Ofsted overhaul: everything you need to know

26th June 2015 at 01:00
How the watchdog's revamped regime will play out in practice

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has announced what he describes as the biggest reforms to education inspection in the history of Ofsted. The shake-up will include a new common inspection framework, a change to how "good" schools are judged and a major purge of inspectors. Here, TES explains what the reforms being introduced in September will mean for schools, heads and teachers on the front line.

What is the new `common inspection framework'?

This is Ofsted's attempt to introduce a uniform approach to inspection across different types of schools, nurseries and further education providers. The aim is to deliver greater consistency of judgements across providers catering for similar age ranges. Ofsted hopes that it will also be easier for parents to compare institutions as their children move through the system.

What do the changes mean for `good' schools?

Ofsted has dubbed its new approach to "good" schools as "light touch", but in practice it will mean more frequent inspections. In the future, they will be inspected every three years, as opposed to the current five. These inspections will be shorter, lasting just a day, and will involve smaller inspection teams led by a senior Her Majesty's Inspector (HMI).

The emphasis will be on the quality of leadership. Even if inspectors have minor concerns about other areas of the school, such as the curriculum, they will "give credit" if the leadership team is "moving the institution forward". Key areas will include whether the leadership refuses to accept background as an "excuse" for underachievement, whether it is constantly challenging staff and pupils and the extent to which the school culture is "calm, orderly and aspirational".

What if inspectors conclude a `good' rating should be revised?

Inspectors will visit good schools under the assumption that they will remain good. But Ofsted says that if a school were found to have slipped significantly, then the short inspection would be immediately converted into a Section 5 inspection, leading to a visit from a full inspection team.

The same would apply if the initial team believed that the school warranted an outstanding judgement - a full inspection would be required to confirm the upgrade.

Will inspections change for schools that aren't rated `good'?

In terms of the size of inspection teams and length of school visits, no. But changes in wording for four key areas of judgement do suggest some shifts in emphasis.

l "Quality of teaching" is now "quality of teaching, learning and assessment".

l The "behaviour and safety of pupils" is now the "personal development, behaviour and welfare of students".

l The "achievement of pupils" is now "outcomes for children and learners by looking at progress data".

l And "quality of leadership and management" is now "effectiveness of leadership and management".

Should schools be preparing for inspections?

Ofsted says absolutely not. The watchdog wants to eliminate the practice of schools "getting ready" for an inspection, and has made it clear that it wants to see what would take place on a normal school day. It believes the education of students is not best served by schools focusing on preparing for an inspection that could be "years away", rather than day-to-day learning. The period of notice for full inspections remains half a day and will be the same for the new lighter-touch visits to "good" schools.

How will the inspectors change?

Ofsted will stop using 40 per cent of its existing contracted "additional" inspectors, as part of its plan to bring the entire inspection workforce in-house. The purge of 1,200 inspectors is being undertaken after Ofsted conducted "robust" assessments on staff and decided many were not good enough to reliably judge schools.

The watchdog hopes that the move will show it is serious about improving the quality of inspections. It will also prevent schools being inspected by someone who has never taught in that setting or lacks the relevant experience to pass judgement.

To be retained, as well as undergoing assessment, each inspector had to demonstrate the "right attitude" towards making inspections more of a "partnership" with schools.

How will Ofsted ensure the quality of inspectors?

The watchdog has introduced a new grading system for inspectors. They will be organised into groups of 10 and assigned to an HMI mentor. After every inspection, each individual will be marked and graded on their performance by their team leader. This will then be fed back to the HMI and the regional director. Individual inspector's grades won't be published but aggregate grades will be made available at a regional and national level.

What happens if inspectors' grades aren't up to scratch?

If an inspector is not rated "good", they will be helped by their HMI mentor. If further intervention is necessary, a central team will provide four weeks of "intensive support". If the inspector is unable to improve, it will be made clear that "inspection is not right for them".

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