Ofsted's new framework and inspections
The announcement of an imminent Ofsted inspection rarely stokes delight, more often it’s a quiet sense of panic and nervous apprehension as you rally round to get everything in order. Inspections may be seen as an unwelcome fact of life by many, with schools’ feedback often reflecting a sense of frustration and disillusionment with the inspection process and experience.
To compound schools’ exasperation, Ofsted has recently been seen making headlines for the wrong reasons, claims of tip-offs and politicisation unfortunately obscure Ofsted’s value, pointing to a system seemingly with significant room for improvement.
Negative headlines and shortcomings aside, preparing for and surviving Ofsted inspections is no mean feat. In this article we’ll look at Ofsted’s recent evolution with the introduction of a new framework, the inspection process, tips for making the experience as stress-free as possible, what Ofsted doesn’t expect to see or schools to do, as well as what they do expect.
Ofsted's plans for the future and a new common inspection framework
From September 2015, Ofsted introduced a common inspection framework, and announced changes to school inspections. Specific changes include frequency of inspections for good schools from every 7 years to every 3 years. Although good schools will be inspected more often, Ofsted points out that in most cases the visits will be shorter, usually taking place over the course of one day.
Interestingly, in an article by the Guardian, November 2015, it claims that 70 per cent of parents surveyed expressed a preference that schools be inspected every 1-2 years regarding of the school’s assessment grade. It would seem then that Ofsted’s new timeline for inspections will at least be favoured by many parents.
A recurring criticism of Ofsted is lack of consistency. The new framework hopes to addresses this concern by claiming it will standardise the approach to all inspections. In terms of inspectors, Ofsted says it will contract directly with inspectors for maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills inspections.
Ofsted is the independent non-ministerial body tasked with carrying out school inspections, which forms a statutory requirement under the Education Act 2005. Inspections can take place at any point after the end of five working school days in the autumn term. In practice, this means that if pupils return to school on a Wednesday, inspection can take place as early as a week later, so the following Wednesday, and usually with very little notice given.
Typically taking place over the course of 2 days, Ofsted’s role is to assess school’s standards, effectiveness and achievements in education. Following on from inspection, schools are judged and consequently graded in one of four categories; outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.
Planning and preparing in the run-up to inspection
Once your school has been notified, there will be a surge in planning and organising in order to prepare. In the article ’12 Tips for Facing Ofsted’, published on the Quality Schools website, Paul Garvey explores some effective ways in which schools can prepare for inspection.
He recommends that schools start planning and preparing for their next inspection as soon as the inspector leaves, noting however, that while keeping the momentum going from the school’s action plan is a positive step, it shouldn’t be one that is all consuming.
Planning should be proactive and based on long-term goals, as it can take significant time for new measures to impact and produce positive outcomes. Having an idea of when your school’s next inspection is likely to take place is also helpful in planning and preparation.
Getting staff ready for Ofsted and well versed in school’s achievements, targets, data and aims helps to project a polished and professional image of the workforce. Consistency also points to unison in the school’s ethos.
While aimed at NQTs, the ‘Ofsted survival guide for new teachers’ article has tips that even seasoned teachers can benefit from. The article suggests getting up to speed on Ofsted’s latest guidance so you know what inspectors expect to see and conversely, what they don’t.
Keeping things in perspective helps to remind teachers that the inspection itself is demanding, and this can be particularly challenging if you’ve been working longer hours in the run-up to the day. To deal with the demands and pressures of the 2 days, schedule time to relax doing something you enjoy for when it’s all over.
Finally, and importantly, do what you can to avoid absorbing stress. This is easier said than done, of course, but comes back to the earlier point about keeping things in perspective.
What Ofsted doesn't expect to see
There is a comprehensive list of what Ofsted doesn’t expect to see or won’t ask for in their school inspection handbook. Knowing what to expect is an important factor in effective preparation. It also demystifies the inspection process somewhat, so teachers can focus their attention on what matters.
For example, Ofsted doesn’t require individual and previous lesson plans, nor do they ask schools to undertake a specified amount of lesson observation. In terms of self-evaluation, it states that this information doesn’t have to be provided in a specific format. Regarding pupils’ work, Ofsted doesn’t expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in books or folders.
To get the complete list, read the inspection handbook linked to under ‘Useful links and resources’ at the bottom of the page.
What Ofsted will ask for
Once inspectors have arrived, among other documents and information, they will also ask for the following; school’s self-evaluation and SIP, school’s timetable, documented evidence of governors’ work, and the central record of vetting and checks for all staff who are working with pupils.
Like the list of what Ofsted doesn’t ask for, the full list of information which needs to be available is detailed in the inspection handbook, available in ‘Useful links and resources’.
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