A TES report on the future direction of the primary inspection system gathers the views of inspectors, teachers and other primary experts and offers two blueprints for alternative ways of assessing the performance of schools.
The Office for Standards in Education will be consulting early this year on a revision of the Framework for Inspection to make life easier for schools and inspectors, and plans to issue interim guidance to inspectors next month.
Primary and special school inspectors are to be told they will not have to report on standards in every national curriculum subject if there is not enough evidence to make a judgment. The guidance will accept that, particularly in small primary schools, not all foundation subjects are taught at both key stages during the course of an inspection, and schools should not have to alter their normal way of working. History and geography are the most likely subjects to be affected.
While some will fear the change is the first step towards inspecting only the "basics", OFSTED says it is simply acknowledging reality. In addition to the core subjects, RE and foundation subjects for which sound evidence is available (in some cases this can come from interviews and written work), teams will also be expected to report on English, maths and information technology across the curriculum.
New guidance will also emphasise that class timetables should be as normal as possible, and that periods of classroom observation will normally vary in length, depending on what is needed to gather sufficient evidence. Schools should not have to plan 35-minute lessons, as many have believed they must.
It is also expected to stress the importance of good communication with the school and governing body, effective planning of the inspection with them, courtesy and explanatory feedback.
The advice will also set out the minimum documentation required to cut down on paperwork, and will encourage inspectors to rationalise the time spent observing each teacher. Where possible, one inspector should talk to a teacher about all his or her responsibilities, and when a variety of activities are taking place at once, the inspector should gather evidence about all that is going on and, if necessary, pass it on to colleagues.
Inspectors will be advised to let staff and governors know which points are likely to be raised during interviews and outline the range of evidence which will be examined.
OFSTED will also set out guidelines to make the summary reports to parents more uniform and clear.