Ofsted (The school inspection agency for England) has today confirmed some of the most significant changes to the inspection of education in its history, following an extensive programme of public consultation.
Setting out the reforms, Ofsted’s National Director of Schools, Sean Harford, said that frequent but shorter inspections of good schools and further education and skills providers, introducing a common inspection framework to standardise the approach to all education inspections, and inspecting all non-association independent schools in the next three years will contribute to driving up educational standards across the country.
Commenting on the publication of ‘Better inspection for all’, a report on the responses to the consultation, Sean 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.
“Sir Michael Wilshaw set out our proposals at the launch of the consultation in October. Nearly 5,000 people have given their views since then, with the vast majority supporting all of our proposed reforms. I am very pleased that these changes now move forward with a strong endorsement from the public, education professionals, parents, carers and learners.”
Almost 70% of respondents supported Ofsted’s first key proposal for frequent, but shorter, inspections of good maintained schools and academies, with over 60% supporting the proposal for further and education and skills providers. As a result, from September Ofsted will inspect good schools and further education and skills providers approximately once every three years, meaning that signs of decline can be spotted early and the necessary action taken. The focus of these inspections will be on ensuring that good standards are being maintained, that leaders have identified key areas of concern and that they have the capacity to address them. Frequent but shorter inspections will also mean that parents and employers can be kept much better informed.
The second change, supported by nearly 80% of respondents, will see a common approach taken to all education inspections from September 2015. This will ensure even greater consistency in inspections and will make it much easier for parents, pupils, learners and employers to compare different providers and make more informed choices.
“Our Common Inspection Framework will ensure a consistent approach to Ofsted inspections. It will focus on keeping young people safe, the breadth of the curriculum in schools, the relevance of courses and training in further education and skills, and the quality of early learning.”
The final key reform is to conduct full inspections of every non-association independent school in the country by July 2018. This was supported by nearly 75% of respondents.
In some cases, proposals were re-considered in light of the feedback. For example, a number of respondents questioned the feasibility of Ofsted establishing how leaders were influencing improvements beyond their own institutions, as part of its leadership and management judgement. As a result, Ofsted will not be taking this aspect of the leadership and management judgement forward.
Alongside the changes to inspection, Ofsted is making significant changes to the way it contracts with, trains and manages inspectors.
“We are determined to recruit and retain inspectors of the highest calibre to carry out inspections using the new framework. We have tightened up our selection criteria and quality assurance procedures. All contracted Ofsted Inspectors will have to go through a stringent assessment process and assessed training, with clear performance measures in place.
“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.”
The full report on the consultation outcomes and next steps can be accessed on GOV.UK