Inspectors will talk to teachers, not look at spreadsheets

17 May 2019, 9:26

Worried about the new inspection framework? Amanda Spielman seeks to allay concerns over “a couple of things” that she knows are worrying some people

This week marked an important milestone for me personally, for Ofsted, and I hope, in time, for school leaders and teachers. On Tuesday we published the new Education Inspection Framework and the all-important handbooks that sit underneath it.

We have spent the past two years listening to teachers and headteachers; we conducted research into curricular thinking in schools, behaviour management and teacher well-being, and we presented on the new framework at dozens of regional roadshows, conferences and union events. We had more than 15,000 responses to a three-month consultation and we sought feedback from more than 200 pilot inspections to help up to refine our inspection methods.

Inspectors will want to go into the classroom

I am proud that this framework is carefully constructed on the basis of evidence, involves well-tested methods, and reflects deep engagement with those on the receiving end. But I am also aware that the proof of this pudding will be in the eating, and all the pilots, research and roadshows will not assuage some people’s concerns about the implementation.

First, there is no need to rip up your current curriculum and start again or to produce documents to “evidence” curriculum thinking. The national curriculum will provide the starting point for most schools.

If you do want to refresh what is taught in your school or department, there is no need to spend all summer working on new schemes of work, lesson plans or resources. Developing and embedding a curriculum takes time. If you are part-way through that process, inspectors will look to understand your evaluation of your current curriculum and ensure that you’ve identified appropriate next steps to improve it. If your understanding is strong and the next steps are sensible, then inspectors will assess that favourably.

Second, there was a mixed response to our proposal not to use internal progress and attainment data on inspection, with 42 per cent of respondents in favour and 43 per cent against; headteachers were slightly more opposed than others. Some of the concerns were without foundation, such as the idea that this would lead inspectors to put more weight on SATs or GCSE results. It is the core principle of this new framework that we are significantly reducing the amount that test scores influence inspection grades.

Other concerns are more understandable. I know that for many leaders, data gathered from teachers throughout the year is an important way of keeping track of how the curriculum is being implemented. We will ask questions if there are more than two or three data drops a year, as we all know teachers’ workload is a real issue. But otherwise, if collecting data is useful for your curriculum planning or review, then Ofsted has no problem with that.

What we cannot do is use internal data as evidence about standards. External exams are rigorously developed, tested and moderated and therefore comparable across schools. Most school-developed tests are not, and there simply isn’t the time on an inspection to verify whether the data is a true reflection of pupils’ progress or attainment.

That is not to say assessment isn’t useful. Regular low-stakes testing, such as quizzes, can be helpful in consolidating pupils’ learning without the need to record scores or report them upwards. Knowing how well pupils are understanding and remembering what they are taught is also helpful for teachers in planning and adapting their lessons, for leaders reviewing the curriculum more broadly, and for governors. But instead of looking at the spreadsheet, inspectors will want to go into the classroom, talk to pupils and teachers and look at examples of work to see the impact of assessment on the curriculum.

I want your feedback as we get going in September. The response from the pilots has been encouraging, but we will do our own formative assessment as we go and your views are an important part of that. Thank you for all the help you’ve given us so far.

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