New Directions? HMCI’s Speech to the Schools North East Summit

Anyone remember the Revised Code of 1862?

A minister and his civil servants lay down what children should learn and how they will be tested. If schools do not meet the standard, they will lose their grant. “It will either be efficient or cheap,’ says the minister. The Inspectorate looks and says it is neither. Amanda Spielman’s speech at the Schools North East Summit on 11th October 2018 suggests the reprise of this old motif.

Stating that “inspection and regulation are essential to well-run public services. But if they are done in the wrong way they can do more harm than good,” Spielman committed Ofsted to be “intelligent; responsible; and focused.” Intelligence would be shown by the research Ofsted had done and would be doing on the curriculum; responsibility by clear expectations, debunking harmful myths and consultation; and focus by removing measures that do not “genuinely assess the quality of education.”

For most primary schools, inspection now means seeing one inspector for one day every four years. Spielman expressed concern that the focus on ‘key lines of inquiry’ made today’s inspections “leadership framed conversations”, diminishing dialogue between classroom teachers and inspectors. Ofsted will rebalance ‘inspector time usage’ so more time is spent on site. Ofsted would “treat teachers as experts in their field, not just data managers.....I don’t know a single teacher who went into teaching to get the perfect Progress 8 score.”

While acknowledging that :”the current performance measures are as good as they ever have been at capturing outcomes;” and hoping that quality of education and results are “somewhat related,” she said that Ofsted would aim to capture “the essence of what performance tables cannot capture.” Ofsted should not just “be putting a judgement sticker on a school.”

There had been too little emphasis on curriculum. ‘Outcomes’ will no longer be a standalone judgement. ‘Quality of teaching learning and assessment’ will become ‘the quality of education.’ ‘Personal development, behaviour and welfare’ will be split into ‘behaviour and attendance’ and ‘personal development.’

‘Quality of education’ will examine: what a school wants for its children; how far it is fulfilling that aim and the impact in terms of results, wider outcomes and destinations. So a primary school will be judged on using phonics to create successful readers but also on whether children are later reading widely and deeply.

Ofsted will challenge schools that spend more time on testing and test preparation than teaching; that enter children for less rigorous courses to improve league table positions; or that off-roll. Any such schools need to do some deep curriculum thinking.

She rejected the suggestion that Ofsted is rushing. The new Framework would have taken two years from initial research to implementation next September. There would be space for diverse approaches. Options were being piloted, Inspector training was being revamped; and a focus on substance would help to tackle workload. “Those who are bold and ambitious and run their schools with integrity will be rewarded.”

The law and practice referred to in this article has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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