Need to know: Where are Ofsted's school inspection changes heading?

How might the public consultation change the watchdog's controversial plans for a new inspection framework?

What's next for Ofsted's inspection framework?

Consultation on the new Ofsted inspection framework closes on Friday, with more than 5,000 responses having been sent in so far. 

The changes being proposed could alter the notice period, timing and nature of school inspection.

Ofsted is looking to promote the importance of curriculum through a new quality of education grade, which will replace pupils’ outcomes and teaching and learning as separate inspection judgements.

The inspectorate has said that its plans have been very well received across the education sector – although critics have included the NAHT heads' unionthe Headteachers' Roundtable and the WorthLess? campaign.

But what might change as a result of the teaching profession having its say?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is the vision behind the change?

The increased focus on the school curriculum has always felt like it is the foundation of what Ofsted is trying to achieve through the new framework.

The idea of refocusing inspection away from just raw exam scores and towards what Ofsted describes as the real substance of education has been largely well received by the profession – even if there are concerns about how the inspectorate will assess the curriculum. 

A change to inspection categories – replacing pupil outcomes and teaching and learning with a quality of education grade – with a greater focus on curriculum is Ofsted’s big idea. And it is odds-on to be a reality in schools from September.

Which parts of the plan are likely to be ditched?

One of the most unpopular ideas in the consultation has been for Ofsted to arrive at a morning’s notice to begin on-site preparation. The inspectorate has been keen to stress that this would not be the start of inspection. It is also proposing to make the process less data-driven by allowing a conversation between lead inspector and school leaders.

The problem is that for a school Ofsted arriving at your door is Ofsted arriving at your door. And the less notice you get, the more problematic it becomes.  The Association of School and College Leaders’ inspection specialist, Stephen Rollett, described the proposal for onsite preparation the day before inspection as having gone down like “cold vomit” with the teaching profession. Don't be surprised if it is swept away from the final inspection framework.

Where else could Ofsted change its plans?

Another controversial proposal within the draft inspection handbook was that, as part of the focus on school curriculum, inspectors would look at how schools are preparing to meet the government’s EBacc targets. The Department for Education wants 75 per cent of pupils to be sitting the GCSEs needed to do the EBacc by 2022 and 90 per cent by 2025. But should Ofsted want that, too?

When asked about these targets last week, Ofsted’s head of research, Professor Daniel Muijs, said that it would depend on what the best curriculum was for the pupils at the school. He suggested that EBacc targets would be part of the conversation when inspectors arrive and could potentially be part of an ambitious curriculum. That sounds like a step away from the more rigid way that the draft handbook sets out the importance of the government targets. Time will tell what is expected on inspection.

What else is causing schools concern?

Two other proposed changes in the new framework have led to some concerns during the consultation.

The first is that Ofsted will extend the length of section 8 inspections of "good" schools to two days in order to allow inspectors more time.

Last month Ofsted’s national director of education, Sean Harford, acknowledged that a two-day inspection of a small primary school could be “overkill”.

Another proposal which has attracted some opposition is the plan for Ofsted not to look at internal school data. This is being put forward to prevent inspection adding to workload and because Ofsted says it cannot validate it.

However, some school leaders have voiced concerns that this could prevent a school from demonstrating progress beyond what its official results show. It remains to be seen if this feedback will be reflected in the finished inspection framework.

When will Ofsted respond?

It is still not too late for teachers to have their say as part of the consultation, which closes on Friday.

The inspectorate has said it will publish its response to the feedback it has received in May. Watch this space.



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