At the first of eight regional launch events, Sir Michael Wilshaw updated school leaders on the latest inspection framework. He said that it ‘represents the greatest changes to inspection in its 22 year history, changes that will lead to further improvement.’
HMCI began by praising the ‘modern heroes’ of reforming school leaders and the system for ensuring that many more children were in better schools and achieving better outcomes than before, and that England’s performance in relation to other UK countries was good.
However, whilst he said that all too often ‘corrosive negativity’ in education exists, he was also clear that further improvement was needed including in relation to ‘patronising the poor’ through ‘serving them up with lower expectations’, and in advancing the progress of the most able children in key stage 3.
He [Wilshaw] was also clear that further improvement was needed including in relation to ‘patronising the poor’ through ‘serving them up with lower expectations’
He asked the following questions (all of which focused on leaders having a culture of and drive for high aspirations) which HMI would be asking and are of course important for leaders to ask themselves:
- Have the leaders got a grip on the institution? Do they fully understand its strengths and weaknesses?
- Have they communicated their strategy for raising standards to the key stakeholders?
- Are they focused on what really benefits children and young people, rather than wasting their time endlessly preparing for an Ofsted inspection which could be years away?
- Do they refuse to accept excuses for underachievement and are they prepared to go the extra mile to compensate for family background?
- Are they simply presiders over the status quo, content to take the path of least resistance or are they prepared to challenge staff and students to do better?
- Have they built, or are they developing, a culture that is calm, orderly and aspirational?
- Are they people who tolerate scrappy worksheets? Or are they people who insist that children should have good materials to work with, including textbooks, readers and library books which they can use for classwork and homework?
Wilshaw took the opportunity to answer the almost daily criticisms of the inspection system by saying that ‘Ofsted has reformed, is reforming and will continue to reform’.
He said that they have already responded to the ‘greater autonomy and greater devolution of powers to schools, governors and leaders’ by demonstrating that they are ‘capable of change and reform in order to keep pace with higher national expectations’.
Indeed nine out of ten school leaders of RI schools confirmed that inspection had helped them to improve, usually to higher grades.
Wilshaw crucially provided further specific detail of changes that have reduced the burden of the inspection system:
- We don’t tell teachers how to teach anymore – there is no Ofsted preferred style of teaching. Our classroom observations are used for only two reasons (1) to check the school’s own assessment of the quality of teaching and (2) to identify the strengths and weaknesses of teaching across the school.
- Inspectors no longer grade the quality of teaching in individual lessons and no longer require teachers to produce lesson plans. It should be quite obvious whether the lesson had been planned or not.
- Inspectors do not require lengthy policy documents. They simply want to see whether the school has a concise and accurate evaluation of its own performance.
- Reports are now much simpler, clearer and more readable for parents and families.
- Ofsted has significantly increased the number of serving practitioners from good and outstanding institutions into the inspection workforce. From September, 7 out of 10 Ofsted Inspectors will be serving practitioners. Indeed, I hope by the end of my tenure 100% of all inspection teams will contain a serving leader.
- Lay inspectors with no experience of the classroom have been removed from inspection teams.
- Lastly, and most importantly, we have ended the outsourcing contracts and are bringing all schools and FE inspection in-house to provide much greater quality assurance to the inspection process.
Wilshaw said that Ofsted would continue to respond to the educational changes empathising ‘with those heads who are doing their best’; understanding that mavericks are key to the improvements in education; ensuring that those who support other schools to improve should be congratulated as being exceptional and introduce ‘a high-level scrutiny committee in each of Ofsted’s regions, made up of HMI and senior education practitioners not involved in carrying out inspections for Ofsted.
They will assess and rule on the internal reviews of complaints about inspection. Their decision will be binding on Ofsted.’
Probably the most significant change is the introduction of shorter inspections for good schools and colleges. School leaders were told that ‘Short inspections will reduce the burden of inspection without losing the rigour which parents and the public rightly expect of Ofsted.’
It was even more important in this model that leaders self-evaluate their school’s effectiveness accurately, proving that they ‘had a credible and effective plan’ to address weaknesses and were able to prove what they were saying in their evaluations to inspectors through data, meetings and observations.
School leaders were told that ‘Short inspections will reduce the burden of inspection without losing the rigour which parents and the public rightly expect of Ofsted
Lastly, the new Common Inspection Framework will ensure that the system and terminology used are the same for any sector making reports more accessible to all stakeholders.
It is clear that Wilshaw’s Ofsted wants to work with stakeholders as positively and closely as possible in order to continue to improve the quality of education for all young people and making no apologies of the unrelenting ‘determination to shine a spotlight on underperformance’.
The recent and forthcoming changes continue to respond to the concerns of school leaders and ensure that the inspection workforce is made up of practising leaders, growing system-led accountability.
Already some education commentators are criticising the changes for not bringing outstanding schools back to the inspection system routinely or that the short inspections will not provide sufficient time to find the evidence required to assess whether the quality of education has been maintained as good.
SSAT will be watching closely, garnering your views and reporting back via our networks as the changes are implemented.