Last reviewed 2 January 2019
Tony Powell, consulting educationist, is currently working with three schools anticipating inspection in the academic year 2019–20, studying every clue about the new inspection arrangements from September 2019. He shares his thoughts.
HM Chief Inspector of Education, Amanda Spielman, took up post in January 2017 and Ofsted’s strategic plan was revised in September. The structure of the plan stems from “a new strategic guiding principle” that Ofsted exists to be “a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation”. Two immediate questions appear.
“Regulation” — which rules?
The introduction to the plan states “Ofsted’s role is to make sure that these institutions deliver for children and learners, creating the conditions that allow the next generation to realise its full potential.”
This is a much wider role than the previous one and DfE watchers also appreciate that changes in the structure of accountability are likely to leave Ofsted as the sole arbiter of school performance. It is important for schools to know what Ofsted will judge them against.
Inspection grades and aspects
There are currently no plans to change the inspection grades which will remain as outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate nor will the number of grades change from the current five; “overall effectiveness” is based on four aspects.
Leadership and management.
Teaching, learning and assessment.
Behaviour and welfare, and outcomes for pupils.
However, the aspects will be reconfigured (to become an actual seven) and revised. From September 2019, “overall effectiveness” will be based on:
effectiveness of leadership and management
quality of education, to include:
teaching, learning and assessment
behaviour and attitudes
Something is “effective” if it achieves the desired effect, so for example, leadership and management will be judged to be “outstanding” if teaching delivers a curriculum and outcomes for pupils that Ofsted defines as “outstandingly desirable”.
Evaluating quality of education
Inspectors will take the following into account when making a judgment on the quality of education the school provides.
Intent — the school’s aims for all learners.
Implementation — how well does teaching and assessment fulfil the intent.
Impact — results, wider outcomes and destinations.
Schools inspected and amount of inspection time
Which schools are inspected, when the allocated time devoted are political issues, not least because inspection costs public money. The political will seems to be shifting towards a model where all schools are inspected within a constrained time period for longer than one day. The most likely scenario is for all schools to be inspected on a maximum five-year cycle for two or three days. Funding will come from downgrading the role of regional schools commissioners (RSCs) and moving part of their budget to Ofsted.
In January 2012, Ofsted introduced a new inspection framework which reduced the number of inspection aspects and grades dramatically. Previously, curriculum was inspected within a broad section on “How effective is the provision”, together with teaching and assessment and care, guidance and support. There were separate grades and descriptors for each. Of course, there is a statutory requirement that all state-funded schools provide a curriculum that is balanced and broadly based, which should:
promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society
prepare pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.
Therefore, guidance on inspecting the curriculum was relocated to leadership and management, and interestingly, spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development became an essential component within “overall effectiveness”. Schools will find the inspection framework prior to January 2012 and their “historical” inspection reports, useful reference documents.
From September 2019, the quality of the curriculum will be one of the main focuses for inspection. The curriculum must deliver academic outcomes, but it should not be enslaved by them. In her commentary on the first Ofsted survey of the curriculum, HMCI described it as “the vast accumulated wealth of human knowledge and what we choose to impart to the next generation …”.
Look back at the introduction and the strategic plan, particularly the new role for Ofsted and “regulation”. Which regulations might be important to the next generation? For example, how does the school contribute to the fundamental British values and community cohesion, the prevent duty, and the requirements of the Equality Act in a planned and structured way through the curriculum?
Tasks for schools
After the post-inspection publicity campaign, most schools want to forget about Ofsted until inspection looms again. Unfortunately, the first task is to calculate your next inspection date and then draw up a timetabled list of priorities which itself means rewrite the school improvement plan (SIP). Priority 1 in any SIP should be the key issues identified in the last inspection.
We can organise the tasks against the three stages within the quality of education.
All schools need to review their aims and mission statement in the context of the Ofsted strategic plan, but not all will need to revise them. The key points to check are that the stated aims based on an analysis of pupils’ needs, that you believe in them and they are evident in the schools’ practice. A secondary school with a stated mission to “Raise Standards and Broaden Horizons” will invite criticism even if it achieves very high standards, but narrows pupils’ experience in subjects such as music, art and dance to concentrate on GCSE preparation, as will any that claim to care about all learners but off-roll some.
Once the SLT and governing body are happy that the aims and mission statement are understood and shared by all stakeholders, including pupils, move to the next stage. Are you happy that you have articulated all the schools’ aims for pupils or have some, such as healthy lifestyles and emotional health been allowed to slip?
How does the school achieve its aims? As September 2019 draws near, the detail of the new Common Inspection Framework (CIF) and handbooks will be shared with schools, but it is helpful to articulate your responses to these questions before then.
How do we support pupils so that they have the confidence to give their best?
How do we organise the curriculum so that all subjects have enough time to make their distinctive contribution and all pupils have access to develop their individual talents?
How effectively do teachers deliver the curriculum to meet its aims?
Academic outcomes are still very important and the starting point for all lead inspectors is the Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR). Make sure you have analysed the issues from the first page of the IDSR because they are the first areas for investigation. Clearly though, the redefinition of Ofsted’s role and especially the curriculum identifies qualitative outcomes which rely on different types of evidence.
The final task is to write up the Self-evaluation Statement (SES), assemble and organise the evidence to support the school’s judgments, and make sure everyone understands them.
Reading through, you will have realised that preparing for the next inspection means rethinking all aspects of the school’s work and revising much of its documentation. Consider auditing the curriculum and rewriting the online statement.