Improving schools won’t suffer under new inspection framework – Spielman

The chief inspector of schools has sought to reassure headteachers that improving schools will not be penalised under Ofsted’s proposals to ignore in-house data.

In her speech to the ASCL conference this afternoon, Amanda Spielman gave school leaders a summary of responses so far to Ofsted’s consultation on its new regime, which is due to come into effect from September.

The first concern is that if Ofsted doesn’t look at in-year data, we will put more weight on historic published results, perhaps to the detriment of the improving schools. This isn’t right

The draft new framework includes a new set of judgment categories and a move away from checks on schools’ internal data, which Spielman fears has led to schools doing unnecessary preparation for Ofsted inspections.

Although she revealed that the “majority” of the 5,000 responses to a consultation on the document received by the watchdog so far were positive about plans to introduce a new “quality of education” judgment, Spielman said there were “concerns” she wanted to address.

“The first concern is that if Ofsted doesn’t look at in-year data, we will put more weight on historic published results, perhaps to the detriment of the improving schools. This isn’t right,” she told delegates.

“Remember, we are proposing to take out the outcomes judgement, so that historic performance data will already carry less weight. If your previous results were disappointing, but you’ve already started to make your curriculum more coherent, to increase your teachers’ subject knowledge, and to assess and refine your curriculum and teaching as you go, that may be more important than what happened a year ago.”

Spielman has also announced plans today for a “series of subject reviews”, to be published next year based on evidence gathered during inspections under the new framework.

“We have occasionally lost sight of the crucial differences between the subjects we teach, their long and proud history as academic disciplines, and the implications that has for the curriculum and teaching,” she told heads.

“So starting next year, initially in a small range of subjects, we intend to publish a series of subject reviews, based on what we are seeing on inspection under the new framework.

“This will be complemented by a detailed look at the what the research says in those areas. I very much hope these reports will contribute to the resurgence in the importance of subject disciplines that I see already underway across the country.”


Spielman defends ‘good’ rating for off-rolling school

The chief inspector has today defended Ofsted’s decision to rate a Stoke-on-Trent school as ‘good’ despite evidence that pupils were off-rolled.

Spielman said that Discovery Academy “was and is a good school”, after Ofsted was criticised for a report which rated every element of the school’s provision ‘good’ bar leadership and management, which was rated ‘requires improvement’.

During a visit in January, inspectors found that ten year 11 pupils had been moved to the roll of alternative provision schools ahead of the spring census last year, which means their GCSE results did not count towards Discovery’s league table position.

Earlier this month, Schools Week revealed that Spielman herself had personally intervened in the inspection to downgrade the school’s leadership and management rating.

But speaking at the ASCL conference today, she defended the school’s overall ‘good’ rating.

“Inspection also involves balances and trade-offs. Every week, inspectors have to make difficult assessments, knowing the influence of the grades they give,” she said.

“To give one recent example, we have been criticised because we graded a school as good, despite finding evidence of off-rolling. For some people, that phrase, off-rolling, is enough to damn the school and everyone in it. But the school was and is a good school.”

Spielman said teaching, outcomes and behaviour at the school were good, and the “small number” of off-rolled pupils were in good alternative provision.

“We graded leadership and management as requires improvement, but the school as good overall. We didn’t make ourselves popular with that decision, but ethical leadership is about difficult but right decisions, even when they are unpopular.”

Ofsted’s report on Discovery Academy has prompted calls for clearer guidance on what does and does not constitute off-rolling.

Sarah Robinson, the chief executive of Discovery sponsor Alpha Academies Trust, told Schools Week that the practice had been commonplace not just in her school, but in other secondary schools across Stoke, where it was a policy agreed between heads and the local authority.

“Off-rolling remains something that should not happen: that school has changed its practice,” Spielman said.

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