The Ofsted ‘big listen’: What school leaders need to know

Sir Martyn Oliver launches wide-ranging consultation in response to coroner's report into death of headteacher Ruth Perry

Sir Martyn Oliver launches wide-ranging consultation in response to coroner's report into death of headteacher Ruth Perry

The Ofsted “big listen” consultation for school staff, education organisations and parents will ask for views on schools, safeguarding, SEND, teacher training, social care and further education.

The consultation is based on four “priorities”: how Ofsted reports on findings, carries out inspections, the impact inspection has and the organisation’s culture.

Here’s what you need to know…

Reporting: Disadvantaged pupil push

Ofsted’s question sets out the “aims that we believe every report should cover”, and asks for views on how important they are.

Sir Martyn Oliver
Ofsted chief Sir Martyn Oliver

They include making “clear how inspectors have considered pupils’ outcomes”, and how well the “most disadvantaged pupils learn, achieve and are supported”.

The question also asks if respondents think it is important for reports to cover the “performance of the wider group (such as the multi-academy trust, diocese or chain of independent schools) – but points out Ofsted “does not have authority to do this currently”.

There is no specific question on whether single-phrase judgments should be scrapped, but there is a free text box which can be used to give views on that issue.

Inspection: Consider school’s local area

This question states that inspection should “not be a process to ‘get through’” and should be an “opportunity for schools to showcase good practice and understand where they can improve”.

It states Ofsted’s “ambitions” for what inspections should do and again asks for a rating for importance.

These include inspections being carried out in a way that’s “consistent” from place to place, across phases of education and different types of schools.

Other ambitions are for inspections to be “long enough” to reach “accurate judgments” and for a “short but appropriate” notice period, and that they “consider the context of the school’s local area”.

Impact: Off-rolling ‘unintended consequence’

This question states that Ofsted wants to “ensure our inspections do not have unintended consequences”.

This includes “unintentionally leading to schools to exclude pupils too readily, putting children at risk by not using their exclusion powers, or placing children off site in unsuitable alternative provision”.

It asks if respondents agree with a set of statements including that Ofsted has “equal impact on the performance of schools, regardless of size, location or type”.

Another says: “An unintended consequence of Ofsted’s inspection process is that schools exclude, suspend, ‘off-roll’ or place pupils off site.”

Culture: Openness and feedback

Ofsted asks for comments about its “openness and how easy it is to provide feedback to help us improve”. Similar questions are included in the sections on SEND and teacher training.

Safeguarding: Ofsted ‘could withhold’ reports

Ofsted is asking respondents to state whether they think safeguarding should be a separate judgement from the leadership and management judgement.

They are also asking whether, given the “importance” of safeguarding, it should be inspected “more regularly than other areas”.

Ofsted already made a change to inspections last year, allowing schools that failed on “minor” safeguarding issues alone to be reinspected within three months to give them time to put matters right.

But Ofsted is “considering changing” its approach again to “withhold finalising a judgement for three months to allow the school to fix the issues”. This would apply only to schools where safeguarding was ineffective, but the school was ‘good’ or better in other areas.

The school would then be reinspected after three months with a report then published. There is no further detail.

SEND: Do inspections make schools less inclusive?

Ofsted has a section of its consultation dedicated to SEND and AP inspections.

Respondents are asked to rate the importance of looking at “how well the provider or service is performing in relation to the quality of local SEND or support services” and “how effectively the provider or service works with partners to address the needs of children with SEND in the local area”.

It also asks respondents to rate ambitions for inspection practice, including using outcomes data to “understand whether the school, AP, service or wider local area partnership is offering them a positive experience that will improve their future outcomes”.

It asks again if an “unintended” consequence of inspections is that mainstream schools “exclude, suspend, off-roll or place off-site pupils in SEND”, or they become less inclusive.

They are also asked if Ofsted should have an oversight role for “smaller unregulated settings such as unregistered AP”.

Teacher training: Combined inspections?

Views are sought on whether Ofsted should “consolidate our inspection practices where possible”.

It gives the example of a provider doing multiple teacher training, early career framework and national professional qualifications courses, and whether we should “inspect all of them at the same time”.

You can view the consultation here.

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  1. Sandy Cameron

    “how well the “most disadvantaged pupils learn, achieve and are supported”.”

    Why not “pupils of all abilities”? What is the argument for a particular focus on one group of pupils over another? After all, there is plenty of evidence of underachievement by children of average and above average ability, and by children with no defined, designated or diagnosed disadvantage.

    Could it be that this is a tacit acknowledgement that publicly funded education is only about getting children to a basic level, and in any case, those who are “advantaged” will get on in life regardless?

    • wendy smith

      How we treat the most vulnerable in our society says a lot.

      The most disadvantaged have greater need as they may have access to less experiences opportunities or need extra support. An establishment who gives them equal access and that means more support not just letting them attend and leaving them in isolation in a cupboard. Is likely to have good provision for everyone.