2020 Spring Term 2

The know zone

  • Primary inspections
    The new Ofsted Inspection Framework has been in place since September and, so far, the emerging picture shows a somewhat mixed bag of inspection experiences in primary schools. Here, Tiffnie Harris shares her insights. More
  • Resource management
    Hayley Dunn provides a summary of a report on the Schools Resource Management Adviser (SRMA) pilot and says that while it provides useful pointers for schools, the report fails to recognise wider funding concerns. More
  • What's on offer?
    University offers have reached new levels of complexity. But is this complexity necessary or is it masking some rather opaque practices? Kevin Gilmartin explores what is really going on with university offer-making. More
  • Digital Detox
    ASCL's Online Editor Sally Jack shares some suggestions on how to manage your digital selves on social media and keep your mental health healthy. More
  • Should GCSEs be scrapped?
    Have GCSEs had their day? Should we have a lighter touch form of assessment at 16? Or do GCSEs represent an inviolable 'gold standard'? And is another upheaval of exams just too much trouble? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Non nobis solum
    Headteacher Catharine Darnton joined ASCL Council last September and is a member of the Funding Committee. More
  • Better left unsaid
    The relentless road to self-improvement is paved with potential unhappiness and frustration. Wouldn't it be even better if we simply settled for everyday excellence, asks Carl Smith. More
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The new Ofsted Inspection Framework has been in place since September and, so far, the emerging picture shows a somewhat mixed bag of inspection experiences in primary schools. Here, Tiffnie Harris shares her insights.

Primary inspections

What do we know so far?

The key focus of the new inspection framework is on the ‘quality of education’, largely framed by exploring a school’s curriculum. So, several months on, here’s what primary leaders have been telling us so far:

There’s a growing concern that some primary schools, especially smaller ones, feel that the new framework doesn’t relate well to how they approach the curriculum. Initially, their main concern was that inspectors were meeting the same teacher several times as part of the new ‘deep dive’ methodology and that this causes problems, especially in small primary schools where a teacher might lead on more than one subject. Ofsted has since addressed this issue and clarified that inspectors should avoid this (see https://tinyurl.com/y4s8vqjh).

Another concern is that primary schools often teach by topics, yet the ‘deep dive’ is based on subjects. Ofsted responded by saying that schools do not need to abandon a topic-based approach, but it is worth them being aware that inspectors will think about what progression through subjects looks like and how subject content is sequenced over time. Whatever the vehicle of the curriculum (subjects or topics), primary schools need to be able to talk about how children make progress within subjects. Accordingly, the National Curriculum is an important touchstone for schools and inspectors.

In some schools, the teacher leading a subject is not a teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) holder. Therefore, ASCL believes that in such circumstances, a school leader should also be allowed to attend the inspection meeting. We put this proposal forward to Ofsted and are pleased Ofsted has confirmed that this will be supported by inspectors.

There is of course a wider issue here, which goes beyond inspection, about subject-level expertise in primaries. The lack of subject specialists in the sciences, arts and languages make it difficult for primary schools to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum.

Key points emerging from Ofsted

At ASCL’s Primary Conference in January, Phil Minns, Ofsted’s Specialist Adviser, addressed delegates with an update on the new framework in primary schools. He reinforced Ofsted’s message about the inspectorate’s reduced focus on data in a bid to reduce staff workload and said, “Schools should do nothing for Ofsted.” He added that what is important in primary learning is “improving what makes a difference to children” and he specifically mentioned the “narrowing of the curriculum”. The key points emerging from Phil Minns’ address to our conference were as follows:

  1. Inspectors are observing, in some situations, that children are ‘hitting the target but missing the point’; for example, they have observed children who have been identified as achieving a Good Level of Development (GLD), but then noticed that these children still can’t start and finish an activity. This is something that will be picked up by an inspection team and discussed with relevant school practitioners during the visit.
  2. Inspectors want to know how children travel throughout their journey from early years to Key Stages 1 and 2. Previously, Ofsted focused on the end point, and if concerns were found, then they would be tracked back. Ofsted now looks at the curriculum from start to finish and primary schools need to consider what they deliver in reception and then Key Stage 1 and 2 as progression.
  3. Inspectors are now looking at teachers’ subject knowledge – a key example is early years, where expertise and experience here significantly boosts life chances for children.
  4. inspectors now want to see that children are showing an understanding when reading.
  5. Inspectors are using National Curriculum Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) documents and headteachers will almost certainly be asked how they ensure breadth across the curriculum. They may also be asked how they are making sure children enjoy what they are learning.

How to make a complaint over an Ofsted inspection

ASCL Inspection Specialist, Stephen Rollett, explains how school leaders can complain about an inspection, both during the visit or afterwards, in this SecEd article https://tinyurl.com/u2mcmrr

Further information

Read this Leader article on the pre-inspection phone call www.leadermagazine.co.uk/articles/an_inspector_calls/

Request a copy of ASCL’s self-evaluation (SEF) Toolkit www.ascl.org.uk/SEFToolkit

Download ASCL’s Guidance Paper on the Education Inspection Framework 2019: Inspecting the quality of education www.ascl.org.uk/QualityofInspection

Tiffnie Harris
ASCL Primary Specialist