Ofsted has reviewed and updated its inspection framework and handbooks for September 2022, as it prepares to end a curriculum grade period for schools in place since 2019.
However, a new grade descriptor for schools still making changes to their curriculum will ensure there is no “cliff-edge” for schools for a ‘good’ judgment, the watchdog said.
Here’s what schools need to know.
1. Ofsted curriculum grace period ends …
When it introduced its new inspection framework in September 2019, Ofsted put in place “transition arrangements”, which gave schools a grace period in which to bring their curriculum in line.
This meant that any school still in the process of updating its curriculum could still receive a ‘good’ grade, provided other aspects of the provision were good.
This was originally due to last until September 2020, but this was delayed due to Covid restrictions. The end to the grace period was then pushed back again from September 2021 to this spring, and then again to September 2022.
Today, Ofsted confirmed the grace period would end in September, and has removed the arrangements from its inspection handbooks.
2. … But new grade descriptor to prevent ‘cliff edge’
However, the watchdog said it was “not introducing a ‘cliff edge’ for a judgement of good”, and recognised “that you are likely to always be revising elements of your curriculum”.
The change “does not mean that schools and FE providers will now be expected to meet every single handbook criterion to remain good”.
A new grade descriptor has been added to the quality of education judgement, “acknowledging that settings are no longer facing emergency measures and are taking longer-term approaches to return pupils and learners to the curriculum they always intended”.
In a blog post published today, Ofsted national director of education Chris Russell wrote that “we do not expect curriculum to be perfect or a ‘finished article’”.
“Indeed, the best curriculum thinking is always evolving to meet changing circumstances. Inspection supports this approach to continuous improvement.”
3. New names for section 5 and 8 inspections
Ofsted has also updated its school inspection handbooks to change the way it refers to different types of inspection.
Full section 5 inspections will now be referred-to as “graded inspections”, while shorter section 8 inspections of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools will now be called “ungraded inspections”.
“Monitoring inspections” of ‘inadequate’ schools or those with two consecutive ‘requires improvement’ grades will keep their name, while Ofsted will continue to conduct “urgent inspections” of certain schools triggered by specific concerns.
Ofsted said the purpose of each inspection type and how they are carried out “remains unchanged”. The change in name is “simply aimed at promoting a better understanding of the types of inspection Ofsted conducts and why, especially among parents”.
4. ‘Time to move on from temporary Covid measures’
Ofsted acknowledged that Covid “continues to have an impact on early years settings, schools, and further education providers, and is likely to affect how they make decisions for some time”.
But it also said that education providers were “moving on from an emergency response to the pandemic and returning to more usual ways of working”.
“We believe that now is the right time to move beyond the temporary measures that we placed in our handbooks as a response to the national disruption,” Russell added.
To reflect this, paragraphs about temporary Covid measures have now been incorporated into the main sections of each handbook, making it “clear that inspectors will continue to take account of issues that providers may be facing”.
An example given is a “clear expectation that conversations between leaders and the lead inspector will continue to include a discussion on the impact of COVID-19.
“This ensures that our inspections continue to be informed by the different contexts in which you work and the range of challenges that you may still face.”