Editor’s view - Settling the score

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Ofsted’s planned move away from an emphasis on data will be welcomed by schools, as the phonics check causes concern

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Liz Roberts

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman made a fascinating intervention with her speech last week about the planned new approach to inspection under the forthcoming framework.

Flagging up a shift away from the current obsession with test scores, she said that the ‘focus on data is coming at the expense of what is taught in schools’.

Cue loud cheering from teachers throughout the land!

Her comments are particularly interesting in the light of the latest phonics screening check results and a new survey that finds huge opposition to the test (see our News story on page 12).

The phonics screening check is just one of many tests that young children are subject to – with the Baseline and ‘Baby PISA’ due to be added soon.

It is particularly contentious because it is intertwined with the Government’s insistence that synthetic phonics should be the primary means of teaching reading, disputed by many early years experts. The check, with its inclusion of nonsense words, is symptomatic of the data driven methods that Ms Spielman criticises, and the survey by Margaret Clark and Jonathan Glazzard finds heads, teachers and parents all opposed to it. It adds little to their understanding of individual children’s needs, say heads, while parents report stressed children.

Amanda Spielman said that Education Secretary Damian Hinds agreed with Ofsted’s analysis of the problems, although we don’t know how school standards minister Nick Gibb, a staunch defender of early testing and phonics, will feel about this U-turn.

The proposals for the new inspection framework will also cover early years settings, of course, but there is no detail yet on how the changed focus will apply for our sector. Ofsted’s Gill Jones will no doubt tell us more at the Nursery World Business Summit on 14 November.

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