February 2015

The know zone

  • Sixth-form scrutiny
    How are inspectors awarding the new numerical grade for sixth forms? Suzanne O’Farrell digs into the detail. More
  • Timetable for change
    Cherry Ridgway highlights the key dates for implementing the latest set of reforms and their implications for schools and colleges. More
  • Lifting the barriers
    Twilight, half-day and regional events are bringing continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to more people. More
  • Red Nose Day 2015
    Red Nose Day is back – a chance for schools and colleges to have fun and raise money to help change lives forever. More
  • Top tips when using iPads in the classroom
    The pace of adoption of iPads and other tablets into the classroom has rapidly accelerated in recent years. With this in mind, and with help from some tech-savvy teachers, we’ve put together some top tips for using iPads in the classroom. More
  • Perfect partners?
    Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt recently said that independent schools should do more to partner with state schools – how do you feel about this? Would they work for all schools? Where could they add most value? Here, ASCL members share their views and highlight the many successful partnerships between the two sectors that already exist. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    ASCL members concerned about leadership issues should call the Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email hotline@ascl.org.uk More
  • Pastures new…
    Changing schools is a chance to start afresh, leaving behind your misdemeanours and presenting yourself to colleagues in a new light. If only it were that easy. More
  • Efficiency drive
    Richard Newton Chance summarises the changes looming in the new financial year. More
Bookmark and Share

How are inspectors awarding the new numerical grade for sixth forms? Suzanne O’Farrell digs into the detail.

Sixth-form scrutiny

A key question to ask when evaluating the quality of your sixth form is: how well have you implemented the 16 to 19 study programmes introduced in August 2013?

According to Ofsted, they were designed to provide a ‘step change’ in provision for all young people and reinforce the fact that all young people should be on individualised study programmes that support their progression to further/higher education, training or employment.

In the autumn term, Ofsted published a key survey report Transforming Education and Training: The early implementation of 16 to 19 study programmes (see http://tinyurl.com/kn7m2j9) that gave clear guidance to inspectors on evaluating the implementation of the study programme. In fact, the School Inspection Handbook section relating to judging the e effectiveness of sixth-form provision was written with this in mind.

The report gives key recommendations to schools:

  • All 16 to 19-year-olds are on individualised study programmes that are best suited to prepare them for the next steps in their career plans.
  • Learners on programmes at levels 2 and 3 that lead to a substantial vocational qualification have sufficient and suitable work-related activity and external work experience.
  • Learners studying at level 3 have opportunities for relevant non-qualification and work-related activity to develop their personal and employability skills.
  • Learners without a GCSE grade C or above in English/ maths develop their skills so that they make significant progress towards achieving it.
  • Impartial careers guidance is available to give students informed choices about their futures.

Unsurprisingly, Ofsted inspectors have been asked to ensure that all providers of 16 to 19 education and training are acting on these recommendations.

Given the focus on inspections looking at how well providers ensure that all young people have a fair chance to progress, a key aspect will be assessing how well the students’ personal, social and employability skills are being developed and how this prepares them for their next steps in education or work.

An overall judgement about the sixth form is a collective view shared by all the team and they will consider the following four areas in reaching their view.


The emphasis at Key Stage 5 is similar to Key Stage 4 with focus on progress of groups compared to starting points and in comparison with the national profile. Groups include the most able, those who were disadvantaged when they were 16 and the most vulnerable. Inspectors will look at the extent to which achievement gaps between different groups of learners are narrowing.

They are also likely to consider retention and destination data as well as the progress and achievement of those students without a grade C GCSE or above in maths and English.

The quality of teaching

So what should good learning look like post-16? Inspectors will be interested in finding out if students attend well, are punctual to lessons and whether students’ ‘good’ behaviour is not confused with passive compliancy. Are students’ independent study skills being well developed so that they make the best use of independent study time? Are students given high-quality feedback (against challenging targets) on their work?

The quality of teaching will be assessed through an analysis of students’ progress, talking to students and looking at their work. It may be beneficial to have some examples of student assignments.

Robust evaluation of the quality of teaching post-16 and identified professional development priorities linked to improving teaching post-16 is a clear indication of the capacity to sustain and improve outcomes post-16.

Behaviour and safety

In terms of safety, schools will need to demonstrate that they have developed students’ understanding of the potential risks to their health and well-being and how to manage them.

In addition to students’ attitudes, attendance and punctuality, inspectors are also likely to consider how well students engage with non-qualification activities to develop their personal, social and employability skills.

Discussions with students are a key part of an inspection and if students are able to articulate the nature and benefits of their holistic study programme, including the support, advice and guidance that they receive, this will go down well with inspectors!

Leadership and management

Post-16 leadership is focused on ensuring delivery of individual study programmes with qualifications that provide sufficient challenge and rigour to stretch students and lead to progression routes. Partnerships to provide high-quality and meaningful work experience and high-quality information, advice and guidance are an integral part of the study programme.

Inspectors will be looking to ensure that leaders track students’ progress and achievement across their programmes and use this to intervene where necessary and identify where improvements are required.

The most important consideration will be assessing whether leaders of post-16 know all the issues in the sixth form and demonstrate the capacity to tackle them.

Finally, the separate grade for the sixth form can in influence but not determine the overall effectiveness grade for the school.

Suzanne O’Farrell is ASCL Inspections Specialist