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Understanding the Ofsted Framework

Each time a new inspection framework is introduced, the percentage of schools awarded a Grade 4 (Inadequate) during inspection increases significantly. No surprises there. Right? And yet, Ofsted always makes an effort to inform schools of upcoming changes. Assuming that school leaders attend, the increase in the proportion of schools being judged “Inadequate” cannot be because they were unaware of the changes. Likewise, this phenomenon can’t be attributed to a sudden drop in the quality of education delivered in independent schools. So why the negative trend? And how can you ensure that your school bucks that trend with the new Ofsted framework (2019)?

Unpicking the New Ofsted Framework

As a school leader, have you fully considered the changes and how they will impact your school?

Have you taken the time to figure out how you can modify your current practice in order to better showcase the quality of education you deliver under the new framework?

It’s a lot to ask of extremely busy individuals.

So, here are the highlights to help you get started with understanding the new Ofsted framework.

How Are Schools Judged Under the 2019 Ofsted Framework?

First of all, let’s consider the impact of the changes and begin thinking about how to clearly demonstrate the work that we do under the new framework.

As with the previous framework, the new Ofsted framework still has four judgment areas as well as an overarching judgment for overall effectiveness.

One of the four judgment areas is the brand-new, Quality of Education.

This new focus has come about as a result of extensive research into the substance of education. In effect, it consolidates the previous “Teaching, Learning and Assessment” (aka Curriculum Implementation) and “Pupil Outcomes” (aka Curriculum Impact) judgments from the old framework with Curriculum Intent under one overarching headline.

In addition to the above, Ofsted continues to judge schools on “Leadership and Management”. And, whereas previously “Personal Development and Behaviour” were grouped together, under the new framework they are now considered separately — “Behaviour and Attitudes” and “Personal Development”.

There are, however, many changes that spell good news for independent schools. For example, when it comes to judging behaviour it’s no longer just about developing a calm and orderly school environment.

Under the new framework, the “Behaviour” focus has shifted towards setting clear routines and expectations, consistently applying the consequences, and seeing an improvement in behaviour as a result.

Similarly, when judging “Personal Development”, Ofsted will focus on the processes in place for supporting pupils’ personal development and less on impact. Because they acknowledge that the impact of a school’s provision will often not be assessable during pupils’ time at school.

Ofsted also acknowledge that while the school is working on pupils’ personal development they are also influenced by factors from home, their community, and elsewhere. This is why they will only judge the quality and intent of what a school provides.

The grades awarded during inspection have not changed. What has changed is the approach to grading. In order to get “Outstanding”, a school has to meet all the criteria for “Good” and the additional criteria under “Outstanding”. In order to arrive at a grading of “Good” or “Requires Improvement”, inspectors still use the best-fit approach.

One final significant development in the 2019 Ofsted Framework, and one that cannot be overstated, is the impact of compliance with the Independent School Standards.

It is now impossible for a school to be awarded an “Outstanding”, “Good” or even “Requires Improvement” judgment if they do not meet the Independent School Standards.

Slight differences that have a huge impact on delivery, evidencing, and outcome.

Key Inspection Considerations

Although all parts of the inspection framework will be applied to all schools, inspectors will take into account specific factors that apply to the following contexts:

  • Independent Special Schools and SEND > Identifying, assessing, and meeting pupils needs > Adapting the curriculum to meet needs > Parental involvement > Ambition > Progress and outcomes including cognition and learning, communication and interaction, and physical health and development

  • Alternative Provision. Recognising that provision can be short-term and progress is key. And where flexible timetables are used, considering plans to increase hours of attendance.

Other changes include a focus on the following:

  • Segregation and Off-rolling [Note: it is unlawful to segregate pupils on the basis of any of the protected characteristics (Equality Act 2010)]

  • Gaming (considering unusual patterns of exam entry that appear to game the system)

  • Cultural Capital. Inspectors will consider the extent to which schools are equipping pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life. Cultural Capital is ‘the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said, and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.’

  • Character Education (the DfE has developed a guidance document about character education which offers a clear framework by which schools can self-assess and begin to improve.)

  • Sex and Relationship Education. From September 2019 non-association independent schools are able to follow a ‘new relationships and sex education’ curriculum. From September 2020, they will be required to follow it, by law. Primary-age children must be taught about positive relationships and respect for others, and how these are linked to promoting good mental health and well-being. In addition, sex education will become mandatory at Secondary level. Again, the DfE has produced a guidance document which can be found here.

Are You Inspection-Ready?

In order to be confident ahead of inspection, it would help if your most recent self-evaluation assesses the areas that are inspected under the new Ofsted framework. We can provide you with a tool to do this self-evaluation.

Alternatively, follow me on Eventbrite to receive notifications of my latest training workshops.

Attendees come away with actionable advice, useful tools, and clarity on the Independent School Standards and Ofsted’s requirements.

Learn proven strategies which, when implemented correctly, ensure consistent compliance with the standards. Sign up for my next training workshop, today. Book your ticket, here.

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