Small schools shouldn’t fear Ofsted’s new focus on the curriculum, a senior official from the inspectorate has said. The new inspection framework, introduced last month, includes a ‘deep dive’ element where inspectors look at a school’s curriculum in detail.

In a blog post, Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s regional director for London, writes that while he can understand the concerns of small schools, especially those where staff may be coordinating multiple subjects,  ‘The deep dive is not about catching you out or making things difficult. We understand that approaches vary across schools and will take each school’s circumstances into account, including the very smallest.’ He also says that inspectors will seek to work with schools ‘to understand what’s typical and what’s different because of inspection, for example if teachers are out of class when they would not usually be’.

Mr Sheridan says that ‘children in small schools deserve to have access to the same broad curriculum as anyone else’ and, drawing on his own experience of working in small schools in the north of England, argues that small schools ‘can be innovative and punch well above their weight’. He also suggests that many small schools are creative in ‘finding ways to share burdens and make sure that their offer is rich and wonderful’.

Ofsted published a pilot study in December last year, which found that primary schools struggled with the new inspection framework’s focus on the curriculum. However, just two of the schools which participated in this study has fewer than 150 pupils. Ofsted says that 35 pilot inspections have also been run in schools with fewer than 150 pupils, but that it will not be publishing the findings of these inspections in order to avoid identifying the schools concerned. Schools had taken part on the understanding they would not be named. However, Mr Sheridan’s blog post includes a brief account from an HM Inspector of a pilot inspection undertaken at an unnamed school with 40 pupils.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: ‘The new education inspection framework has been thoroughly tested, including through our largest ever consultation… It’s early days, but we have had some really positive feedback from those that have been inspected under the new system….and we are glad that our new approach is a constructive experience for many schools.’

Full blog post: 

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