Ofsted's inspection grace period won't apply to full primary curriculum

Ofsted’s curriculum grace period will not apply to reading, writing and maths in primary schools.

Further details of the education watchdog’s transition plans to give schools some breathing space in developing their curriculum were released in notes to inspectors today.

It shows the transition arrangements apply to four of the “good” criteria of the quality of education judgement under its new inspection framework, launched this week.

It means inspectors can use their “professional judgment” when a school has taken “appropriate action but is still in the early stages of developing its curriculum”.

“Appropriate actions” are described as “likely to result in a good quality of education judgment within two years”.

However the arrangements only apply to a “good” judgment and only relate specifically to a school’s curriculum “intent” (its curriculum content and planning).

Plus, for schools with primary pupils, the transition will not apply to the reading, writing and maths part of their curriculum. That means in infant, junior, primary and middle schools deemed primary – transition arrangements can “only apply to science and the foundation curriculum”.

This is likely to cause concern among the primary sector. Previous research by Ofsted revealed that primaries scored much worse than secondaries under Ofsted’s new curriculum focus.

But inspectors were told that Ofsted has been “clear for some time that the teaching of reading holds the very highest importance, so if the school’s teaching of reading does not meet the good judgement, the school would not be good”.

Lead inspectors will always have to call the duty desk if they are considering using transitional arrangements to ensure “regional and national consistency”.

The transition will last for one year before review in summer 2020. But it is “anticipated that inspectors will have greater expectations of schools as the transition period progresses”.

When deciding whether to make use of the transition arrangements, Ofsted said a “useful rule of thumb” for inspectors to consider is “does the school’s work on curriculum content and planning so far, and the capacity and commitment of senior and curriculum leaders, give us confidence that sufficient action will be taken to bring the quality of education fully up to good within two years?”