Ofsted’s chief inspector has told school leaders that its new inspection framework will help to reduce workload.
Amanda Spielman today admitted that the current inspection regime has contributed to excessive workload in schools which much of it falling on classroom teachers.
She also acknowledged that the pressure of league tables and inspection combined had increased the pressure on leaders, teachers and pupils.
Ofsted is now working on a new inspection framework which will place a greater emphasis on the "substance" of education and how schools deliver the curriculum.
It has been seen as a crackdown on “exam factory” schools that place too much emphasis on results. But fears about the changes have been voiced by a growing list of parties including education secretary Damian Hinds, teaching unions and a prominent academy chain - with workload at the forefront of their concerns.
Now Ms Spielman has tackled that criticism head on, insisting that her inspection changes will actually cut workload.
“With teacher workload and retention such pressing issues, I am firmly of the view that a focus on substance will help to tackle excessive workload," she told the Schools NorthEast summit in Newcastle today.
"It will move inspection more towards being a conversation about what actually happens in schools. Those who are bold and ambitious and run their schools with integrity will be rewarded as a result.”
Ms Spielman said Ofsted should complement, rather than intensify, performance data.
“It should reward school leaders who are ambitious for their pupils, rather than those who jump through hoops," she said. "Therefore, the new framework will place greater emphasis on the substance of education, and actively discourage unnecessary data collection."
There have been calls for the framework to be postponed because of workload fears. However Ms Spielman said the plans shoud not be delayed.
She told heads she was confident that this will be “the most researched, evidence-based and tested framework in Ofsted’s history, and that to delay would let children and teachers down. “
She also addressed concerns that Ofsted will have a preferred approach to the curriculum.
“We are not talking here about an Ofsted-approved approach," the chief inspector said. "We are talking about an approach that leaves plenty of space for diversity, but nevertheless makes it possible to recognise and discourage things that just aren’t good enough.
"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.”
Ms Spielman announced that Ofsted is introducing new judgements as part of its new inspection framework.
As previously revealed by Tes a new quality of education grade is being created to replace the current seperate ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements.
Ofsted is also proposing to separate pupils' personal development and behaviour into two separate categories. The leadership and management outcome will remain and schools will continue to be given an overall inspection grade.
Ms Spielman said the new quality of education judgement would look at a school’s intent, implementation and impact of what schools teach.
She said: “This new judgement will allow Ofsted to recognise primary schools that, for example, prioritise phonics and the transition into early reading, and which encourage older pupils to read widely and deeply.
"And it will make it easier for secondary schools to do the right thing, offering children a broad range of subjects and encouraging the take up of core EBacc subjects at GCSE, such as the humanities and languages, alongside the arts and creative subjects.
“At the same time, Ofsted will challenge those schools where too much time is spent on preparation for tests at the expense of teaching, where pupil’s choices are narrowed, or where children are pushed into less rigorous qualifications purely to boost league table positions.”
The ‘personal development, welfare and behaviour’ judgement in the current framework will be split into two distinct areas.
Ms Spielman said: “This change recognises the difference between behaviour and discipline in schools, and pupils’ wider personal development and their opportunities to grow as active, healthy and engaged citizens.”