As any researcher knows, looking at something can change it. Over the years, Ofsted has focused, via the new Ofsted framework for inspection, on data that shows achievement and progress. We believe this has contributed to the development of systems in schools and other settings that track data. This is based on teachers’ and other staff members’ assessment of progress, which is often an unreliable method. We know how hard teachers work and dealing with endless ‘data drops’ having to be managed and interrogated isn’t helping with teachers’ workloads. Having said that, there is still a place, of course, for transparency on how a school is performing.
In January, we launched a consultation into our new education inspection framework. The new framework suggests changes which we believe will offer a rebalancing of inspection. Instead of looking at data and exam results in a complex algorithm of school context and performance, inspectors will look at how results have been achieved. Are learners offered a broad and rich curriculum? How well are they taught it? Is it providing what they need to succeed in what they want to do next?
At Ofsted, we believe that schools with challenging intakes will particularly benefit from the new framework. We’ve seen too many schools decide to cut key stage 3 to two years. Years which could be filled with embedding a culture of love for learning and sparking interest in many different areas, but are instead used to pick GCSE subjects early, losing out on subjects such as music, languages and the arts.
We know that in some schools, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds can be discouraged from taking academic subjects. A report for the Sutton Trust showed that pupil premium pupils are less likely to take EBACC subjects. Instead of helping to level the playing field, the system has been weighted to make it even less equitable. Ofsted isn’t the only driver in the system, of course, but we want to make sure our inspection system is fair.
We’ve got an eye on new Ofsted myths, too. There won’t be an ‘Ofsted curriculum’ no matter what some consultants may tell you. You shouldn’t be concerned that your curriculum must be started from scratch – the national curriculum, the early learning goals and post-16 study programmes are a good basis.
Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said, ‘The new quality of education judgement will look at how providers are deciding what to teach and why, how well they are doing it and whether it is leading to strong outcomes for young people. This will reward those who are ambitious and make sure that young people accumulate rich, well-connected knowledge and develop strong skills using this knowledge. This is all about raising true standards. Nothing is more pernicious to these than a culture of curriculum narrowing and teaching to the test.’
Want to have your say on the Ofsted inspection framework? Ofsted are asking you to contribute to their consultation by April 5th.