By Tony Powell

Introduction

Ofsted made a number of changes to inspection procedures and the evaluation schedule with effect from September 2013. The latter included changes to how inspectors make judgments on all the key areas and therefore for the overall judgment on effectiveness.

Schools have been alerted to this through articles, training courses and advice from local authorities. Most time has concentrated on pupils’ achievement because that drives many of the other judgments.

This article focuses on behaviour and safety. There is now a much greater emphasis on positive attitudes to learning and pupils’ understanding of why this is important. This is more challenging for some schools since it is not enough for pupils to behave well, they must appreciate why good behaviour is important and be able to articulate this to inspectors.

The structure of the evaluation schedule

The guidance for inspectors for each of the key areas is in the following three parts.

  1. A general introduction to the key area so, for example, the section on behaviour and safety first reminds inspectors that their judgments must not be made solely on what they see during the inspection.

  2. “Inspectors should consider” outlines the areas for investigation, such as the level and patterns of exclusions and also the evidence base.

  3. The grade descriptors turn the areas for consideration into statements to describe each grade.

Some inspectors present the grade descriptors to schools as constraining their judgments. However, an important caveat is that the grade descriptors should not be used as a checklist. Instead, inspectors should consider all the evidence and reach a “best fit” judgment. Schools should remind inspectors of this if necessary.

Schools should consult the document: Subsidiary Guidance — Supporting the Inspection of Maintained Schools and Academies (September 2013 — Reference no: 110166). This gives more detailed advice on how to interpret the evaluation schedule.

Schools are also recommended to study the Section 5 briefings on:

  • Exploring the School’s Actions to Prevent and Tackle Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying (September 2013 — Reference no: 120181)

  • Additional Provision to Manage Behaviour and the Use of Exclusion (September 2013 — Reference no: 120180)

  • Inspecting e-safety in Schools (September 2013 — Reference no: 120196).

These documents are all available on the Ofsted website.

Changes to the evaluation schedule

Have a copy of the schedule to hand so you can highlight changes and make explanatory notes.

General introduction, page 41

Paragraph 129 — the following additional information has been added: “They must also take account of the views expressed by pupils, including different groups of pupils, of their experiences of others’ behaviour and attitudes towards them, and their understanding of the importance of such attributes in school and adult life. Inspectors must also take account of the views of parents, staff, governors and others.”

Gathering the views of pupils and others is not new. Nor is it new to ask pupils about the behaviour and attitudes of others although with this direction expect it to be more prevalent and overt. The first real change is the expectation that pupils should understand the importance of what are described as “attributes”. This point is a thread running through the new evaluation schedule.

Inspectors should consider, pages 41─42

Paragraph 130

  • The extent to which pupils’ attitudes to learning help or hinder their progress in lessons.

The text in italic is additional and advises inspectors to judge attitudes in relation to progress; good progress therefore means positive attitudes and of course the opposite.

  • pupils’ respect for courtesy and good manners towards each other and adults, and their understanding of how such behaviour contributes to school life, relationships, adult life and work.

Again additional text in italic reinforcing the point that pupils should understand how respect, courtesy, etc underpin relationships in adult life as well as in school.

  • the school’s success in keeping pupils safe, whether within school or during external activities through, for instance, effective risk assessments, e-safety arrangements, and action taken following any serious safeguarding incident.

Evidently Ofsted thinks that inspectors have emphasised pupils “feeling” safe and they are reminded that they must actually “be” safe. This point is reinforced later. This will almost certainly lead to a greater focus on health and safety arrangements, risk assessments and e-safety.

Grade descriptors, pages 43─44

The grade descriptors elaborate on the above. For example, one of the descriptors for “outstanding” states: “Pupils consistently display a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning, including in independent, group and whole-class work, which have a very strong impact on their progress in lessons.”

During lesson observations inspectors will be looking for evidence of active involvement and enjoyment of learning. In this regard, it is interesting to look back at the previous evaluation schedule from September 2009. That schedule divided achievement into attainment and learning and progress, both of which were elements in what was described as the first prime judgment: How well do pupils achieve and enjoy their learning?

Inspectors will be looking for pupils who are engaged and enthused, for example through asking as well as answering questions, offering ideas and managing their own learning.

Subsidiary guidance, pages 13─14

The subsidiary guidance contains a new section on “pupils’ experience of behaviour”. This directs lead inspectors to ensure that the team observes pupils arriving and leaving school and throughout the day. They should talk to pupils, staff, such as lunchtime supervisors, and parents at these times and seek their views about behaviour. They are recommended to seek pupils’ views early in the inspection so that they can be followed up, so expect this to happen on the morning of the first day. One question is sure to be:

  • Is this behaviour typical of what we would see if the school was not being inspected?

Lunchtimes and the food on offer will be a particular focus. Inspectors will evaluate the environment of the dining hall itself, as well as the atmosphere and how it contributes to good behaviour. School leaders will also be asked about the quality of the food, the children’s dietary requirements and healthy lifestyles. On this point note that the curriculum section within leadership and management expects not only that the curriculum will promote academic achievement and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, but also physical wellbeing.

Many discussions with pupils and others may appear informal and even casual. They are not. There will also be formal interviews and discussions and the pupils will be carefully chosen to represent the range of pupil groups. In order to ensure that all pupils give their views they may be asked to respond in writing either on paper or a mini-whiteboard.

Gathering the evidence

Inspectors will use the same methods, such as lesson observations, informal and formal discussions, data analysis and scrutiny of documentation but there will be a focus on the new aspects. This is always the case when the evaluation schedule and guidance are amended.

Questions are likely to be more directed, for example:

  • Why do we have rules in school?

  • Do you agree with the rules?

  • Have you ever heard pupils call others names such as “gay”?

  • Does your school teach you about issues such as e-safety?

Last reviewed 6 December 2013