Ofsted – what’s new this term?

Ofsted – what’s new this term?

You might have read the two blogs about Ofsted I wrote last term: one followed the sad news about the death of Ruth Perry, the second was an open letter to the new HMCI. While we await a completely new inspection framework more aligned to his way of thinking (think outcomes and data?), two sets of revisions to the current arrangements came out at the end of last term and then during the summer break.

I suggested in my first blog last term that a possible response to the Ruth Perry tragedy would be to pause the publication of an Ofsted report that downgraded a school because of a safeguarding issue that could be put right, and then to re-inspect it within a short space of time. The revised handbook now refers to a monitoring inspection within three months where a school is judged to have serious weaknesses solely because of safeguarding but, unfortunately, the report and the inadequate judgement – which does the most harm to the whole of a school’s community – will still be published as before.

There are several useful additions to the handbook, one of which is an outline of what might constitute ineffective safeguarding (see paragraph 385 of the new handbook). Paragraph 367 gives some clear examples of what schools should actually be doing to ensure “an open and positive culture around safeguarding”.

There is also a whole new section on attendance (paragraphs 292 to 295). Encouraging are the references to expecting schools “to do all they reasonably can” while “recognising that the context in which schools operate has changed”. School leaders will be expected to have an analysis of absence and persistent absence rates for all pupils and groups compared with local and national averages and to be able to show how the attendance of persistent and severe absentees has improved. They should have a “strong understanding” of the causes of absence and a clear strategy in place to address it, while “making efforts to engage in multi-agency work”, presumably a nod to how difficult that often is.

Provided that this understanding and a strategic plan are in place, even if attendance is not yet “consistently very high”, inspectors are told to judge a school “favourably”, as long as leaders have a track record of improvement that shows a capacity to improve.

It has long been the case that a new leadership team or “green shoots” do not, by themselves, constitute sufficient capacity to improve, which can be the difference between a judgement of serious weaknesses and special measures. Paragraph 180 gives more detail: it’s not just a school’s potential but “the extent to which leaders

  • are able to identify and prioritise the right issues (shown by the accurate identification of the issues and effective evaluation processes to identify any future issues)
  • take appropriate and timely action to address the identified issues, including the effective use of internal and external support, where necessary
  • have a track record of improvement, even if the desired outcome has not yet been achieved, so that there is confidence that improvements will be swift and sustainable
  • have done all that they can be reasonably expected to do in the time available and the circumstances in which they work.”

Paragraph 355 clarifies the position around separation by sex by giving examples where this could be justified under the Equality Act 2010. Additional work experience for pupils of a certain race or sex in a sector where that group is under-represented would qualify, as would separation by sex for teaching in subjects “if the school has evidence that that this improves their academic outcomes.”

There is a new section on conduct during inspections and clarification about key terms such as “maintained school” and “trust leaders”, the role of a MAT during the inspection, the anonymity of individuals and about how evidence from pupils, parents and staff will be considered proportionately.

Finally, paragraphs 39 to 42 repeat the update first issued last term about when schools can expect their next inspection.

Going back to my earlier blog, there’s no change at the moment to Ofsted’s complaints procedure which is often likened to marking your own homework but there is a consultation that closes on 15 September, so we can presumably expect to hear something about that later this term.

SSAT will be running webinars on both inspection and attendance in November. More details will be available shortly contact us at hello@ssatuk.co.uk to register your interest.

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Nip in the Bud: Learning about children’s mental health through film

1 September 2023

From a council estate in Tower Hamlets, to studying English at Oxford: how Zero Gravity helped to unleash Fiona Zeka’s potential

20 September 2023