New Ofsted inspection framework for UK schools

The UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Chidren’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has announced it is to change its inspection framework from September 2019.

New Ofsted inspection framework for UK schools
Ofsted, the UK government's schools inspectorate which aims to maintain standards in UK schools and education institutions, has announced changes to its inspection framework.

A move away from school performance data focus

The aim is to move Ofsted’s focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving these results, and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep, or simply teaching to the test.Speaking to school leaders at the annual SCHOOLS NorthEast summit in Newcastle, Ms Spielman said these changes will be designed to allow teachers and leaders to focus more of their time on the real substance of education. 
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Ms Spielman acknowledged that the current inspection model has contributed to excessive workload in some schools, much of which falls on classroom teachers. She said that when it comes to assessing a school, Ofsted should complement, rather than intensify, performance data.

A greater focus on the 'substance of learning'

“For a long time, our inspections have looked hardest at outcomes, placing too much weight on test and exam results when we consider the overall effectiveness of schools,” she said. “The cumulative impact of performance tables and inspections, and the consequences that are hung on them, has increased the pressure on school leaders, teachers and indirectly on pupils to deliver perfect data above all else. 
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“But we know that focusing too narrowly on test and exam results can often leave little time or energy for hard thinking about the curriculum, and in fact can sometimes end up making a casualty of it. The bottom line is that we must make sure that we, as an inspectorate, complement rather than intensify performance data.“Our new focus will [bring] the inspection conversation back to the substance of young people’s learning and treating teachers as experts in their field, not just data managers.”

A new judgement for 'quality of education'

Ms Spielman announced that Ofsted will consult on the introduction of a new judgement for ‘quality of education’. This will replace the current ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements with a broader, single judgement.This new judgement will allow Ofsted to recognise primary schools that, for example, prioritise phonics and the transition into early reading, and which encourage older pupils to read widely and deeply. And it will make it easier for secondary schools to do the right thing, offering children a broad range of subjects and encouraging the take up of core EBacc subjects at GCSE, such as the humanities and languages, alongside the arts and creative subjects.At the same time, Ofsted will challenge those schools where too much time is spent on preparation for tests at the expense of teaching, where pupil’s choices are narrowed, or where children are pushed into less rigorous qualifications purely to boost league table positions.The Chief Inspector also announced the three other inspection judgements that Ofsted will consult on:
  • Personal development
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Schools’ leadership and management
The ‘personal development, welfare and behaviour’ judgement in the current framework will be split into two distinct areas. This change recognises the difference between behaviour and discipline in schools, and pupils’ wider personal development and their opportunities to grow as active, healthy and engaged citizens. 

Tackling excessive workload

An overall effectiveness judgement will continue to be awarded, and all judgements will be made using the current four point grading scale.“With teacher workload and retention such pressing issues, I am firmly of the view that a focus on substance will help to tackle excessive workload,” said Ms Spielman. “It 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.Ms Spielman said the new framework will make it easier to recognise and reward the good work done by schools in areas of high disadvantage. By shifting the focus away from outcomes, Ofsted hopes to reverse the incentive for schools to put overall results ahead of individual children’s needs.In January, Ofsted will launch a consultation on the new inspection framework. Unlike previous consultations, views will also be sought on each individual inspection handbook. Ofsted will consider all responses carefully before finalising the framework. Further details of the consultation and how to respond will be published early next year.
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