On 16 January, Ofsted published a range of documents on the proposed changes to school inspections, including the official consultation. Tony Powell, consultant educationist, explains the main points for consideration here.

Which schools will be inspected?

All schools, including those that are currently exempt, will be inspected. This important change is not part of the consultation because it is a political decision. The Conservative party’s manifesto for the 2010 election promised to exempt some outstanding schools and this was made statutory through the 2011 Education Act. However, this has been criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), because it means that these schools are not held to account and parents are not informed about their current effectiveness. Ofsted has promised to work with the Education Department to reverse this policy at the earliest possible opportunity.

Consultation Proposals

Proposal 1

We propose the introduction of a new “quality of education” judgement built around our working definition of the curriculum.

This proposal encapsulates the change in the direction of inspection. The starting point is that the “real substance of education” is the curriculum. The quality of education provided will be judged against what are sure to be dubbed the Curriculum 3 Is of Intent, Implementation and Impact.

Intent

What are the provider’s aims for all its children and young people, and have leaders designed or adopted a curriculum which will deliver those aims? These aims must not be limited to the end of a stage but linked to what learners will need to succeed and enjoy in adulthood. Within “intent”, inspectors will also look for how the curriculum is planned and sequenced to include all aspects and learners. So, if your mission statement aims for: “Excellence for All in All Aspects of Learning”, expect criticism if you limit the curriculum for some learners.

Implementation

How the curriculum is translated into the classroom. Essentially, this is about teaching and assessment.

Impact

Outcomes, including academic outcomes and achievement in national tests but much wider. Did leaners acquire meaningful knowledge and skills throughout their curriculum journey? Are they prepared for the next steps? Do they have sufficient “cultural capital” to succeed as adults?

Proposal 2

We propose to judge “personal development” separately from “behaviour and attitudes” to enhance the inspection focus on each and enable clearer reporting on both.

When judging personal development, inspectors will evaluate the intent and quality of what a provider offers but will not attempt to measure the impact of the provider’s work on the lives of individual learners. The intention is to bring greater attention and focus to what education providers do to educate learners in the broadest sense, including the development of character and preparing them for life in modern Britain.

Behaviour and learners’ attitudes can then be given the importance that they are due, since if behaviour is not managed effectively and learners are not instilled with positive attitudes to learning, nothing much will be learned.

Proposal 3

We want to ensure that the education inspection framework 2019 judgements are appropriate for the range of early years settings.

There will be a greater emphasis on the curriculum, using the 3Is, as well as on the quality of education and care.

Proposal 4

Increase the length of inspections of good and non-exempt outstanding schools from the current one day to two days

This is in order to give inspectors sufficient time to make judgements against the new aspects.

Proposal 5

Introduce on-site preparation for all section 5 inspections, and for section 8 inspections of good schools, on the afternoon prior to the inspection.

This means the school would be contacted no later than 10am on the day prior to the inspection; the lead inspector will arrive no earlier than 12.30pm and will leave no later than 5pm. The purpose of this change is to support the change in focus away from external data.

Proposal 6

Inspectors will not use schools’ internal performance data for current pupils as evidence during an inspection.

This is in order to reduce teacher workload. Instead, inspectors will gather direct evidence of the quality of education in schools and will have meaningful discussions with leaders about how they know that the curriculum is having an impact. Inspectors will ask schools to explain why they have decided to collect whatever assessment information they collect, what they are drawing from this information and how that informs their curriculum and teaching.

Proposal 7

When inspecting non-association independent schools, inspectors should normally use the non-specialist curriculum as their primary source of evidence in assessing the extent to which the school meets the quality of education criteria.

This is to ensure equality of the curriculum judgement across schools.

Proposal 8

Where non-association independent schools have been found to improve or decline at an additional inspection, Ofsted should provide up-to-date judgements about the school’s current performance.

Proposal 9

In the further education and skills sector, Ofsted proposes to reduce the types of provision graded and specifically reported on to make reports more coherent and inclusive.

The proposal is to focus on education programmes for young people, apprenticeships and adult learning programmes.

Proposal 10

A new model for short inspections that focuses on the quality of education and training, safeguarding and effective management, which should be the same across providers. Ofsted is piloting its approach.

Proposal 11

Extend the timescale within which providers judged to require improvement from “normally 12 to 24 months” after the last inspection to “normally 12 to 30 months” after the last inspection.

Preparing for inspection

Ofsted is scathing of education consultants that seek to sell providers the Ofsted “answer”. However, criticising a particular method of consultancy cannot mean that leaders should not prepare for inspection. Revising the following documents will provide a focus for all staff and governors.

Curriculum statement

Use the 3Is of Intent, Implementation and Impact to give parents and others a meaningful understanding of your curriculum.

Self-evaluation statement

There is no requirement for schools to have a self-evaluation statement, but the vast majority do. The statement must of course be revised to evaluate the new aspects identified in the Ofsted proposals from September 2019, particularly the curriculum.

Further reading

Schools are urged additionally to study the documents listed below and consult earlier articles in Croner-i and the School Leadership magazine.

Education Inspection Framework (EIF) 2019: Inspecting the Substance of Education: Consultation Document [Reference 180044]

The EIF replaces the Common Inspection Framework (CIF). Ofsted has committed itself to listening and taking responses into account. Schools should respond and respond honestly.

Education Inspection Framework: Overview of Research [Reference 180045]

A fascinating document that reads partly like a university thesis. It seeks to justify the choice of the grade criterion in the EIF, for example relating to teaching, by explaining the underlying research on the subject.

Education Inspection Framework: Draft for Consultation [Reference 180039]

“The education inspection framework (“the framework”) applies to the inspection of different education, skills and early years settings to ensure comparability when learners move from one setting to another. It supports consistency across the inspection of different remits.” Paragraph 2.

Relevant Handbooks — Early Years, Schools, FE, Non-Association Independent Schools

Last reviewed 20 March 2019