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SSAT’s most popular blogger, senior education lead Colin Logan, highlights the key points, including some that are not specifically mentioned, in the new framework. Warning: this is a long blog – but worth it.
There have already been several responses to Ofsted’s draft of the new inspection framework. Among them is Stephen Tierney’s typically insightful blog which reflects on the underlying principles of inspection itself. Ofsted needs to receive feedback from as wide a range of sources as possible so I thought it might be useful simply to summarise what is new or different in the draft to inform colleagues’ responses to the consultation.
Leading up to the inspection
- The four judgements from outstanding to inadequate remain, but the key ones will be: quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.
- Although HMCI Amanda Spielman continues to press for outstanding schools no longer to be exempt, the only significant change is that concerns “about the curriculum” rather than its “breadth and balance” could trigger such an inspection.
- From September, schools will receive the Ofsted phone call “before 10am” on the day before. The lead inspector will arrive on site that afternoon to prepare for the following day and to review documentation that the school has made available. The visit will include a meeting with leaders to answer queries and make arrangements for the following two days. Paragraphs 51 to 56 clarify what documents inspectors will be requesting.
- By September, all evidence will be recorded electronically and not hand-written. Inspectors will request access to the school’s wi-fi to allow syncing of evidence during the inspection. They will also ask permission to take photographs of evidence such as pupils’ work and displays.
- There is an emphasis on the collection of first-hand evidence through lesson observation, work scrutiny and discussions with pupils and staff.
- Although the mantra that Ofsted does not advocate any particular approach to teaching is still there, “any approach used [must have] features that must be present to ensure that it is delivered effectively”. What these features should be are outlined in the companion summary of research.
- The draft stresses that lesson observations will not be from a random sample; instead they will link to other evidence-gathering such as discussions and work scrutiny. They will provide first-hand evidence about the implementation of the curriculum and the new judgement on “behaviour and attitudes”.
- Similarly, work scrutiny will not be a random sample of books but will complement other inspection activities to provide evidence of curriculum impact.
- Although not referred to explicitly in the proposal, inspectors’ electronic evidence gathering (EEG) will change the dynamics of team meetings and discussions with leaders. Provided that inspectors have been able to sync their ongoing evidence forms, lead inspectors will be able to draw on the whole range of evidence recorded up to that point.
- Although evaluation grades given at the final feedback meeting remain provisional and “restricted and confidential”, the draft handbook says they may now be shared beyond the senior team (with “school staff and all those responsible for the governance of the school”).
The quality of education
- This judgement will be based on curriculum intent, implementation and impact.
- Intent will reflect how the curriculum addresses social disadvantage, the sequence of learning identified by the school, how the curriculum addresses any gaps in knowledge and skills resulting from the local context
- “At the heart of an effective key stage 4 curriculum is a strong academic core: the EBacc.” As Stephen Tierney has pointed out, there might not be much disagreement over the first half of that sentence but there could well be over the second half.
- Inspectors will look for high levels of academic, vocational and technical ambition for all pupils.
- “Schools taking radically different approaches to the curriculum will be judged fairly.” They will be assessed favourably if leaders can show that their curriculum has “appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing”.
- “Inspectors will be particularly alert to signs of narrowing in key stages 2 and 3…”
- A school could well be “good” even if still developing and embedding its curriculum – provided that inspectors are satisfied that leaders “have an accurate evaluative understanding of current curriculum practice…and have identified appropriate next steps…”
- The judgement will be partly based on how schools are equipping pupils with “cultural capital”: “…the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens…helping them to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement”.
- Teachers will be expected to have expert subject knowledge or be supported in addressing any gaps in knowledge.
- Teaching of the curriculum is delivered “in a way that allows pupils to transfer key knowledge to long-term memory; it is sequenced so that new knowledge and skills build on what has gone before towards defined end points”.
- “Developing understanding, not memorising disconnected facts.”
- “Inspectors will…evaluate how assessment is used…to support the teaching of the curriculum.”
- “Assessment is too often carried out in a way that creates unnecessary burdens for staff and pupils.”
- “Inspectors will look at whether schools’ collection of attainment or progress data are proportionate.” Mention is made here of the Teacher Workload Advisory Group’s recommendation of no more than two or three data collection points a year.
- “If a school’s system for data collection is disproportionate, inefficient or unsustainable for staff, inspectors will reflect this in their reporting…”
- “National assessments and examinations are useful indicators of the outcomes pupils achieve but they only represent a sample of what pupils have learned.”
- “Inspectors will balance these with their assessment of the standard of pupils’ work from the first-hand evidence they gather…” Others have already questioned how consistently and confidently non-specialist subject inspectors will be able to do this.
- “Inspectors will not use schools’ internal assessment data as evidence.” This acknowledges the fact that inspectors do not have the time to validate the accuracy of any school-provided data and the wide range of assessment models now in use.
- Judgements will be based on the IDSR, observations, discussions and work scrutinies and, playing a much more significant role than before, destinations data. In primary schools, listening to pupils read will also be a key factor.
- There will be a single overall grade for intent, implementation and impact.
Behaviour and attitudes
- Familiar important factors are referred to: a calm and orderly environment; clear routines and expectations; clear and effective policies; pupil motivation and positive attitudes; a positive, respectful culture; an environment where pupils feel safe.
- If inspectors have evidence that pupils have been kept off-site to influence the inspection, both behaviour and attitudes and leadership and management will be inadequate.
- “Inspectors will seek to evaluate the quality and intent of what a school provides but will not attempt to measure the impact…on the lives of individual pupils.” There is a recognition here that schools can only do so much in the context of a pupil’s wider experiences beyond school.
- As with behaviour, aspects of personal development highlighted are not unfamiliar (eg responsible, active citizens, developing confidence and resilience, healthy relationships and an effective careers programme). SMSC will continue to draw together many of these areas.
- An outstanding school will consistently go “the extra mile” to promote the personal development of its pupils.
Leadership and management
- Many key indicators here will be familiar from previous handbooks although the list is much shorter than previously: high ambition and expectations, coherence and consistency, parental and community engagement and effective governance all feature. What is new is how leaders focus on education rather than on other demands on their time and how they take account of workload and staff well-being in delivering a high-quality education.
- Conspicuous by their absence are references to what was “rigorous and accurate self-evaluation” and to the effective monitoring of progress. The only mention of self-evaluation comes early on when the lead inspector will ask about any self-evaluation done by the school, although it is made clear that a self-evaluation document is not a requirement; and we have already seen that internal assessments are not going to be looked at. Some other areas such as the curriculum, extra-curricular activities and preparation for life in modern Britain will be part of the quality of education judgement.
- There is recognition of the fact that schools in multi-academy trusts have different leadership and governance functions according to MAT policy and structures; inspectors might request to meet MAT leaders to gather further evidence.
- Inspection of off-site provision is more prominent than before. Inspectors should “do everything they can within reason” to speak to alternative providers and, in addition to safeguarding arrangements, will also explore why alternative provision was thought to be the best option, together with the achievement, attendance, behaviour and personal development of the young people involved.
- Inspectors will challenge schools that appear to be “gaming the system” with examination entries that are not in the pupils’ best interest. Data analysts will provide additional information to indicate where this might be happening; leadership and management are likely to be judged inadequate if this is found to be the case.
- Similarly, if schools are found to be “off-rolling” pupils inappropriately, this will be treated as a form of gaming.
- Practice around safeguarding reflects recent moves away from checking documentation to evaluating the safeguarding culture of the school. Ineffective safeguarding would most likely lead to an inadequate judgement for leadership and management, although this could be RI if there are only minor weaknesses that can be easily remedied.
- Segregation is a new area for the handbook. Any segregation of pupils that is not permitted by the Equality Act 2010 is unlawful and will lead to a school being judged no higher than “requires improvement” for leadership and management. Where there are no plans to re-integrate pupils, the likely grade will be “inadequate”. Lawful purposes for segregation are positive action “to alleviate a disadvantage associated with a certain characteristic” – for example additional work experience in a sector in which a race or gender is under-represented – and competitive sport where physical strength is a significant factor.
Section 8 (“short”) inspections
- Current good schools will continue to receive a one-day inspection. This will focus on key areas of the quality of education judgement, essentially the curriculum and any apparent narrowing of pupil experience.
- Evidence of any gaming or off-rolling will also be investigated.
- Behaviour will focus on how the school creates a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment; inspectors will not make a judgement on all the behaviour and attitudes criteria.
- In addition, there will be a focus on pupils’ wider development and workload.
- The consequences of a section 8 inspection remain as they are now.
- Reading will be a focus in key stages 1 and 2.
- The teaching and assessment of maths will be a key focus in all key stages.
- Inspections of SEND in mainstream schools will focus on identification, assessment and provision, engagement with parents and carers and the use of effective assessment.
- For the first time, the handbook recognises that special consideration needs to be given during inspections of junior, middle and studio schools and UTCs. In junior and middle schools, account will be taken of the fact that pupils will have joined mid-key stage; with studio schools and UTCs, the references to the Ebacc will not apply and destinations rather than Progress 8 will be used as an appropriate performance indicator.
SSAT hopes that as many colleagues as possible will respond to the consultation process, which concludes on 5 April, and that this long (although still not exhaustive) summary will help to focus your thoughts on some of the key areas.
We shall also be very interested in hearing members’ views to help shape our own response. Whatever our views on individual aspects of the proposals and on the nature of inspection itself, the development of the new framework has certainly been the most open and transparent since Ofsted was formed in 1992.