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Over the past year, we have been sharing our observations on how Ofsted and the chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, have been approaching the development of the new Ofsted framework that will be introduced in September 2019. Many of the hints that have been emerging from Ofsted Towers are now turning into much clearer statements of intent.
We have known for some time that the new framework will have curriculum at its heart. This has been clear since Ofsted’s research into how schools plan, deliver and evaluate their curriculum offer started in the autumn of 2017. Concerns about teaching to the test, narrowing students’ curricular experience and the implications for social justice were apparent from the outset when the chief inspector wrote “If [children’s] entire school experience has been designed to push them through mark-scheme hoops, rather than developing a deep body of knowledge, they will struggle in later study.”
This developed into an additional enquiry into the nature of learning itself and what is meant by progress. How do teachers ensure that curriculum content is learned long term? Doesn’t progress mean “knowing more and remembering more” rather than ascribing isolated chunks of knowledge to a set of level descriptors? How can we plan learning to take account of the hugely complex web of schemata in students’ thinking that allows them to infer, deduce and find links from what they have been taught?
It’s all a long way from the approach of “this is how we did it at my school when I was headteacher” that often characterised the reactions and announcements of the previous chief inspector.
More rounded view
So how is all this thinking likely to be reflected in a new framework? It’s clear that there will be a much more rounded view of the quality of education that a school provides, going beyond a focus just on data. Curriculum and learning, allied with teaching and assessment, will be at the core. So too will be students’ wider development including their attitudes and behaviour in school. And, clearly, leadership and management will remain key areas of consideration.
Ofsted’s working hypothesis at present, therefore, is to have an overarching judgement on the quality of education together with separate judgements on behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.
Quality of education will focus on the three Ofsted curriculum pillars of intent, implementation and impact. Intent will include curriculum design, coverage and appropriateness; implementation will cover curriculum delivery, teaching and assessment; and impact will reflect student achievement and destinations.
Separating behaviour and attitudes and personal development would allow areas such as behaviour, attendance, attitudes to learning, SMSC, career guidance, equality and diversity and preparation for the next stage of education to be given a clearly identifiable place in the inspection process.
And leadership and management would, as now, focus on vision and ethos, staff development, governance and safeguarding, although a possible specific reference to off-rolling reflects concern over some schools’ current practice.
Teachers and leaders more involved?
There is clearly a desire to involve middle leaders and teachers in discussion much more during an inspection. This calls into question whether there would be sufficient time on site under current arrangements, particularly for short section 8 inspections. A decision on that is likely to be determined by the resources made available to Ofsted by the government.
So, too, will be any change to the current exemption for schools judged to be outstanding at their last inspection. The outstanding judgement itself will certainly be retained but the inspectorate is clear that it would like to see the removal of the outstanding exemption “to ensure public confidence in the grading” – although it concedes that this will be “subject to agreement with the DfE on funding and the will of parliament”.
A new process
The direction of travel might be reasonably clear but the process between now and next September will be unlike that leading up to any previous new Ofsted framework. What has been announced so far represents an intention to consider the views of stakeholders across the remit of the common inspection framework which includes FE and Skills, non-association independent schools and early years settings as well as maintained schools and academies.
Research into the curriculum, lesson observation, work scrutiny and other topics is continuing and will feed into the draft framework. Ofsted has committed itself to “consult on the substance and detail of the new framework (not just high-level principles)” during the spring term.
It is anticipated that the final version will then be published during the summer, ready for a September start.
As ever, we’ll keep you posted on progress.
Colin Logan, Senior Education Lead, SSAT