Now a year into her role as Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman has frequently intimated that a change of direction in the way Ofsted carries out inspections was looming. Now the watchdog has made its intentions clear with the publication of its new Draft Inspection Framework.
Subject to the usual process of scrutiny and approval, this draft framework will become the basis of all inspections in schools and education providers from the start of the next academic year in September 2018.
The main media focus has been on the mooted shift of emphasis away from exam results and ‘outcomes’ to the overall quality of education that is provided. So, what are the key changes that schools need to be aware of?
A new judgement: ‘quality of education’
As previously announced, the current ‘quality of teaching, learning and assessment’ judgement is to be replaced. Spielman has already explained that she feels that this has become too narrowly focused on examination outcomes.
In its place comes a new ‘quality of education’ judgement. This is intended to take the emphasis and intensity away from performance data. Instead, inspectors will assess the ‘substance’ of education. Teaching, learning and assessment will still be judged, but whereas currently pupil outcomes are currently the overriding factor in a school’s judgement, under the new framework the quality of teaching and learning will be viewed in a wider context.
Ofsted appears to want to take a more holistic approach to judging the overall quality of education, rather than the somewhat artificial segmentation that exists at the moment – with leadership and teaching assessed separately, for example.
Other changes to the inspection framework
Of course, it is no surprise that the shift away from focusing on exam data has stolen most of the headlines about the new draft inspection framework. However, there are some other interesting and important changes that are heading schools’ way from September.
In a bid to reduce the ‘unnecessary workload’ of teachers, Ofsted proposes that a school’s internal performance data will no longer be used by inspectors as evidence.
The current ‘short’ inspections of schools rated as ‘good’ will be increased to 2 days. The principle of either confirming that a school deserves to keep its ‘good’ rating or should be rated higher or lower will remain. However, Ofsted believes that 2-day visits will enable inspectors to gather sufficient evidence to make judgements. Inspectors will still have the option of imposing a full inspection if it deems it necessary.
Another major change is that Ofsted wants to introduce on-site preparation for inspectors. At present, preparation is done remotely. From September, this will be done in collaboration with school leaders on the afternoon before the inspection begins. This means that schools will now receive a phone call no later than 10.00am to inform them of an inspection. The lead inspector will then arrive at the school at 12.30pm on the same day and will leave the site no later than 5.00pm. During the afternoon, time will be spent with senior leaders to gain an overview of a school’s recent performance and any changes that have occurred since the last inspection.