectorate.

The framework is the result of almost two years of engagement with education practitioners, unions, academics and parents, including a three-month public consultation that saw the highest number of responses ever received by Ofsted.

More than three quarters of respondents also supported plans to introduce two new key judgments which separate pupil "behaviour and attitudes" from their "personal development".

The "behaviour and attitudes" judgment is intended to assess whether leaders are creating a calm and orderly environment, where bullying is tackled effectively by leaders when it occurs.

A "personal development" judgment will recognise the work being done to build young people's resilience and confidence in later life, including through participation in sport, music and extra-curricular activities.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: "The new framework puts the real substance of education at the heart of inspection and supports leaders and teachers who act with integrity.

"We hope early years, schools and college leaders will no longer feel the need to generate and analyse masses of internal data for inspection.

"Instead, we want them to spend their time teaching and making a real difference to children's lives, which is why they entered the profession in the first place."

Shorter reports will give parents the key information they need to know about a school and a sense of how it feels to be a pupil there, Ofsted claims.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: "Ofsted is not proposing to abandon data as a key factor in its inspection judgments."

Bousted argued that inspectors will still arrive at secondary school armed with data on Attainment 8, Progress 8, the proportion of pupils entered for EBacc subjects and the percentage achieving Level 4 and Level 5 passes at GCSE English and maths.

At primary schools they will arrive with data on Key Stage 2 Sats results, the phonics test and, in time, the times table test and baseline assessment, she added.

"Under the proposed framework, schools and colleges will not be able to contextualise their data in their conversations with inspectors, meaning that they will effectively be judged against national attainment scores which may bear little or no relationship to their own school's or college's student population," claimed Bousted.

"We believe that schools and colleges will still not be evaluated accurately or be provided with worthwhile feedback, and it will remain the case that Ofsted has neither the financial nor the human resources to effectively implement its ambitious inspection proposals."

Bousted also claimed that criteria looking at pupil resilience, character attributes and virtues, "encourage a deficit model of mental health and wellbeing" rather than a "whole-school approach".
 
She added that Ofsted has "woefully missed" an opportunity to support school improvement by removing the four-grade rating system, and allowing "space for proper professional conversations about curriculum".

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