New Ofsted inspection framework: What's changing for schools?

A series of changes to Ofsted inspections is due to be set out later today by the watchdog in its new draft inspection framework.

The document is the first new rulebook for inspectors issued since 2015, and if approved, will form the basis of all inspections of schools and other institutions from this September. The draft framework is due to be published at 10.30am.

Schools Week has had a sneak preview of the consultation, and here are the main changes that will affect schools.

 

1. Inspections of ‘good’ schools increased to 2 days

Ofsted is proposing that its “short” inspections of ‘good’-rated schools will take place over two days, rather than one, as they do at the moment.

Although the principle of such visits – to confirm whether schools deserve to remain ‘good’ or to be marked up or down – will remain the same, Ofsted’s bosses want to ensure that there is opportunity “to gather sufficient evidence while on inspection to confirm that a school remains good under the new criteria”.

Inspectors will still be able to upgrade to a full inspection if they feel a ‘good’ school has got better or worse.

 

2. Ofsted could arrive within 2.5 hours

The watchdog wants to introduce on-site inspector preparation for all inspections.

Whereas now inspectors carry out such preparation remotely the day before they visit a school, Ofsted is proposing that from September, this preparation will take place in the school on the afternoon before inspection, in “collaboration” with school leaders.

In practice, this will mean that schools will receive a call from Ofsted no later than 10am, informing them of the inspection, and the lead inspector will arrive on site no earlier than 12.30pm the same day.

This time with senior leaders will then be used “to gain an overview of the school’s recent performance and any chances since the last inspection”, and the lead inspector will then leave the site no later than 5pm.

 

3. Personal development, behaviour and welfare judgment split

Amanda Spielman revealed last October that Ofsted plans to scrap its current personal development, behaviour and welfare judgment and replace it with two separate judgments: behaviour and attitudes and personal development.

The watchdog hopes this change will “enhance the inspection focus on each [area] and enable clearer reporting on both”.

Ofsted believes that the behaviour and attitudes of learners of all ages bring to learning “is best evaluated and judged separately from the provision made to promote learners’ wider personal development, character and resilience”.

In practice, this means that schools’ management of behaviour and discipline will be considered separately to how they look after their pupils and encourage them to grow.

 

4. There’s a new ‘quality of education’ judgment

Spielman has already announced that the quality of teaching, learning and assessment judgment (which Ofsted has admitted is too focused on outcomes) will be replaced with an overall quality of education judgment.

This, Ofsted states, will “de-intensify the inspection focus on performance data and place more emphasis on the substance of education and what matters most to learners and practitioners”.

In practice, this means that pupil outcomes won’t be the main factor for inspectors when considering a school’s judgment. The quality of teaching, learning and assessment will still be judged, but will be “viewed in the context of the provider’s curriculum”.

The new quality judgment will be built around a “working definition of the curriculum”, which is set out in the draft framework and factors in elements like behaviour and workload.

Ofsted wants to take a “holistic approach to considering the quality of education, rather than artificially separating the leadership of the curriculum from teaching, and separating teaching and the use of assessment from the impact this has on the outcomes that learners achieve”.

 

5. Ofsted won’t use internal performance data, but will ask about workload

In its consultation, Ofsted proposes that inspectors “will not use schools’ internal performance data for current pupils as evidence during an inspection”.

This data, Ofsted warned, has “limitations”, and inspectors will not be able to assess whether it is an “accurate and valid representation of pupils’ learning across the curriculum”.

Instead, inspectors will be tasked with gathering “direct evidence” on the quality of education, and hold “meaningful discussions with leaders about how they know that the curriculum is having an effect”.

However, inspectors will ask schools to explain why they collect the data they do, what they draw from it and how it informs their curriculum and teaching.

Spielman and co believe that this will help reduce unnecessary workload for teachers, but won’t have a “negative effect on our [its] ability to judge effectively the quality of education in a school”.

 

6. Private schools’ specialisms will be taken into account

Ofsted is responsible for inspecting “non-association independent schools”, those private schools that are not inspected by organisations like the Independent Schools Inspectorate, to check they meet the government’s independent school standards.

Some of these private schools offer a specialist curriculum, like a faith-based curriculum, and Ofsted has now set out how it will assess these schools against its new quality of education judgment.

Under the proposals, inspectors will judge a school primarily on the non-specialist element of its curriculum, because all schools are required to study a “broad, rich curriculum”.

However, if a school delivers a “substantial” number of required subject areas through a specialist curriculum – for example through faith-based content – inspectors will consider evidence from said specialist curriculum. This will also happen if there is “insufficient evidence” from the non-specialist curriculum.

 

7. Emergency private school inspections will lead to quicker follow-ups

As well as routine inspections of private schools, Ofsted is required to carry out “additional inspections” when commissioned to do so by the Department for Education.

These can include emergency inspections, those commissioned following a material change to the running of the school and visits to monitor progress.

Following these inspections, Ofsted simply rules on whether the independent school standards are being met, but does not issue schools with an updated graded judgment. This means that some keep a positive rating, despite evidence seen by Ofsted to the contrary, and some retain a negative rating, despite evidence of improvement. (We’ve written about this a lot).

Now Ofsted intends to “recognise and acknowledge sooner” where schools have improved or declined. In practice, this will mean Ofsted will be more likely to bring forward a standard inspection.