Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, writes about Ofsted’s Annual Report and the key issues for the watchdog
Ofsted published its Annual Report 2017/18 on 4 December. We based our report on inspection evidence and research that we’ve gathered over the year.
During this year, we’ve been taking a long, hard look at our practices. We now place much more emphasis on research, which helps us decide where we concentrate our work.
We’ve published five short films on Ofsted’s YouTube channel that look at the main themes in education that we have been focusing on in 2017/18.
The films look at:
- curriculum/schools and the new framework
- off-rolling and exclusion
- 'stuck' schools
- early years and Reception
- apprenticeship levy and further education.
Some things we found over the year
There is always much more to do and, in keeping with previous years, we have seen that people are doing the basics better.
The schools that excel in the Reception year understand the importance of literacy. In further education, the best providers are integrating mathematical content and literacy within core courses in a way that encourages students to engage. Schools that stay focused on their core purpose and teaching through the curriculum are making a difference.
We have reported on a narrowing of the curriculum. In some schools, key stage 3 has shrunk from three to two years. Some subjects, such as the arts or humanities, may not be available when a pupil is around 13. It can also mean that pupils spend a long time going over what they’ve already studied in preparation for exams.
Off-rolling and exclusion
Over this past year the words 'off-rolling' have become common currency in the media. Of course, we must not confuse off-rolling with legitimate exclusions. But the figures are stark. In the year 2016/2017, 4% of pupils dropped off school rolls between Years 10 and 11. That is 19,000 pupils.
Not all children are equally likely to be affected. We found that 30% of pupils who leave their school between 10 and 11 years old have special educational needs.
We have looked into schools which are stuck in the category of 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement' at every inspection since 2005. We’ve found around 490 schools in this situation.
We know that 86% of schools aren’t in this category. However, there is an ongoing problem for children who attend schools that are continually less than 'good'.
Early years and Reception
There is still a concern that young children are being mollycoddled and aren’t being given the chance to discover and explore.
Schools that do very well in the Reception year understand which parts of the curriculum should be taught directly and which can be developed through play.
Apprenticeship levy and further education
With more providers taking advantage of the apprenticeship levy, and becoming eligible for inspection, we introduced a new type of early monitoring visit to these new providers of apprenticeships. These enable us to help providers before they fail and make sure that apprentices are getting a good experience.
We see colleges are having to make cutbacks, which gives us concern about the financial sustainability of the college sector.
Our research tells us that a focus on test and exam results can often leave schools with little time or energy to think about the curriculum. By moving the focus away from progress data, teachers can teach pupils and make sure that they learn the right things.
We have been speaking to many people within the education world, and from September 2019 we plan to introduce a new framework. This will refocus the quality of education through the lens of the curriculum. It will show us how well children’s education is progressing – rather than us looking at how they’re learning to pass tests or gain qualifications.
Please do look out for our consultation, which we’ll publish in January, and give us your views.