Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has spoken at the Wellington Festival of Education on ‘intelligent’ and responsible inspections, curriculum research and developing the 2019 education inspection framework.
We take a look at some of the key things she had to say:
She first discussed the revitalisation of Ofsted’s research function under Professor Daniel Muijs. A full research plan for the next 2 years will shortly be published but she laid out some of the key themes that will be covered:
- science in primary schools, and foreign languages and art in secondary schools
- how pupils with SEND in mainstream schools can get better access to support
- teacher wellbeing and workload
- improving basic skills and knowledge in further education
- how we develop curriculum knowledge in initial teacher education
- what does it mean to a school to be part of a MAT
Ofsted is redesigning its approach to batched inspections of schools in multi-academy trusts and continuing to engage with the department on how to address the assessment of MATs in a way that reflects how they actually operate.
The starting point for the new framework is that England has a good education system- almost 90% of schools are rated good or outstanding. The new framework will reflect that and allow improvement support to be mainly directed at where it is most needed.
The current grading system will be maintained in the new framework following concerns from the profession that moves to a pass/fail approach would create an even more high stakes education system.
She again expressed concerns about the “outstanding exemption” whereby schools graded outstanding are not routinely inspected. She suggested this could lead to a lack of confidence in the outstanding grade and create confusion about what outstanding practice looks like as inspectors come into contact with it less often.
Ofsted does not have the power to remove the outstanding exemption as it was introduced by Parliament and could therefore only be revoked by MPs. She did however say “I am pleased to say we are engaging constructively with the department on this issue and hope to say more in the future.”
She said it was “entirely appropriate to use sanctions, such as writing lines, ‘community service’ in the school grounds, such as picking up litter, and school detentions. And where they are part of a school’s behaviour policy, they’ll have our full support.”
The Chief Inspector backed calls from Culture Secretary Matt Hancock and former HMCI Sir Michael Wilshaw for Heads to ban mobile phones in their schools. There is however currently no suggestion that this will become a requirement.
She said there is scope for more dialogue with a wider range of school staff who are likely to have witnessed bad behaviour in different contexts. An anonymised survey of behaviour would allow pupils and staff to give their views on behaviour in their schools before an inspection takes place.
Ofsted is designing a study to assess the extent to which schools are “hiding” problem children on inspection days, “perhaps on a conveniently timed spontaneous school trip”.
She mentioned that she had pushed back the new inspection framework to 2019 upon taking up her position to give Ofsted the time to do the research, debate, testing and training to get it right.
She said a focus on curriculum would help to tackle excessive and unsustainable workload, moving inspection more towards being a conversation about what actually happens in the day-to-day life of schools. What Ofsted wants is a dialogue to understand how schools are making sure that the curriculum gives every child a full, deep, rich education.
Ms Spielman also addressed criticisms that Ofsted is likely to rate schools with a disadvantaged intake more harshly. Arguing that Ofsted’s job was to give an objective assessment she said “There is no doubt that these schools have a harder job to do than others …. [b]ut the overall effectiveness of a school is not an effort grade.”