2019 Spring Term 1

The know zone

  • Contextual safeguarding
    ASCL Parliamentary and Inclusion Specialist Anna Cole details a new framework set to transform the way professionals approach safeguarding young people. More
  • Framework focus
    Response to the broad direction of change for Ofsted inspections has been positive but it will take time to develop curriculum and assessment expertise, says Stephen Rollett. More
  • Be prepared
    Incidents of cyber fraud are on the rise and schools and colleges are not immune to this type of crime. Here ASCL Specialist Hayley Dunn highlights steps leaders and their staff can take to mitigate the risks. More
  • Retirement planning tips
    Whatever stage of life you're at, now is a good time to check whether you are on track to enjoy a comfortable retirement, says Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard. More
  • Time out
    The use of isolation rooms/booths in schools has featured in the media recently. What are your views? Do they work? Do you use them in your school? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • We're here for you
    ASCL Hotline Leader Rachel Bertenshaw provides an overview of our dedicated Hotline service available to members all year around. More
  • FYI: TLA's are our USP...
    FTU (For the uninitiated), the headline is suggesting that the teaching profession is revelling in its usage of three-letter acronyms, AKA TLAs. Carl Smith wonders if this trend has yet to go OTT or if we should desist PDQ. More
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Response to the broad direction of change for Ofsted inspections has been positive but it will take time to develop curriculum and assessment expertise, says Stephen Rollett.

Framework focus

Ahead of Ofsted’s public consultation on its new inspection framework, ASCL has been engaging with members to test their response based on the details that have emerged so far. Surveys at our Regional Information Conferences show a good level of support for the direction of travel Ofsted has outlined but there was less agreement about how inspectors should use schools’ own data. 

The aspects we discussed with delegates were our best guess as to what might be included in the new framework and the actual detail of the consultation might look different when it is published. Nonetheless, recent public comments from the inspectorate and the media provide a guide as to what to expect. 

The big change will be Ofsted’s intention to focus more on the curriculum as part of a wider ‘quality of education’ judgement. It means Ofsted will look beyond data to explore the quality of what is taught as well as the outcomes pupils achieve. When asked whether delegates approved of this move, 88% said they agreed or strongly agreed. This gives us some confidence that ASCL’s cautious welcome for the direction of the new framework is well placed, although we know the devil will be in the detail. 

Many members have already commented on the challenge inspectors will face if they are to inspect something as complicated and involved as the curriculum in an already packed schedule. It was worth noting, therefore, that leaders’ responses also indicated they would support slightly longer short inspections if this helped to make the focus on curriculum a workable and collaborative process. 

There was also support for other potential changes. For example, the overwhelming majority said they would support a more nuanced application of how safeguarding feeds into overall effectiveness judgements. Such a change could mean that minor, easily rectifiable issues might lead to a ‘requires improvement’ judgement rather than ‘inadequate’.

Teacher assessment

The one area of significant disagreement was in relation to how Ofsted might, or might not, use schools’ own assessment data. We have yet to have official confirmation but there have been rumours that inspectors may refuse to consider teacher assessment as part of how they evaluate the impact of the curriculum. We put the idea to our Regional Information Conference delegates and the response was decidedly mixed. 

Some leaders thought such a move might help to reform assessment practices in schools and drive down workload, but others were concerned about how they would convince inspectors of the progress that current pupils are making. This represents a policy conundrum for schools and inspectors: how to change the culture surrounding inspection while acknowledging the stifling impact of previous inspection regimes on how schools view and use data. 

It also demonstrates the wider work that will need to be done in schools in order to deliver on the promise of a new approach to inspection. Schools will need time and support to develop their understanding of curriculum and assessment. For example, why do many schools continue to require half-termly data drops of teacher assessments? This could indicate that leaders need to better understand why much of that data may not be as valid and reliable as we might assume. 

Ofsted may be right to encourage better use of schools’ own data, but we have to ensure that what is really driving change is the expertise within schools rather than just another accountability incentive. This will take time.

What can you do? 

Respond By the time this edition of Leader goes to press, Ofsted is expected to have launched the public consultation on the next framework. It is important that you engage with this and try to get under the skin of it. Go beyond the headlines and try to understand how it will work in practice.

Think One danger is that schools suddenly leap to action without first developing the curriculum and assessment expertise (see the article www.leadermagazine.co.uk/articles/a_shared_approach in the previous edition of Leader). We are expecting that Ofsted will publish curriculum research alongside the new framework. Read this research and consider how it aligns with your current thinking.

Engage It is important that we hear from members about the new framework – both in terms of the policy but also in terms of what help you think you might need. Please do speak to us and let us know your thoughts so we can support you in the best way. You can email me at: consultations@ascl.org.uk

The big change will be ofsted's intention to focus more on the curriculum as part of a wider 'quality of education' judgement.

Stephen Rollet
ASCL Curriculum and Inspection Specialist