Exclusive: New inspections mean more work, says Ofsted adviser

Ofsted's planned curriculum inspection focus will add to schools' workload but bring benefits, says expert

John Roberts

New Ofsted inspections mean more work says Tim Oates

An expert curriculum adviser for Ofsted has warned that its plans to refocus inspection on what is taught in the classroom will lead to an increase in workload for schools.

Tim Oates has said that Ofsted’s focus on school curriculum in the new inspection framework will allow the sharing of good practice across the system.

However, he told Tes that this will lead to an increase in work as some schools adapt their approach to the curriculum.

Mr Oates, who led the last national curriculum review for former education secretary Michael Gove, and sits on Ofsted’s curriculum advisory panel, has welcomed the inspectorate's plans.

He also told Tes that in the long term he believes schools improving their curriculum design will save workload.

Mr Oates said: “It is right that there is a focus on identifying good practice and disseminating it. We are not very good in this country at sharing good practice. There is to a duty to make sure schools are well supported in this so that it doesn't become an overwhelming task."

When asked whether he thought Ofsted's new inspection framework would create more work for schools, he said: “We shouldn’t underestimate the demands on schools of designing and implementing a school curriculum. 

Sharing best practice on curriculum

"If there are four or five models of school curriculum which are identified as being really good, it will still be quite a task for schools to adapt themselves to these models.”

However, Mr Oates said the sharing of best practice on curriculum design would be a positive result of Ofsted's new focus in this area.  

Ofsted has said that its plans to focus on the curriculum have been welcomed by the majority of teachers.

But concerns have been raised about the impact this will have on workload.

Education secretary Damian Hinds raised concerns about this last month, although he has since given chief school inspector Amanda Spielman his backing.

The NAHT heads' union has called on Ofsted to pause its plans for a new framework amid concerns about workload and questions about whether the inspectorate has given itself enough time to deliver a major change to the way it inspects schools.

There have also been questions raised over whether Ofsted can judge a school’s curriculum impartially.

Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First, has said the inspectorate cannot judge curriculum impartially without having an opinion of what a good curriculum should look like.

However, Mr Oates believes Ofsted will be able to inspect curriculum effectively and should be doing it.

“It is right that the state and Parliament should be able to check the way in which the national curriculum is being implemented," he said.

“An inspector will be able to tell whether what a school leader says about their curriculum is happening in the classroom very quickly by asking the right questions.”

Ms Spielman has told school leaders that Ofsted’s new inspection framework will reduce workload.

An Ofsted spokesman said: “Most school leaders and teachers have welcomed our new focus on the curriculum, which is the substance of education.

"We’re pleased so many people are welcoming the proposed changes to the Ofsted framework. And, as HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said in a speech last week, our 'focus on substance will help to tackle excessive workload' by moving the conversation away from data generation and towards the real substance of education.

"School leaders and teachers can be assured that we have no preferred approach to the curriculum. Again, as Amanda Spielman said last week, 'our curriculum research showed quite clearly that it’s possible to acknowledge a range of successful curricular approaches – approaches that cross any perceived ideological divide'.

"We will launch our consultation on the Education Inspection Framework early next year."


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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