Ofsted is pledging to create new rankings for schools found in ‘tough areas’ so they could be rated as ‘outstanding’ even though their exam results could be mediocre.

The watchdog says it is not dumbing down on its standards and its proposals for the new inspection framework for England’s schools could see big changes.

The organisation says too many schools currently ‘gaming the system’ by ‘off-rolling their lower ability students’ or are ‘teaching to the test’.

They also believe that the school that is working in a tough area with a great curriculum and great teachers could, from September, be rated as outstanding despite mediocre exam results.

New framework will rebalance its inspections

In its defence, Ofsted says the new framework will rebalance its inspections to ensure that students receive the best teaching.

Now, inspectors will no longer take test data and exam results at face value and will look instead at what’s been achieved by students showing rich and broad learning results rather than cramming or gaming.

The new inspection framework could be less favourable for those schools in leafy suburban areas who achieve higher results but offer, says Ofsted’s national director for education, Sean Harford, some ‘naff qualifications’.

He explained: “They are doing it with a narrow curriculum and they will get judged down as they should do better.”

Schools boost results in key exams

Ofsted says that its research has highlighted some schools boost results in exams by narrowing its curriculum.

As a result, it could mean that a nursery has its staff write ‘endless’ reports instead of reading to children or playing with them.

Ofsted says that in primary schools, children are focusing on comprehension tests and not reading a variety of books.

And at secondary school, students are dropping languages, arts and music to focus on exams from the age of 13.

Ofsted also says that college students are steered towards popular courses to boost numbers but they are not being helped to improve their maths or English.

The new rankings framework

Under the new rankings framework, Ofsted says there will be a new quality of education element that assesses both the method and results that a school is using.

Those schools that are currently rated as good by Ofsted have a one-day inspection every four years, but these establishments will now face extra scrutiny and inspections will be for two days.

Another new measure will see a school’s internal performance data not being used as evidence which, Ofsted says, should reduce teacher workload.

The framework also aims to put greater focus on behaviour with judgements for their personal development and ‘attitudes and behaviour’.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Two words sum up the ambition for the new framework: integrity and substance.

“Substance has all young people and children exposed to the best that has been said and thought and they are set up to succeed.”

‘Staff being experts in their field’

She added: “Integrity is what makes every young person and child being treated as an individual who has potential to be unlocked with staff being experts in their field and subject and not just data gatherers.”

Dr Mary Bousted, the National Education Union’s joint general secretary, criticised the practices highlighted by Ofsted and said these were down to the watchdog’s own enforcement to judge schools.

She added that until measures are abolished, then schools will always be judged on their results.