Ofsted set for radical overhaul to unite education inspections

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Early years settings, schools and colleges will be inspected under a new common inspection framework from September, with shorter and more frequent inspections.

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The plans include more stringent recruitment, training and management for Ofsted inspectors

Ofsted has confirmed that it will go ahead with what it calls the most significant change to the inspection of education in its history.

Nearly 5,000 people responded to the consultation on the proposals, with the vast majority supporting the changes.

A key change will be a move to inspecting schools, academies and further education colleges that have been graded good every three years to ensure that any signs of decline can be picked up early.

Seventy per cent of schools and 60 per cent of FE colleges were in favour of the change.

The other major change is the introduction of a common inspection framework for all education inspections from September.

Under the new inspection framework inspectors will make graded judgements on the same areas across all remits, to make it easier to compare across the inspection of different providers that cater for similar age ranges, and for when children move from one setting to another.

Inspectors will inspect the type of provision for which they have training.

Alongside the changes to inspection, Ofsted is also tightening up its selection criteria for inspectors and quality assurance.

All contracted inspectors will have to go through a stringent assessment process and assessed training with clear performance measures, it said.

Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director of schools, said, ‘In recent years, we have seen encouraging improvements in schools and colleges across the country. Ofsted has played a critical role in challenging the education system to do better and it is clear that many leaders and teachers have responded to that challenge very positively. The changes we are confirming today are designed to ensure that standards continue to improve.

‘I am very pleased that these changes now move forward with a strong endorsement from the public, education professionals, parents, carers and learners.’

He added, ‘We are determined to recruit and retain inspectors of the highest calibre to carry out inspections using the new framework.

‘We believe that these changes to our inspection methods and the inspection workforce will drive even greater consistency and quality in our inspections – and ultimately raise standards in education across England.’

'Fairer approach'

Early years sector organisations have broadly welcomed the changes.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said he hoped the new inspection framework changes would lead to ‘a fairer and more consistent approach’ to education inspections.

But he also highlighted the need to ensure that inspection was tailored to different types of provision.

‘Inspection criteria such as "quality of assessments" and "outcomes for children", for instance, will mean something very different in an early years context compared to that of a school or college, and it’s vital that this is taken into account in inspection judgements,’ he said.

‘It’s therefore crucial that all inspectors operating under the new framework are appropriately trained and are experts in their respective fields. The early years sector has long raised concerns about the quality of inspections, and as such, we welcome the news of more stringent assessment and quality assurance processes for contracted inspectors. This is an important - and much-needed - first step in improving the fairness and consistent of early years inspections.’

Plans to align notice periods for early years inspections with those of schools were also welcomed.

Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at the National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘We have been calling for a level playing field with schools on notice for private and voluntary sector nurseries for several years, so we welcome Ofsted’s commitment that it will align notice.

‘The private, voluntary and independent early years sector will now be keen to see prompt action by Ofsted to make equal notice for all a reality.’

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