Ofsted to inspect outstanding schools more often (and bring back themed reports)

Ofsted is bringing back its “state-of-the-nation” reports and will inspect more ‘outstanding’ schools, according to a new corporate strategy released today on its 25th anniversary.

In its new five-year corporate strategy that will run until 2022, the inspectorate says it will publish more “national survey reports and research” that “aggregate the insights from inspections”.

These will show “what ‘good’ providers are doing to lead to positive outcomes”. Schools Week understands these could even focus on a particular subject or a sector such as special educational needs.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the return of national subject reports, which he said had been “very helpful” when he was a head of English.

“The knowledge that inspection builds up will be fed back into the system,” he said, rather than “wasted”.

To generate these reports, Ofsted intends to inspect a greater proportion of ‘outstanding’ schools to bring best practice to light.

This will mean fewer inspections can be carried out elsewhere, so the interval between inspecting ‘good’ providers “may, within legislative limits, lengthen”, the report concedes.

This is great practice, let’s share it

Barton said the change was “sensible” since many ‘outstanding’ providers were sometimes uninspected for years.

“It also shows a positive outlook from Ofsted,” he added. “This is great practice, let’s share it.”

Ofsted will also be looking beyond published data to “explore how results have been achieved” in its inspections, building on warnings from its boss Amanda Spielman to schools trying to game league tables.

Parents will also be considered more carefully in reports, and inspectors will draw more on “digital expertise” to hear their views – hinting at a refresh of the Parent View system.

Back in March, Schools Week reported that Ofsted was also considering monitoring social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to help uncover schools in need of a second visit.

At the time, unions warned against using “unsubstantiated gossip”, a talking point Barton reiterated; a more detailed parent survey would instead be better, he said.

In November, Ofsted will also hold a seminar to consider how inspectors should best observe lessons.

The watchdog stopped grading lessons observers in 2014 after a furore over reliability. This new, international seminar would focus on “the validity of lesson observation” as a way of “informing future practice”, the report said.

The document is a far cry from Ofsted’s first published strategy when it was founded in 1992, which was almost 20 pages shorter, at just two pages long.

In it, the brand new inspectorate announced five aims: to establish an effective system for inspecting schools; to advise the secretary of state; to report on “particular issues” within schools; to create a national debate on standards; and to ensure the commitment of all Ofsted staff.

The first chief inspector, Professor Stewart Sutherland, said at the time that he was “aware of the responsibilities” of trying to implement the new inspectorate.

Speaking about Ofsted’s most recent strategy, the current chief inspector claimed the inspectorate’s “bird’s-eye view” was one of its greatest strengths, and that it would do “more to aggregate insights from individual inspections”.

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