Ofsted: “Better inspection for all” consultation – Our comments

Ofsted has announced a consultation period for its latest document – “Better inspections for all” – outlining ways to make its inspections “more proportionate”. The closing date for the consultation is December 5th 2014, and we strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in the future of inspections to submit their ideas and thoughts on inspections to Ofsted.

Ofsted better insepctionsOne has to ask how an organisation can produce a document asking people to consider a “more proportionate inspection” without admitting that the current one is disproportionate.

All the relevant documents, including a proforma for responses, can be found here.

Here is the document in full.

Why bother? This consultation doesn’t ask responders whether they think there’s any alternative to Ofsted. It doesn’t allow responders to say whether they think the entire system is deeply flawed, and nor does it give an option to offer any alternative method of scrutiny. However there are opportunities within the response for people to critique the proposals.

The other reason for bothering is that Ofsted is presumably here to stay for the foreseeable future. We need to work with what we have, and this document does suggest some significant changes that we’d be foolish not to embrace.

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Ofsted is seeking to;

  1. Introduce a common inspection framework for all schools, early years settings, further education and skills providers.
  2. Introduce short inspections for those judged as “good”.
  3. Inspect “non-association” independent schools.

They are also seeking ideas on how to inspect and gather evidence. There is a question on whether there should be a separate judgement on curriculum.

One of the most significant changes proposed is to the judgement criteria.

Current Judgements Proposed Judgements
The quality of education provided Effectiveness of leadership and management
Quality of leadership and management Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
The behaviour and safety of pupils Personal development, behaviour and welfare
Quality of teaching Outcomes for children and learners
Achievement of pupils (For discussion: a separate judgement for curriculum)

Although the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural” (SMSC) development of young people is currently considered “before making a final judgement on the overall effectiveness”, there’s no statutory judgement criteria for this. So the specific mention of personal development and welfare is a welcome change.

One of our biggest criticisms of Ofsted is that in its present and previous forms it’s never addressed the entirety of schools and other educational institutions. Its sole emphasis has been on academic achievement, paying either lip service or no attention at all to the other fundamental aims and elements of a good education – the wellbeing of young people, the development of their personal, social and spiritual intelligences, the importance of a conducive learning environment, the enabling of lifelong learning and the value of teaching/learning key life skills and attributes.

Even when the “Every Child Matters” criteria were included, the grading was often erroneous and frequently seemed to be plucked out of thin air rather than based on evidence. This was largely due to inspectors, by their own admission, not having the knowledge to qualify their judgements and by schools not having evidence-based tracking for these so-called unquantifiable outcomes.

What we have now is, at the very least, an acknowledgement that the personal development and “welfare” of the child is integral (if not central) to a young person’s growth, to enjoyment of learning, and their ability to sustain learning in all of its forms and aspects – for life. [We take issue with the word”welfare” – we prefer “wellbeing”]

What’s disappointing is that Ofsted only appears to have considered these integral parts of learning as a reaction to the issues raised in the “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham and through the despicable neglect of young women in the sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham. The government, and previous governments, from the outset should have legislated for this area of work to be statutory in the form of PSHE as an integral component of education and not simply a curriculum subject. Ofsted, as the government’s intermediary, should have insisted on this inclusion.

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If anyone would like to a copy of our draft response to this consultation, please email us at 3diassociates@gmail.com

For now, here are the questions from the consultation with some brief comments that we’ve included as part of our own response. Please note some of the bullet points relate directly to passages from the full document.

……………………………………………………

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the introduction of a new common inspection framework for maintained schools, academies, further education and skills providers, non-association independent schools and registered early years settings from September 2015?
  • Consistency is important but so is diversity. Early Years settings are vastly different from FE institutions.
  • If there’s going to be a common framework, we’d expect inspectors to have relevant experience of the sector they’re inspecting.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘effective leadership and management’ judgement?
  • Effective leadership and management are essential for our children and learners to experience a positive, productive and nurturing education.
  • Greater emphasis on the current stage of education, not just preparation for life is needed.
  • Clarification on what “British Values” are, as opposed to human values. Why can’t it be the latter?
  • Welcome the use of the word ‘achievement’ rather than ‘attainment’ in this section.
  • Would prefer the word wellbeing to welfare as this links directly to Education Act 2006 duty to promote wellbeing.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘quality of teaching, learning and assessment’ judgement?
  • Welcome the addition of the word “learning” compared with previous emphasis on teaching.
  • Expect that “different approaches to gathering evidence” are truly explored.
  • The focus on the progress of the individual rather than an imposed “standard” would also be welcome as this is more sustainable and in no way detracts from having high expectations for all.
  • We’d include need for subject knowledge and experience in PSHE as integral to teaching and learning in this area.
  • Welcome the continuity of assessment and the importance and value of engaging parents in this.
  • We’d like to ensure that the wellbeing of the child and learner is an essential part of reporting to parents as it is crucial in its own right as well as indicative of a child’s ability and capacity to learn.
  • Strongly believe that the life skills mentioned would require PSHE learning objectives to be clearly seen in all lessons.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ judgement?
  • We strongly agree with the inclusion of ‘personal development’ rather than the existing ‘behaviour and safety’ judgement.
  • Needs to be clear guidance and training for the inspectorate, school leaders and teachers to be able to prepare, implement and evaluate effective practice in personal and social development within the curriculum and demonstrated through the ethos and learning environment.
  • Welcome the inclusion of the word ‘personal’ in conjunction with the existing ‘social, moral, cultural and spiritual’ development.
  • We’d like to see a clearer definition of ‘spiritual development’ so that it isn’t misinterpreted as religious, and reflects the importance and value of the arts, music and the natural/built environment.
  • We welcome the mention of careers advice but strongly feel that this should be an integral part of a school and not left to independent providers that the school may choose to employ.
  • We’d like to see the inclusion of the phrase “life-long learner” as well as a ‘successful’ one.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘outcomes for children and learners’ judgement?
  • We are concerned about the example given here, which implies that “behaviour and welfare” is for schools whereas “personal development and welfare” is only relevant for FEs and skills providers. Personal development is “age-appropriate” for all
  • More emphasis on individual progress rather than a prescribed “standard” as a more valuable indication of the impact of an educational institution’s ability to develop the achievements and attainment of their learners.
  • We’d also like to see some reference to how a school or educational institution might track a child or learner’s progress in areas other than academic attainment.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the additional judgements proposed for the common inspection framework?
  • We agree with separate reports for Early Years and Sixth form. However, we are concerned about inspections relating to two year olds.
  1. Do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should continue to report on the curriculum as part of the judgement on leadership and management?
  • There should be a separate judgement on curriculum.
  • With academies and free schools being exempt from the National Curriculum, it’s important to have a judgement on what they’ve chosen to include in their curriculum.
  • We think the breadth and balance element of the curriculum needs to be judged in its own right as it’s such an important component to how children and learners engage in learning now and throughout their lives.
  • If curriculum isn’t a judgement in its own right, it needs to be referred to in all other judgement criteria and not just ‘effective leadership and management’ section.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for short inspections of good maintained schools and academies?
  • The proposals to reduce the number of inspections a school or other educational setting receives are welcome.
  • We’re concerned about those schools that are deemed ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ under the current inspection framework and may not be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ under the new criteria, especially with reference to the increased focus on ‘Personal Development, Behaviour and Wellbeing’.
  • We’re also concerned that the short inspections, according to this document, would concentrate on “performance of the school” and leadership and management, thereby missing the important judgement on ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’.
  1. Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for short inspections of good further education and skills providers?
  • The comments outlined in response to question 8 are as pertinent to further education and skills providers as they are to maintained schools and academies.

10. Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for non-association independent schools?

  • We would like to see all schools inspected under a common inspection framework, including all independent schools and not just ‘non-association’ schools. For the purpose of equity and for the wellbeing of all young people, this is important.

11. Are there any specific changes to the way that inspectors gather evidence that you think could make our judgement more reliable and robust?

We’d like to see a robust and manageable planning/tracking system for personal development and wellbeing. It should be an integral part of evidence for children and learners’ development.

  • If Ofsted and schools are truly going to value and evaluate the importance of wellbeing on a child’s learning, then there have to be strategies to identify current wellbeing with criteria and suggestions for progress.
  • We’d also like to see a stronger emphasis on pupil voice. Young people have pertinent and relevant views on education that are too frequently ignored.
  • We’d also like to see greater use of peer assessment between schools of similar size, demography and experience.
  • We’d like to see important health information from the statutory Health Improvement Boards – with their range of significant local health data – to be considered as part of an inspection to see how schools and other educational settings are mindful of local issues.

12. Do you have any other comments about this consultation?

On a purely technical point, it would have been useful to have an electronic system that allowed the designated boxes to extend within the ‘word’ document provided.

  • We welcome the opportunity to comment on these proposals and look forward to the report on the outcomes.
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About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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