Ofsted has finalised its new inspection framework, following a three month consultation earlier this year. They said they had received broad support for their introduction of new key judgements, on quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, and personal development. A major focus on the new inspection framework will therefore be on the curriculum – ‘what is intended to be learned through the curriculum, how well it is taught and assessed, and the impact it has on learners’, according to Ofsted.

Recognising that this new focus may mean ‘that some providers want to review their curriculum’, and that this would take ‘time and careful consideration’ Ofsted has said that there will be a grace period of at least a year in fully implementing this aspect of the framework. ‘While we are phasing it in, the judgement will not be negatively affected if it is clear to an inspector that leaders have a plan for updating the curriculum and are taking genuine action to do so. We will review this transitional phase in the summer of 2020.’ the inspectorate stated in their response to the consultation.

There will be a number of changes to the draft framework following feedback received in the consultation, which ran from 16 January to 5 April this year.  Ofsted had been proposing that inspectors would make an on-site visit to schools the day before an inspection begins, however concerns were raised that this could effectively amount to the inspection starting early, and that schools could ultimately receive as little as two and a half hours notice of an inspector’s arrival on site. Instead there will now be a 90 minute phone conversation between the lead inspector and head teacher the day before the inspection begins.

Ofsted has confirmed that it will proceed with the proposal for inspectors not to look at school’s internal data during inspections. There had been opposition to this proposal among the consultation responses, with 43 per cent of respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the proposal, versus 42 per cent who agreed or strongly agreed. However, Ofsted has decided to go ahead, but has clarified that while they will not look at the data itself, inspectors will still consider ‘the actions taken by schools in response to whatever internal assessment information they have’.

The new framework will be applied in its entirety to all registered early years providers, except those who only provide care for children at the beginning and end of the school day or in holiday periods. For FE and skills providers Ofsted say that a new timescale for re-inspecting providers that are judged to require improvement ‘will better recognise that genuine, sustained improvement can take time.’ The timescale within which these providers will receive their next full inspection will now be 12 to 30 months. For schools it had been proposed to expand Section 8 inspections for ‘good’ schools from one day to two, and it has now been confirmed this will go ahead. However there will be an exemption for ‘small’ schools (those with 150 pupils or fewer) who will continue to just have a one day inspection.

Reaction from teaching unions to the finalised framework has been mixed. Commenting for the NASUWT union, general secretary Chris Keates said it was ‘encouraging’ that Ofsted had recognised ‘that previous versions of the inspection framework placed too much reliance on schools’ and colleges’ internally generated data.’ She suggested this reduced focus on internal assessment data would mean that the ‘myth’ that a ‘crude and debilitating target culture’ was necessary to please inspectors would be ‘entirely busted’.

However, Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT school leaders union warned that the new framework may prove ‘unworkable in practice’, saying that ‘inspectors are being asked to do too much, with too little resource, and with too great a degree of subjectivity.’

Geoff Barton, from ASCL, said he was ‘pleased that Ofsted has indicated that it will give schools time to make changes to the curriculum without being negatively judged’. However he said the association was ‘not convinced’ that the transitional phase would be long enough, and that it may need to be extended.

Ofsted says it will continue to pilot the new framework during the summer term 2019, allowing them to ‘further refine our inspection methodology and test operational systems’ before the framework formally comes into effect on 1 September 2019.

Full details of the finalised framework and Ofsted’s response to the consultation: https://tinyurl.com/y5ag2chb

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