WATCH: Ofsted digs in over 3-year GCSEs row

It's 'Victorian' to expect deprived pupils to have a different education, watchdog says, standing firm in row with MATs

Sean Harford was asked what myths he thought would arise with the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Ofsted has said it will not be changing its approach to how it inspects the key stage 3 curriculum in the wake of strong criticism from multi-academy trusts that it penalises schools serving disadvantaged pupils.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education suggests that it would be “Victorian” to have one type of schools for deprived pupils and another for their peers.

He also pointed out that not all pupils in the schools run by the MATs criticising Ofsted are from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Spielman: Ofsted hits back at schools narrowing the curriculum.

MATs: Ofsted framework will not work for disadvantaged kids

Wellbeing: Ofsted says inspections can add to teacher stress.


Ofsted’s new curriculum-focused inspections have faced strong criticism in recent weeks from influential MAT leaders who have suggested that schools are being penalised for shortening KS3 and running GCSEs over three years.

However, the inspectorate pushed back strongly against this criticism today at the launch of the chief inspector’s annual report.

Tes asked whether Ofsted would be changing or reviewing its approach in light of the claims by MATs that its new inspections were penalising schools running three-year GCSEs and that the new framework was harsh for schools in disadvantaged communities with a focus on improving results.

Mr Harford said that Ofsted would not be changing its approach.

He added: “The approach is clear. We have been clear how we have explained it, and I think that people know that.

"Do we think it's harsh on disadvantaged communities? It's interesting when you look at the MATs or the schools that have pushed back on this. 

"When you look at the proportion of disadvantaged children in those intakes, they actually are, yes, above average, above the national average. But they don't tend to be anywhere near all, or the majority of children in the school or the MAT.

"So, the argument that you should have a curriculum that is designed, according to those MAT leaders, for disadvantaged children being given to all the children just seems a little bit odd, really.

"And so our idea that that curriculum should be broad and rich and provide the kind of experiences…and knowledge and skills [that children need] to go onto the next part of their education, is one that encompasses all children.

"I really wouldn't want us to get into the situation where we set up schools supposedly for disadvantaged children, and other schools for advantaged children.

"That seems…a little bit Victorian."

The chief executives of both Harris Federation and Outwood Grange Academies Trust have raised concerns that schools are being marked down for running GCSEs over three years rather than two. 

They also warned that more weight being placed on curriculum than exam results would not work for disadvantaged pupils.

Today, chief inspector Amanda Spielman defended the new inspections and said that Ofsted would not turn a "blind eye" to schools "narrowing the curriculum". But the Harris Federation has already hit back.

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