Much of Ofsted’s recently published 5-year plan reiterates previous statements. It explains what Ofsted are looking to do rather than how they will do it, but there are a few points that are worthy of note.
All schools to be inspected by 2025
This speeds up the inspection schedule. Whilst few schools wish for their inspection to be brought forward, this at least should level the playing field a little. Given that focus areas have varied substantially under different frameworks, this might help to address concerns that not all judgements are created equal.
Increased number of long inspections
This is intended to allow more time for professional dialogue during inspections. We assume that this means that there will be more full section 5 inspections, rather than schools that have been recently designated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ being given a shorter section 8 inspection. However, it is not clear which of the schools that are currently designated ‘good’ are likely to receive a section 5 inspection rather than the section 8 they are expecting. It would be helpful to know the basis on which this decision will be made.
Ongoing commitment to ensuring that work is evidence-informed
Amanda Spielman has placed a greater emphasis on the evidence base for key ideas and Ofsted undertook quite extensive research ahead of launching the current inspection framework.
Additional support for care leavers – more monitoring of how LAs support care leavers. From 2023 settings where children in care and care leavers live independently will be registered and regulated.
More inspection of teacher education at all stages, and of independent schools and colleges.
Greater focus on early years
Plan to develop the evidence base around the early years curriculum and develop specialist training on best practice in early years provision. It is not clear what form this training would take and it is unusual for Ofsted to offer training.
Further emphasis on safeguarding
In particular this focuses on ensuring that Ofsted has powers to seize evidence and close down illegal schools. There is also a plan to look at how to address harmful sexual behaviour in schools. A new targeted area inspection programme will inspect local safeguarding partnerships and systems will be put in place to improve the sharing of key safeguarding information between Ofsted and other areas.
Commitment to ensuring that MATs are held to account through the inspection framework
The paper makes a commitment to working with the DfE to look at the accountability of MATs – recognising that the laws that govern inspections have not changed at the pace that the education system has changed.
Evaluation of the performance of the inspection framework
Ofsted have specified a target that over 90% of providers will agree that their inspection will help them to improve standards and that 9-12 months after an inspection most providers will agree that they made changes to improve standards. It is not clear how this information will be gathered or what metrics will be used. The current framework is now three years old, however for obvious reasons there is less evidence to evaluate than there would have been in usual times.
However, with a new chief inspector taking over in 2024, it is possible that it will be all change before we get to the end of the five years…