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An Inspector Writes

We are a primary school, due for inspection in the spring term next year. Will we be inspected according to the new OFSTED framework and, if so, are there important changes that we should prepare for?

You will be inspected in line with the current framework. The new OFSTED framework, handbook and inspection guidance will be published and on sale in mid-October, but will only become operative for schools being inspected from the summer term 1996 onwards.

OFSTED says the new framework should make inspection more manageable for inspectors and more worthwhile for schools by contributing more effectively to their strategies for improvement and development.

In practical terms, the main differences from current practice include: * inspection will be even more focused on four main strands: standards of achievement; quality of education; efficiency and spiritual, moral, cultural and social development. The evaluation criteria have been reformulated as benchmarks or standards of good practice. In order to ensure the essence of an individual school is captured, only significant features, the strengths and weaknesses, will be reported. These criteria will provide a clear basis for inspection judgments and obviously will repay careful study by schools.

* according to OFSTED the "standards of achievement" section has been extensively overhauled and retitled "attainment and progress". Judgments about attainment are to be based on national standards or expectations of what children know, understand and can do in relation to national curriculum requirements. Judgments will be based on the extent to which pupils' attainment meets or exceeds national standards. An important inclusion is a judgment on pupils' progress in relation to prior attainment. Attention will be paid to how well a school's curriculum provides effectively for all pupils whatever their background, age, or capability.

* particular emphasis will be given to attainment in English, maths and science. Significant variations in the attainment and progress of different groups of pupils will be highlighted.

* greater attention will be paid to provision for equal opportunities and special educational needs.

* there is no longer a discrete section on the quality of learning.

The new emphasis is likely to be on the quality and effectiveness of teaching, the children's response and attitudes to it, their attainment and progress.

These, in essence, are some of the main changes. But what we cannot yet know are what the true changes to the spirit and nature of the inspection process will prove to be.

Will they, in the end, result in a greater emphasis on those aspects of children's achievement and progress implicit in test outcomes? Will an increased focus on achievement in the core subjects have consequences for the time and attention given by schools to the broader curriculum and the foundation subjects? We can only wait to see.

Bill Laar is a registered inspector. Write to him at The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3200.

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