Emphasis of Ofsted inspection to shift from classroom

The emphasis of Ofsted inspections will “shift up the management structure”, but lesson observations will continue because teachers want them, Amanda Spielman has said.

The chief inspector of schools told Schools Week that although she wasn’t pledging “in absolute terms” that inspectors will spend less time in lessons, schools should see the “weighting” of involvement in inspections shift to leaders.

Spielman’s comments come after she announced proposals for a shake-up of the way schools will be inspected from next September.

One of the most substantial changes proposed by the watchdog is the move to scrap the “pupil outcomes” judgment currently applied to schools, amid fears that exam results play too big a part in how inspectors critique the schools they visit.

Ofsted will also introduce a new, broader “quality of education” judgment and focus more on curriculum.

This will “shift the weight, to some extent, away from the teaching itself, away from the classroom teacher at the end of the line, and puts more of that discussion with the senior and middle leaders who are responsible for curriculum decisions,” Spielman told Schools Week.

“We are hoping to find a way of putting more time into schools, so it’s a question of balance. I’m not saying in absolute terms, less time in lessons, but the emphasis, the weighting will shift up the management structure. The overall weight should feel like it shifts up the management chain a bit.”

The chief inspector said lesson observations are here to stay, however, because “people are very uncomfortable with the idea of an inspection where teaching is never seen”.

Even teachers, in surveys by Ofsted, say they “don’t feel like they’re properly part of an inspection if nothing has been directly looked at”, she added.

“I’ve tried to take this two-strand approach that’s partly, of course, about getting the right judgment, but it’s also about having this constructive professional conversation right through the inspection.”

Spielman also said she expected short inspections of good schools would continue, but would need to “evolve” to fit with the watchdog’s new approach to curriculum.

“I think we can get the focus on curriculum by getting the full inspections absolutely right, and then the short inspection model will need to evolve to be consistent with that.”