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Has Ofsted listened to its critics?

Watchdog about to reveal how it will inspect schools from this September

Has Ofsted listened to its critics on school inspection

Ofsted will publish a new framework tomorrow setting out major changes in the way it will inspect schools.

During its largest ever consultation, the inspectorate set out plans to focus more on the curriculum, extend the length of short inspections to two days and have an inspector arrive at a school at a morning’s notice to begin planning.


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But how much will have changed as a result of the feedback and criticism Ofsted has received since its plans were first published?

Inspectors arriving at short notice could be scrapped

The idea that has attracted most criticism is for inspectors to arrive at a school with as little as 150 minutes’ notice for “onsite preparation.”

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said this proposal would allow the preparation for inspection to move beyond data and be shaped by a conversation with school leaders.

However, the idea has been roundly criticised by the sector as being a move towards no-notice inspection and Ms Spielman has already indicated that it could be dropped if it causes more problems than it solves.

Of all the major changes Ofsted has put forward, this seems the most likely to be removed from the final version of the new framework.

Curriculum is at the heart of the plans

An increased focus on curriculum is at the centre of Ofsted's plans.

It is set to scrap pupil outcomes and teaching and learning as inspection judgements and roll them both into a quality of education grade, which will also look at the intent, implementation and impact of a school’s curriculum.  

Although the NAHT headteachers' union has questioned whether results, teaching and curriculum can all be reliably boiled down to one inspection grade, the idea of placing less weight on exam results has been broadly welcomed.

And the focus on curriculum through a new quality of education grade seems certain to be in the final inspection framework tomorrow.

Another proposal which looks set to remain is separating pupils’ personal development and behaviour into separate inspection judgements.

Almost two-thirds of NAHT members polled said this was a good idea and there seems to be a consensus that behaviour and pupils' personal development are two separate things.

Controversy

However, other changes Ofsted wants to bring in have been much more controversial.

As part of its move away from data, Ofsted has said that its inspectors will not be looking at any internal school data during inspection.

The inspectorate claims it can be unreliable and compiling it adds to teachers’ workload.

Despite this, both major headteacher unions have opposed this change.

The NAHT warned that it would make inspection more reliant on exam results while ASCL said it would constrain a school’s ability to demonstrate progress.

Ms Spielman has defended the refusal to look at internal data in one of her most recent speeches but Ofsted might seek to assuage heads’ concerns by making clear that schools can at least talk to inspectors about what their own data is telling them.

Another area that school leaders will be watching closely is on how Ofsted assesses school curriculum.

EBacc and GCSE concerns

Two sections of the draft consultation set alarm bells ringing.

Ofsted has said that its inspectors will look to see whether schools that run a longer GCSE and a two-year key stage three are narrowing their curriculum. The inspectorate also said it would assess what schools were doing to meet the government’s EBacc targets.

Both these ideas have attracted the same criticism – that they risk undermining a school’s right to decide what is best for its pupils.

It will be interesting to see if Ofsted has softened its stance on either idea.

Longer inspections

Arguably the biggest change for the majority of schools will be Ofsted’s plan to extend the length of short inspections of good schools to two days. 

If this goes ahead it is expected Ofsted will make an exception for small schools where it has already acknowledged that a two day inspection might be overkill.

Ofsted has received no fewer than 15,000 responses to its framework. We will discover tomorrow whether this massive consultation exercise has resulted in any real changes to its plans.

 

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