Spielman: Focus on substance over outcomes will help tackle workload

A shift in focus by Ofsted away from pupil outcomes will help tackle excessive workload in schools, Amanda Spielman said today.

The chief inspector of schools has outlined changes to the way Ofsted will inspect schools from next year, including a move away from focusing on exam results, and new headline judgment areas.

Spielman has also pledged to allow inspectors to spend more time on school sites during inspections, “having those professional conversations with leaders and teachers”.

It will move inspection more towards being a conversation about what actually happens in schools

Ofsted has long been seen as a driver of teacher workload, with many school leaders believing inspectors’ focus on data puts an extra burden on school staff before and during inspections.

Speaking at the Schools North East summit today, Spielman spoke in more detail about the new inspection headline judgments, and said she was “firmly of the view that a focus on substance will help to tackle excessive workload”.

She said the new quality of education judgment would broaden the current focus on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and explained how inspectors will split their current focus on personal development, behaviour and welfare into two separate judgments, one for behaviour and attitudes and another for personal development.

Leadership and management will “remain a key area of consideration”.

Spielman said the new framework will “move inspection more towards being a conversation about what actually happens in schools.

“Those who are bold and ambitious and run their schools with integrity will be rewarded as a result,” she said.

The chief inspector said she did not think there was an “appetite to revive the inspection model of 20 years ago”, but that the new framework, which will come into effect next September, will build on some of the “strengths” of the current system, “especially letting leaders tell their own story”.

“I also want to rebalance inspector time usage so that more time is spent on site, having those professional conversations with leaders and teachers, with less time away from schools and colleges in pre and post-inspection activity.”

She also sought to reassure schools that Ofsted is taking its time over the new framework, following calls for it to be delayed.

“I realise that any change of emphasis from Ofsted will get a lot of attention, and a degree of apprehension,” she said. “We have an absolute obligation, which we take very seriously, to make sure that the changes we make are fair, valid and, as much as possible, without side-effects. We also have to make sure we put plenty of time and resource into developing changes.

“So, let me reassure you and perhaps gently push back on those who say we should delay. We’ve been taking our time. There will be more than two years between starting our development work on this framework and its implementation.”

A consultation on the new framework and individual inspection handbooks will begin in January.