- There is a renewed focus on the curriculum but no prescribed model of curriculum delivery.
- ‘Personal development’ is now judged separately from ‘behaviour and attitudes’.
- The ‘quality of education’ judgement includes intent, implementation and impact.
- There is no longer a separate judgement for ‘outcomes for pupils’.
Amanda Spielman may not have a background in education but she has certainly spoken clearly when it comes to her views on what Ofsted should be inspecting. Having inherited a framework focused on outcomes from her predecessor, she is turning the ship around and making the curriculum a priority. The new focus on the curriculum was expected following Ofsted research reports and Ms Spielman’s announcements.
The draft documents
However, Ms Spielman is anxious to avoid schools adopting tick lists against what they believe to be Ofsted’s preferred curriculum methodology. There will be no prescribed model of curriculum delivery, according to HMCI. Instead, inspectors will be looking to see that schools have developed their curriculum model thoughtfully, have implemented their intentions and are evaluating what the impact has been.
‘If leaders are able to show that they have thought carefully, that they have built a curriculum with appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing and are able to show that it has been implemented effectively, then inspectors will assess a school’s curriculum favourably.’
The draft documents also recognise the issue of teacher workload. Inspectors will want to see that consideration has been given to allowing teachers the space to teach and that leaders are mindful of workload generated by internal assessment practices. School leaders must not use internal assessment ‘in a way that creates unnecessary burdens for staff or learners’.
‘Personal development’ is now to be judged separately from ‘behaviour and attitudes’. This perhaps reflects recent concerns about the mental health of many pupils. To be outstanding in leadership and management, the grade descriptor includes that ‘staff consistently report high levels of support for well-being issues’.
It is made clear in this draft framework that schools will be checked for the practice of off-rolling their students. Inclusion is a priority and inspectors will look at rates of exclusion and what schools are doing to support pupils at risk, ‘including through tenacious attempts to engage local support services’.
The four-point grading scale stays the same, with schools being rated as either outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. There will still be a judgement made about the school’s overall effectiveness, supported by the four graded judgements of:
- Quality of education
- Behaviour and attitudes
- Personal development
- Leadership and management.
Grade descriptors continue to be used as the criteria against which schools will be judged, and the ‘requires improvement’ descriptor tells us nothing more than that a school falls short of good.
Quality of education
This judgement will include reference to intent, implementation and impact. Inspectors will consider the curriculum leadership provided by school and subject leaders when making their judgement on intent.
The school must have planned coherently for an ambitious curriculum, and learners must study a full range of subjects for as long as possible. Emphasis is placed on the curriculum building towards an end point and being planned and sequenced. It must be broad and inspectors will be looking out for evidence of narrowing, particularly in key stage 2 and key stage 3.
As part of the implementation strand, inspectors will be looking to see that teachers have good subject knowledge, help learners to remember the content taught and integrate new knowledge into larger concepts. Reading receives a special mention and students should have developed confidence and enjoyment. Inspectors will be on the lookout for where schools have reduced curriculum to memorising facts.
In order to assess impact, inspectors will use national assessments and examinations as indicators of the outcomes pupils achieve, along with their assessment of the standard of pupils’ work from first-hand evidence. They will not use internal assessment data, although they will want to know what data schools collect and how that informs curriculum and teaching.
Inspectors will use interviews, observations, work scrutinies and documentary review; they will also listen to pupils read in primary schools. Intent, implementation and impact will not be graded separately but will help inspectors to reach a single graded judgement for the quality of education.
Behaviour and attitudes
This judgement considers how leaders and staff create a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment in the school, and the impact this has on the behaviour and attitudes of pupils. Inspectors will expect to see a calm and orderly environment with a strong focus on attendance and punctuality.
There should be clear and effective behaviour and attendance policies and pupils should be motivated and have positive attitudes to learning. However, inspectors will also be ‘taking account of the individual circumstances of the school’. This sentence could make a big difference to some schools.
Inspectors will expect to see improvement in the attendance and behaviour of pupils with particular needs. They’ll also be on the look out for where schools might be removing pupils from the school site on the day of inspection. Where this is the case the school is likely to be judged as inadequate.
Inspectors will be expected to look long and hard at rates of exclusion and the work that schools are doing to prevent it. Schools will be expected to demonstrate that they follow up and support fixed-term excluded pupils, and internal exclusion will also be checked.
This judgement evaluates the school’s intent to provide for the personal development of pupils and the quality with which the school implements this work. It recognises that the impact of the school’s provision for personal development will often not be assessable during pupils’ time at school.
The framework recognises how important the home environment and community are in influencing personal development:
‘In this judgement, therefore, inspectors will seek to evaluate the quality and intent of what a school provides, but will not attempt to measure the impact of the school’s work on the lives of individual pupils.’
The draft framework reminds us that:
‘schools cannot make children active, engaged citizens, but they can help pupils understand how to engage with society and provide them with plentiful opportunities to do so.’
Personal development includes reference to British values, an inclusive environment, character building, understanding of how to keep healthy, resilience and mental health, careers and sex education.
Within personal development there is reference to ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’, which it says ‘draws together many of the areas covered by the personal development judgement.’
Leadership and management
This judgement is about how leaders, managers and those responsible for governance ensure that the education the school provides has a positive impact on all its pupils.
It includes the extent to which leaders’ and managers’ high ambitions are for all pupils, including those who are harder to reach. It specifically mentions not being involved in ‘off-rolling’ and that the way the school uses the pupil premium is founded on good evidence.
Schools must not be involved in ‘gaming’. Inspectors will be on the look out for schools entering pupils for courses that are not in their educational best interest. Gaming and off-rolling are both criteria for an inadequate judgement.
There is a hint that school leaders should be careful not to become too involved in developing aspects of the school outside of their chief role as educators. Leaders are expected to ensure coherence and consistency across the school and engage with parents and the community while also drawing boundaries to their influence. Leaders must take account of staff well-being and workload and maintain high ambitions for harder-to-reach pupils.
Inspectors will inspect off-site provision and will want to know about the attendance and behaviour of the pupils who are there. Safeguarding can be judged ineffective if pupils are frequently missing from school, including for part of the school day, if this is not addressed appropriately by staff.
A tight time scale
There are some major changes in this draft framework and there is concern that the time frame does not allow for either inspectors or schools to prepare properly. Unions have clearly voiced their preference for a delay in its implementation. The framework itself recognises that schools needing to change their approach to the curriculum may not have the time to do so by their inspection date.
Sceptics suggest that it is not, in the end, possible to judge a curriculum objectively, without bringing to the judgement an inspectors’ own methodology preferences. It will certainly need the highest levels of professionalism from the team to apply aspects of this framework fairly.
- Education inspection framework: draft for consultation, January 2019, Ofsted: http://bit.ly/Draft-Framework-2019
- Ofsted inspection handbooks: draft for consultation, January 2019, Ofsted: http://bit.ly/Draft-Handbooks-2019
- Education inspection framework: overview of research, January 2019, Ofsted: http://bit.ly/EIF-Research
About the author
Dr Suzanne O’Connell is a freelance writer specialising in education. Prior to this she taught for 23 years and was a headteacher of a junior school in Nuneaton for 11 years.