Ofsted: new education inspection framework to go ahead in September

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Ofsted has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with changes to the way it inspects early years providers, schools and colleges, after receiving strong support from three-quarters of consultation respondents for re-focusing inspection on the substance of education.

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Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman

The Education Inspection Framework (EIF), which comes into force in September, has been published today (14 April) alongside a report on responses to the public three-month consultation, and sector-specific handbooks for early years, schools and further education and skills providers.

The inspectorate said its consultation had received the biggest response in its history with more than 15,000 responses.

Ofsted said the framework, which covers providers from childminders to adult education, is the result of two years’ work, including research on the curriculum and ‘road-testing’ across all the age ranges.

By September, 250 pilot inspections of the new framework will have taken place in early years providers, schools and further education and skills providers. Ofsted has also held events in every region.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said, ‘The two words we’ve used along the way to try and characterise what we’re aiming for really matter – substance and integrity, the twin themes all the way through. Is it education with substance and is it being done with integrity - doing the right thing for the child? The new quality of education judgement that is re-balancing education, to look more closely at what’s taught and how it’s taught, that’s really getting to the substance, with test and exam outcomes being looked at in that context, rather than as a standalone thing in isolation.’

She added that it had been ‘a very thorough listening exercise, talking to people who do the job in a lot of different contexts, not just the representative organisations, with a lot of people working on the ground and at the sharp end.

‘We had the biggest-ever response, more than 15,000 responses and very strong agreement with the core proposals. The two proposals at the heart of it, that shift to the quality of education.

‘More than three-quarters want us to go to this new model, only about 1 in 5 opposed to it, a very strong endorsement for it. That quality of education judgement is going to be there.

‘The second is to get a different balance around personal development, behaviour and welfare.’

There was widespread agreement about the value of judging learners’ behaviour and attitudes separately from their wider personal development, with almost 80 per cent of respondents in favour of this proposal.

Ofsted will introduce the two new key judgements of ‘behaviours and attitudes’ and ‘personal development’ from September.

Ms Spielman acknowledged there have been ‘some elements of disagreement’ and Ofsted had made some ‘tweaks not in what we do but how we do it’.

‘It is time to put the curriculum – what’s taught - back in the right place in education,’ she said. ‘Schools need to be confident about talking about what it is that children should know and do. It’s all about getting back to the substance of education and doing it with integrity and by focussing on that, by us concentrating on that, that’s how we make sure that we are a force for improvement in education.’

Early years

Ofsted said it had received a number of responses, including from early years organisations, that the judgement criteria for early years provision in the schools inspection handbook did not align with the criteria for registered early years settings.

‘They felt that the criteria for schools were too focused on reception-age children and did not take enough account of schools with two- and three-year-olds,’ the report on the consultation responses said.

Ofsted has amended this to make sure there is emphasis for early years provision for younger children, while clarifying where criteria apply to reception-age children.

Gill Jones, deputy director early years, said, ‘We’ve tried to make it clearer that before you get to the grade descriptors, the criteria against which the judgements are made, there’s a paragraph that explains for the early years in the schools handbook that inspectors must take into account the age and stage of the children, so that caveat was always there.

‘But what we’ve tried to do is put across some language that reflects the youngest children that will be in schools, so two- and three-year-olds, there’s more emphasis on the language and the grade descriptors for those. But we haven’t changed the expectations for the end of Reception, which match the Early Learning Goals.’

Before and after-school provision

There was general support for applying the new framework to all early years providers.

However, much of the feedback highlighted concerns about applying the ‘quality of education’ judgement to those providing before and/ or after-school care, which do not have to meet the EYFS learning and development goals.

Having considered the feedback, inspectors will make a judgement on ‘the overall effectiveness: quality and standards of the early years provision’ only for these providers. The full framework will be applied to all other early years providers.

Maintained nursery schools

Ms Jones told Nursery World that a specific section has been added to the school inspection handbook to highlight to inspectors that maintained nursery schools are a different body of school and emphasise that they are early education providers.

This tells inspectors how to apply the new framework to maintained nursery schools. For example, the handbook states that inspectors should take into account how well leaders develop and adapt the EYFS so that it is coherently sequenced to meet all children’s needs and starting points.

This is in response to feedback from the consultation that found that around 50 per cent of nursery schools would like to be inspected using the early years handbook.

However, this is not possible because they are legally constituted as schools, normally with a headteacher and governing body.

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