New Ofsted Framework – The Implications
There has only really been one topic of conversation around the “education dinner table” this term and that has been the proposed new Ofsted framework.
I say “proposed” and indeed it is currently in consultation, until April 5th. I would encourage you all, as important members of the teaching profession to review the framework, but how many of us really believe there will be many fundamental changes post-consultation? There maybe a few tweaks but I would be surprised if there is significant change.
Therefore, we – our Trust leaders – have been meeting to consider the implications of the new framework and what we will need to adjust going forward. Unsurprisingly, De Bono’s Hats came to the fore and in this blog I will outline the main Yellow (optimism) and Black (judgement) hat responses from our discussions which will inform our response to the consultation:
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- I believe strongly that the focus on curriculum is an excellent fit with our own beliefs in delivering a thoughtful curriculum and a cognitive approach to education. Our schools are already implicit in their curriculum intent to develop excellent thinkers and the use of metacognition in the classroom. The new framework is a great opportunity for us to enhance and emphasise this intent. Ofsted wants schools to have clear education philosophies, and to be able to demonstrate them – schools within our Trust certainly have that.
- This is combined with the focus on evidence-based strategies. When metacognition is used well it is recognised as one of the most effective strategies to support students.
- The reversal in approach from weighing outputs (i.e. outcomes, which are shown in our test and exam results) and then judging provision to analysing inputs (the thought and quality of delivery in the school) will enable all schools to be more confident in developing the whole child rather than putting results first.
- The focus on delivering cultural capital through schools is an exciting development and is an imperative part in enabling students from disadvantaged backgrounds to compete on an even playing field when they apply for places at leading universities, for highly prized Apprenticeships or when they enter the job market.
- Declaring staff who do not normally work in that school will help to ensure Ofsted see typicality of provision.
- The recognition that schools will need time to adjust their curriculum’s to accommodate the focus on intent, implementation and impact is to be welcomed and suggests a pragmatic approach looking for evolution rather than revolution.
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- Let’s be honest, this is “no-notice” inspection, with meetings to be arranged in school on the same afternoon as the phone call. It is not possible for the inspection team not to start making judgements at a sub-conscious level the moment they walk through the door. So, Ofsted is taking an already high-stakes, high-pressure inspection framework and increasing the pressure for schools.
- How much curriculum freedom is there for secondary schools when the proportion of students taking the Ebacc is specifically referenced within the framework and three- year KS4 curriculums have been openly questioned?
- Whose judgement on the appropriateness of a curriculum will be accepted? Will Ofsted be declaring what a “good” curriculum is, and what is not? Should students entering secondary school with very low prior attainment and reading ages have a narrowed curriculum focusing on basic skills to enable them to successfully access the curriculum later, or do they have a “right” to experience every subject? There is no right answer – this is a values question. Whose values will prevail where they are in conflict during an inspection?
- If historic school academic performance is being downgraded in priority and schools will not be able to evidence in-year progress through internal data, how will inspectors measure progress within a school? This could be especially challenging for schools with cohorts whose prior attainment is significantly below the national average.
- There is a fundamental tension between the explicit focus by Ofsted on behaviour and the Department for Education’s proposals around exclusions.
There is much for us to be optimistic about in the new Ofsted framework. You do excellent work every day, delivering high-quality education that is focused on children and young people, and what is in their interests. We have, as I say, a clear education philosophy that is proven to be successful in supporting students to succeed to their full potential.
So the opportunity to articulate and celebrate our belief in the power of a cognitive approach to education embedded throughout our schools is to be welcomed. My concerns are that the proposed framework appears to rely more on inspector judgement than previously. The potential impact of an individual inspector’s preferences cannot be under-estimated.
Therefore the real test will be in how consistently the new framework is interpreted by different inspectors and the extent to which they will be able to put aside their personal preferences and values when assessing the intent and implementation of a specific curriculum in a specific school context.
In spite of these concerns, I believe we should look at the changes positively, and as an opportunity to further raise the quality of provision – continuing to put the child first will remain the most important aspect of our work, every day.