Minor inspection changes from September 2018

4 Jan

I        The Changes

Minor changes were made to the Inspection Handbook. These changes took effect from September 2018.

(1)       Religious Education and Collective Worship

Under Section 48 of the Education Act 2005, the governing board of a voluntary (aided or controlled) or foundation school/academy in England ensures that a designated religious body conducts regular inspections of its religious educational provision and the acts of worship.  However, Ofsted inspectors are now required to look at the content of religious education (RE) in voluntary controlled (VC) schools/academies (see page 74 in the Annex) because a VC school follows the local authority’s agreed RE syllabus.    On pages 75 and 76, the Handbook sets out the timings for such inspections.

(2)       Myth-busting

Pages 12 to 16 of the handout sets out what inspectors do not expect to scrutinise or know about i.e.

  1. the attainment of past pupils,
  2. how primary schools/academies carry out assessment or record pupils’ achievements in subjects,
  3. the process for the performance management arrangements for staff and anonymised lists of teachers meeting or not meeting the performance thresholds for pay progression,
  4. whether the school/academy has policies related to staff behaviour, and
  5. retrospective applications for references for staff members appointed prior to and continuously employed since the introduction of the vetting and barring system.

(3)       Inspectors’ current judgement

The four judgements inspectors make under the current education inspection framework are:

  1. effectiveness of leadership and management;
  2. quality of teaching, learning and assessment;
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare; and
  1. outcomes for children and learners.

(4)       Schools causing concern

Paragraph 112 of the handbook states that maintained schools and Pupil Referral Units (PRU) that are issued with academy orders and allocated to new sponsors (if already academies) or to sponsors for the first time if they are controlled by local authorities, won’t normally receive monitoring visits from inspectors. However, the affected local authorities, proprietors or trusts will still need to prepare statements of action to include how the schools/academies will transfer to new academies.  Paragraph 113 explains this.

II       Comments on the September 2018 changes

These changes, as the reader will probably know, are not the end of the matter.  Many problems remain, one of the chief being the reliability and validity of Ofsted’s judgements.   How can Ofsted judge the quality of teaching if inspectors spend no more than 20 minutes on observing each of a very, very few lessons that come under the microscope?   And can they really make profound judgements on the quality of education being served up at a school/academy if they spend only one day inspecting?

Governors, headteachers and staff members of schools/academies moan that inspectors come to inspections with their minds already made up based on the documentation they’ve scanned.  All that they do at the schools/academies is make strenuous efforts to confirm their guesswork and hunches.  And who can blame them, if they are in schools/academies for only a day?

If, on the other hand, they spend four days inspecting a school/academy as they did in the halcyon days, governors, headteachers and the staff will find the experience very stressful and resent the inspections.   Ofsted is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

Ms Spielman seems to think that children are being “betrayed” by being made to focus only on academic success; instead she wants to focus on the “quality of education”, and she is consulting on it.  This is a welcome change of direction from the egregious thrust of the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who placed so much stress on exams and tests.

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