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New inspection regime 'could help Ofsted spot funding pressures'

National director said broader focus on curriculum could highlight where courses have had to be cut

Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director of education

National director said broader focus on curriculum could highlight where courses have had to be cut

New Ofsted inspections focused on the breadth of curriculum could allow it to better identify the impact of funding pressures on schools, the watchdog has said.

The inspectorate has faced criticism for not recognising the link between the quality of education and real terms funding cuts facing schools.

Now Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education, has told Tes that the new inspection framework's focus could do more to highlight where courses have been cut because of funding pressures.

A headteachers’ union urged Ofsted to look at school funding levels as part of its annual report.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the NAHT, said that “an annual health-check of the nation’s education system is incomplete without a view about whether the demands placed on schools can be met within the current financial picture.”

It follows earlier controversy surrounding comments made by chief inspector Amanda Spielman that Ofsted had not seen evidence that funding pressures were impacting on the quality of education.

After being criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for not speaking out more, she said it was important that she “comment only on areas where we have evidence, rooted in inspection findings.”

Ofsted is set to launch a new inspection framework from next September, which will place less emphasis on school results and give more weight to the overall quality of education with a focus on what is being taught through the curriculum.

Mr Harford said this new framework might give Ofsted inspectors more insight into the impact of funding concerns in schools.

“It is about seeing the evidence coming through when it does come," he said. “Of course if you are looking at the depth, breadth and richness of curriculum across the country there is a chance that will identify where courses are being curtailed, where the offer isn’t as wide as it isn’t as wide as it is in other places and that could be linked to school funding.

"But we don’t know at this point. That is why the EIF (Education Inspection Framework) is such a good thing because it's not just focusing on the outputs alone, it's looking at the context with which those outputs are achieved and in doing that we are going to get a much richer picture about what the quality of education looks like not only in individual schools but across the country.

“We have also said that we will look into this [issue of funding] in the coming year.”

Ofsted is commissioning a literature review on school funding pressures.



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