Exclusive: Covid ‘shines light on inappropriate' Ofsted

Former Ofsted official says the latest school inspection framework does not have relevance after Covid-19 pandemic
5th November 2020, 4:38pm


Exclusive: Covid ‘shines light on inappropriate' Ofsted

Coronavirus: Frank Norris, A Former Ofsted Official, Says Covid Has Shone A Light On The Inappropriateness Of Ofsted's Existing Inspection Framework

Ofsted's existing school inspection framework will not have any relevance for assessing schools after the Covid-19 pandemic, a former official at the watchdog has warned.

Frank Norris, who also led a large multi-academy trust, said the pandemic had "shone a light" on the inappropriateness of Ofsted's current framework.

He made his comments as the inspectorate was facing increasing pressure to abandon its plan to resume full school inspections in January next year.

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Speaking at an NAHT school leaders' union event on the role of Ofsted during and after the pandemic, Mr Norris suggested that even if full inspection could resume, the challenges faced by schools during Covid-19 had demonstrated how the framework was not fit for purpose.

"I was looking at an inspection handbook for 2001 and in there there is a section about how well does the school work in partnership with parents, other schools and the community," he said.

Coronavirus: Ofsted inspections 'won't get underneath the skin of a school'

"Well, you won't find that in the current framework. But it's that section that schools have been addressing full-on in the last six months [during the pandemic]."

But Ofsted has pointed out that one of the criterion on judging leadership and management under the current framework, is evaluating the extent to which leaders "engage effectively with learners and others in their community, including - where relevant - parents, carers, employers and local services".

Mr Norris, a former head of the Co-op Academies Trust and now an education adviser for the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, added: "The framework that we currently have, Covid has shone a light on its inappropriateness and lack of breadth in terms of getting underneath the skin of a school.

"I don't think the framework that they have currently got can do it, so regardless of the question of whether they should be in school, they have got a framework that just won't apply. It just doesn't have a relevance any more."

Ofsted launched its curriculum-focused inspection framework last year. The inspectorate said it gave less weight to exam results and placed more emphasis on the curriculum that a school follows.

The inspectorate assesses this by carrying out deep dives into particular subjects.

Its inspections measure the intent, implementation and impact of the school curriculum as part of a quality of education inspection grade, which also factors in teaching and test and exam results.

Ofsted inspections were put on hold in March as a result of the Covid-19 crisis but are currently scheduled to return in January next year, although this date is being kept under review.

At the same NAHT event, Stephen Tierney, chair of the Headteachers' Roundtable group, said that if Ofsted was "daft enough and dozy enough" to think it can return to full inspection this academic year, then school leaders should refuse to work as inspectors.

He also said that he thought the pause of inspections in March this year came "just as the wheels were beginning to come off" Ofsted's new framework.

The inspectorate had faced criticism from some high-profile multi-academy trusts that its new curriculum-focused inspections would not work for schools serving deprived communities.



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