Ofsted fine-tunes inspection framework

Teaching unions have given a cautious welcome to Ofsted’s latest reforms that include new criteria across all inspections.

From September, schools will be assessed on the same four areas as early learning and further education and skills providers.

The new criteria under which inspectors will make judgments are the effectiveness of leadership and management, which includes curriculum; the quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and outcomes for children and learners.

The reforms, announced on Monday in Ofsted’s response to the Better Inspection for All consultation, confirm a move towards more frequent but shorter inspections for schools it rates as “good”; while full inspections of every “non-association” independent school in the country would be conducted by July 2018.

Unions have welcomed the changes in principle but felt in some cases that they should go further.

Ian Toone, principal officer for education at Voice, a union for education professionals across the sectors, said: “We have been concerned about issues of inconsistency and unreliability affecting Ofsted so we welcome the common framework and hope that it will introduce a fairer and more consistent inspection regime.

“However, while consistency of approach is important, differences between settings do need to be taken into account – particularly in early years where much of the learning is play-based.”

Mr Toone said the union believed every Ofsted team should comprise of at least two inspectors to reduce the “potential for bias”. It also suggested any school no longer identified as “good” in a short inspection should have a fuller one carried out straight away.

“We hope that these changes will enable Ofsted inspections to become supportive and developmental rather than clinical and punitive.”

However, Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: “The constant changing of the Ofsted framework does nothing to reassure parents and schools that Ofsted is forming secure judgments on the quality of education.”

Under the new rules, “good” schools will receive a shorter inspection but within a three-year period, rather than the possible five years currently allowed. Ofsted said this would allow signs of decline to be spotted early and necessary action taken while focusing on ensuring good standards were maintained.

Ofsted’s national director of schools, Sean Harford, said: “Our Common Inspection Framework will ensure a consistent approach to inspections.

“It will focus on keeping young people safe, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said the new framework would be published in advance of September to give a clearer guide to head teachers and schools what to expect from the new inspections.