Nearly there. Ofsted has just published the outcomes from its recent consultation on proposed changes to the inspection system along with an update on the key measures due to be introduced later in the year. In a couple of weeks time it will publish the full inspection framework plus guidance and then in September the new system will formally start. It means that maintained schools, academies, and Free Schools, many of whom had to adapt to a new inspection framework at the start of the year, now face a new set of inspection arrangements. Similar arrangements will apply to colleges and providers in the skills system
Changes to the inspection system have been on the radar since a new Chief Inspector took over at the start of this year. The Secretary of State had already signalled a renewed focus on the quality of teaching and learning and it was a mantle that the incoming Chief Inspector was keen to pick up. “I am determined to use my position as HMCI to raise expectations.” Broadly three issues sit behind this agenda: the level of our performance in international education rankings; a worry about the number of providers stuck or ‘coasting’ at current performance levels; and as has been widely reported recently, a continuing failure to close the gap in performance between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils
What arrangements have Ofsted been consulting on?
The new arrangements were put out for consultation in the wake of a keynote speech by the Chief Inspector in February. In essence, the focus of inspections was to remain as previously identified namely: achievement, quality of teaching and learning, leadership and management and for schools at least, behaviour and safety but there was to be considerable tightening up of inspection arrangements around this. The reporting grades would be revamped so that ‘satisfactory’ for instance would be replaced by ‘requiring improvement,’ no notice inspections would be more widely adopted, speedier re-inspections would be introduced and the ‘outstanding’ grade would become dependent on the quality of teaching across the board. Support for no-notice inspections seems to have been limited and has been modified accordingly and there were some concerns particularly from teacher groups about early re-inspections and from both teacher and lecturer groups about the use of anonymised teacher performance data in inspections but most of the other details remain unchanged
What are the main changes?
- Advance Notice. For schools, ‘normally the afternoon before, for FE ‘normally’ two working days
- Grading scales. ‘Satisfactory’ to be replaced by ‘requires improvement’ , ‘notice to improve’ by ‘serious weaknesses’ or in FE ‘inadequate’
- Outstanding. Schools and colleges will only be judged ‘outstanding’ if the quality of teaching and learning and in FE, assessment is equally ‘outstanding.’ This won’t be based on a set number of lessons but will require evidence of overall focus
- Re-inspection schedule. Schools requiring improvement will be re-inspected within two years, FE providers within 12-18 months
- Requiring improvement. Schools and colleges judged as ‘requiring improvement’ in two consecutive inspections will generally be classed as in ‘special measures’ or for colleges, as ‘inadequate’
- Performance management information. This should be made available for inspectors, it will be anonymised to avoid identification of individual teachers but for schools, inspectors will also consider any relationship between the quality of teaching and salary levels
Head of Policy (UK and International)
Pearson Think Tank