This week, Ofsted published their latest school inspection update. Alongside welcoming the new HMCI, Amanda Spielman, and her vision for Ofsted as “a force for improvement”; the update also provides inspectors with key information which will impact upcoming inspections.
In his introduction to inspectors, HMI National Director, Sean Harford, refers specifically to the need not to ask schools for predictions for cohorts about to take examinations. Deeming these as inaccurate and meaningless, instead he advocates asking schools whether pupils are making appropriate progress and if not, what staff are doing to support them. This will be a welcome clarification for schools. In addition, the need for inspectors to examine patterns of qualification entry for children at key stage four was reinforced; an issue which is dealt with in more detail within the report itself. Lastly, reference is made to the end of grading lesson observations as part of inspections. The removal of this requirement some time ago has been beneficial, but the update reminds inspectors to ensure they do not imply any grading judgement during feedback, instead focusing on strengths and areas for development. General strengths and areas for development will then be used to agree the overall judgement of the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.
Important issues of which schools will need to be aware
Clarification of inspection arrangements for non-exempt outstanding schools and academy convertor schools
- Schools that were judged good or outstanding at their previous section 5 inspection will usually receive short inspections every three years. However, should a provider undergo “significant change” they will normally have a section 5 inspection instead. If the school achieves a good or outstanding judgement, they will then be eligible for a short inspection approximately three years later
- Maintained schools that convert to become academies, whose schools were previously judged good, are eligible for short inspections approximately every three years
- Maintained schools that convert to become sponsor-led academies, whose schools were previously judged good or outstanding, are treated as new schools. These providers will be inspected under Section 5 for their first inspection within three years of becoming a sponsor-led academy.
Checking safeguarding records
- The update emphasises that the Lead Inspector has the power to inspect any records kept by a school. It also clarifies a number of points:
- If trainee teachers and placement students are employed by the setting, they should be subject to the same checks as other staff. Where the trainee teacher is fee-funded, the provider should obtain written confirmation that these checks have been carried out and that the trainee has been judged as suitable to work with children. Schools do not need to record fee-funded trainees on the Single Central Record (SCR)
- Every academy in a MAT must maintain a Single Central Record (SCR). Where staff are not assigned to an individual academy, they must be recorded on the MAT’s SCR
- Where teaching staff work in more than one academy across a MAT, they should be recorded on the SCR for one academy – the academy where they spend most of their time, or where they are recorded for pay. For the other academies where the staff member works, there should be reference made on the SCR that their record is held at ‘XX academy’
- Inspectors should check the SCR. In addition, they may also request to see additional information about staff, including personnel files, however this is rare and they must make clear why they need to make these checks
The use of 2016 floor standards, coasting schools and 16 to 18 minimum standards
- Inspectors are requested to compare the provider’s validated 2016 results with the 2016 floor standards and likewise for 16 to 18 providers, the 2016 minimum standards. They should also check whether a school has been deemed to be ‘coasting’. This information is available on the inspection dashboards
Progress scores, including the interpretation of RAISEonline and inspection dashboards
- The update states that it is not possible to forecast progress scores reliably. Therefore, Ofsted does not expect any prediction of progress scores. There is no national expectation of any particular amount of progress from any starting point. Furthermore, inspectors must not use the term ‘expected progress’ when referring to the progress of pupils. Inspectors should only ask to see assessment information in the format that the school would normally use to provide insight into the impact of support
- Inspectors should consider the impact of pupils included who were working below the level of the tests at key stage two. Pupils on ‘P scales’ or who are assessed as at the ‘foundation’ for the expected standard, or ‘early development’ of the expected standard can only achieve negative progress scores. Children assessed as at ‘growing development’ of the expected standard can achieve a positive progress score but only if their prior attainment was P6 or below. The update also states that inspectors should interpret key stage one charts on RAISEonline with care as they are designed merely to raise questions. There is no expectation of key stage one attainment from any starting point and no measure of progress for the key stage
Patterns of examination entry
- A key part of the report reminds inspectors of the “critical importance of following up any unusual examination entry patterns” to ensure schools have made decisions for their pupils and are not “gaming the system.” Inspectors are asked to monitor how well a school provides a broad and balanced curriculum by reviewing curriculum design and the suitability of pathways and qualifications. This is designed to ensure schools are challenged if they enter large cohorts of pupils for inappropriate qualifications or where there is significant content overlap. Moreover, inspectors should consider whether schools have ‘off-rolled’ pupils, which will be apparent if the number on roll in each year group has decreased significantly by year 11. The update requires inspectors to take any concerns about these areas into account when judging the effectiveness of leadership and management and outcomes for pupils
A summary of changes to the reformed GCSEs and technical awards from 2017
- The update provides inspectors with a summary of changes from 2017. They are asked to consider how effectively schools deliver the new content and how they ensure access to oral, practical and field work. The Ofsted data and insight team will provide information to inspectors about “what can and cannot be inferred from the performance data” in this summer’s examinations
Interpreting 16 to 19 English and mathematics progress measures
- Inspectors have been asked to consider the impact on providers’ overall English and mathematics progress scores of:
- Learners who have been in 16 to 19 provision since 2013/14 (before the funding condition came into effect) and not entered into a qualification. These learners will have been assigned a negative progress score which may have affected the provider’s overall progress score
- Apprentices whose frameworks require them to study functional skills. If these learners achieved GCSE Grade D with functional skills level 2, they could not achieve a positive progress score, no matter how well they did. The DfE is planning to adjust this for 2016/17
Engaging with the governance of schools in multi-academy trusts
- At the point of notification, the name and the contact details of the CEO and chair of the board of trustees will now be checked. They will be notified and arrangements will be made to meet them during the inspection. At the conclusion of the inspection, they will be invited to observe the final team meeting and attend the final feedback meeting, where they may be asked to clarify key points
The distribution of section 5 reports following inspection
- All parents of registered pupils must receive a copy of any section 5 report within five working days of the school receiving the report. The update states that schools can choose the way in which they distribute the report, however they should be mindful of checking parental access if the report is only distributed electronically
Outcomes for children with medical needs
- Schools have a duty to support pupils with medical needs, as outlined in section 100 of the Children and Families Act 2014. Inspectors are reminded to pay attention to the outcomes of learners with medical conditions, how schools are supporting their needs and how well the school’s policy is implemented. This will directly impact judgements on the effectiveness of leadership and management, safeguarding, personal development, and behaviour and welfare.
- The update confirms that inspectors will not be asked to identify where school leaders have supported another school to improve its inspection grade.
Providing education that puts pupils first will inevitably continue to be the overarching message, with Sean Harford remarking “Our focus will be on inspecting the curriculum with an even sharper focus on what is right for pupils to ensure they get the quality of education they deserve.” Read the full newsletter here.