March 2014

The know zone

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Suzanne O’Farrell examines the implications of changes to Ofsted’s subsidiary guidance and handbook and looks ahead to the new framework scheduled for September.

Fresh look for inspections

Judgements on teaching

One welcome aspect of the new Ofsted guidance is a section devoted to judging teaching over time. It is made clear that inspectors should not favour a particular style of teaching and there is a more realistic understanding that inspectors will not expect to see all work matched to individual needs or pupils engrossed in independent learning in each lesson. The criticism of pupils appearing passive in lessons has also been removed. Inspectors will want to see pupils learning well and making progress – irrespective of the teaching methodology.

Behaviour and safety

Inspectors are asked to look closely at the culture and ethos of the school when making their overall judgements. They are looking to see that there is a culture of high expectations and that there are consistent learning routines in the school and, as part of that, will look closely at pupils’ attitudes to their learning and whether they are consistent across the school, subjects and staff.

They will look at the effects created by pupils’ attitudes and they will gather their evidence by checking to see if pupils are bringing the right equipment to lessons, completing homework, caring for their books and wearing their uniform correctly. They will also look at the learning environment and if there is a lot of graffiti on books and/or a lot of litter around the school then this again may inform their judgement on pupils’ attitudes to their learning and pride in their school.

Members who have undergone inspections since the January guidance have reported to us that the emphasis on pupils’ pride in their work and pupils’ attitudes to learning are coming under close scrutiny.

Early entry

ASCL, along with many others, has voiced concern over the early entry announcement in September 2013 and it is pleasing to see that the updated guidance reflects ASCL’s firmly held position that inspectors should consider all available student outcomes when reaching a judgement about a school.

In the new guidance it is clear that inspectors making judgements about a school’s achievement after the publication of the 2014 GCSE results should take account of all available information where GCSE results have changed as a result of examination entries.

Use of prior performance data

Inspectors take account of up to three years’ worth of data and are encouraged to focus on the achievement and progress of current pupils. The guidance makes it clear that a school can be judged as good if teaching, leadership and management and behaviour and safety are good and if there is sufficient evidence that progress and/or achievement of current pupils is also good.

Schools need to ensure that they have demonstrable impact of improvements, for example, in teaching or leadership, which is reflected in the current pupils’ outcomes and progress.

Academy predecessor data

Inspectors may take account of information relating to a predecessor school but they are really focusing on the progress and achievement of pupils from the date on which the academy was established.


Ofsted has published a new 16-19 Study Programme Guidance for Inspectors New for December 2013 that highlights curriculum guidance and the introduction of a revised PANDA (Performance and Assessment) that replaces the L3VA (Level 3 Value Added) report. For schools with sixth forms, this is worth reading as it gives clear guidance as to what criteria inspectors will use to make a judgement on the quality of the sixth-form provision. A new sixth-form data dashboard will be published and accessed by inspection teams in addition to the PANDA.

On the horizon

We know that there will be a new framework for September 2014 and the Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw gave a speech in January that highlighted some potential areas of focus for inspection for the new academic year.

From September 2014 training partnerships will come under scrutiny and we can expect inspectors to meet with newly qualified teachers (NQTs) to ask if they are being well supported, particularly in dealing with pupil behaviour.

There is also the question of how inspectors will judge progress with the disappearance of levels; it is clear that schools need to be planning their curriculum with regular and coherent assessment clearly linked to the programmes of study and schemes of work and they will need to think about how to report this to parents. Forewarned is forearmed.

  • Suzanne O'Farrell is ASCL's inspection specialist

Key documents