Ofsted launches consultation on how it inspects from early years to further education

Ofsted has launched a consultation on plans to change the way it inspects early years settings, schools and further education and skills providers.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman

  • The aim is to shift the focus of inspection towards what children learn in the curriculum, rather than performance data
  • There will be a new separate behaviour judgement to reassure parents that behaviour is good
  • The revised education inspection framework, which Ofsted claims is the most evidence-based research-informed in its 26-year history, is out for consultation until 5 April and will take effect from September

The new framework proposes a shift to rebalance inspection, so that instead of taking exam results and test data at face value, Ofsted will look at how a nursery, school or college’s results have been achieved and whether they are a result of broad and rich learning, or gaming and cramming.

Ofsted said that its research has found that some children are having their teaching narrowed in schools to boost performance table points.

This means that in early years, for example, instead of feeling able to spend time reading to children or playing with them, nursery staff feel pressured into completing endless documentation to demonstrate each stage of a child’s development. In many primary schools, rather than reading a wide range of books, children are instead spending time repeating reading comprehension tests.

The key proposals for consultation include:

  • a new ‘quality of education’ judgement, with the curriculum at its heart
  • looking at outcomes in context and whether they are the result of a coherently planned curriculum, delivered well
  • no longer using schools’ internal performance data as inspection evidence, to ensure inspection does not create unnecessary work for teachers
  • separate judgements about learners’ ‘personal development’ and ‘behaviour and attitudes’
  • extending on-site time for short inspections of good schools to two days, to ensure inspectors have sufficient opportunity to gather evidence that a school remains good

The ‘leadership and management’ judgement will remain, and will include looking at how leaders develop teachers and staff, while taking their workload and wellbeing into account.

Inspectors will continue to make an overall effectiveness judgement about a provider. All judgements will still be awarded under the current four-point grading scale of outstanding, good, requires improvement, and inadequate.

Ofsted said parents would still get the information they value and understand.

The new framework marks a change in emphasis towards the substance of education.

Ofsted said the proposed changes to the framework will make it easier to recognise and reward good work done by schools in areas of high disadvantage, by tackling the perverse incentives that leave them feeling they have to narrow the curriculum.

Shifting the emphasis away from performance data will empower schools to always put the child first and actively discourage negative practices such as off-rolling, it said.

Ofsted has also responded to the demand for parents to give better information about how well behaviour is managed in a school.

A new separate behaviour judgement will assess whether schools are creating a calm, well-managed environment free from bullying.

Alongside that, proposals for a ‘personal development judgement’ will recognise the work schools and colleges do to build young people’s resilience and confidence in later life – through work such as cadet forces, National Citizenship Service, sports, drama or debating teams.

Speaking ahead of the launch today, Luke Tryl, Ofsted’s director of corporate strategy, said, ‘We’ve reached the limits of what we can get at in terms of quality through data…We know that culture of data as king has real perverse consequences. We’ve seen from our curriculum research in some cases quite egregious consequences of curriculum narrowing, we hear from parents of this culture of teaching to the test and we also know it has workload implications as well.’

The aim was to return the inspectorate to its proper role to balance performance data, looking at how results are achieved, he said.

There will be handbooks for each of the different sectors, for early years, schools, further education and skills, explaining how inspectors will go about the inspection.

There will be four key judgements, the quality of education being the first.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education, said, ‘The reason why this is an important move from the past is that previously we had separate outcomes and assessment grades.

‘This quality of education judgement at the heart of which is the curriculum, an important plan for learning, not only for pupils in schools but all the way from babies through to college students and apprentices.

‘The idea being that the provider needs to think about what they’re intending to achieve with their curriculum, so what’s the intent, how they set that out, what’s the structure, the sequencing of the learning that’s taking place, how that is being implemented, how the teaching is contributing to that curriculum intent, and what impact is the curriculum having, whether that is exam results or whether young children can read properly or well and whether the destinations that students go on to on the next stage of their learning are the right ones for those students.’

He added that the second key judgement is behaviour and attitudes, which is ‘a really important judgement’, and separated out from personal development in the current framework, ‘because we think it needs to be raised up not only for children but for teachers.

‘You cannot teach in a class if behaviour is poor. You cannot have good behaviour in class if leadership and management don’t support you in getting that across the school or wherever that setting may be.’

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman will launch the consultation in a speech to the Sixth Form Colleges Association today, saying, ‘The new quality of education judgement will look at how providers are deciding what to teach and why, how well they are doing it and whether it is leading to strong outcomes for young people. This will reward those who are ambitious and make sure that young people accumulate rich, well-connected knowledge and develop strong skills using this knowledge.

‘This is all about raising true standards. Nothing is more pernicious to these than a culture of curriculum narrowing and teaching to the test.’

  • Read the Ofsted consultation and accompanying documents here

18 Mar 2019

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