Friday Update – 10 October 2014

This week we highlight Ofsted’s consultation on radical changes to the inspection framework and a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCPC)  report into what schools can do to tackle social mobility in England.

This week Ofsted launched an 8 week consultation on proposals for a new inspection framework. Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said the proposals for reforms would bring about a radically different inspection regime designed to maintain and accelerate improved educational standards in England.

The key proposals are:

  1. There will be a new common inspection framework which will standardise the approach to inspections. This will be adapted to suit nurseries, schools and colleges, including the independent schools that Ofsted inspects, making it easier for parents, employers, pupils and learners to compare different providers and make more informed choices.
  2. Maintained schools, academies, FE and skills providers that were judged ‘good’ at their latest inspection will be subject to shorter inspections conducted every three years. Inspection arrangements will stay the same for schools judged as ‘outstanding’ (currently exempt from routine inspections unless there are concerns about their performance) and those judged as ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.
  3. The intention is to have a grade for overall effectiveness, as well as four graded judgements, which will cover:
  • effectiveness of leadership and management
  • quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • outcomes for children and learners

Schools with sixth forms or early years will continue to receive separate judgements for these areas of provision.

Interestingly, Ofsted has tracked back on its intention to make ‘no-notice’ inspections routine saying that they are reviewing the circumstances in which they should take place. At this time, therefore, they are not consulting on making them standard practice.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCPC) has published a report into what schools can do to tackle social mobility in England. The report is part of a series looking at what different parts of society can do to improve social mobility and acknowledges that no-one part can do it alone.

SMCPC noted that schools can have an impact, highlighted by the fact that schools with similar intakes get different results. It acknowledged that the reasons why some schools get better results than others are complex. The report sets out five key steps schools can take to improve disadvantaged pupils’ life chances:

Use the pupil premium strategically to improve social mobility – SMSPC found that the most effective schools systematically used data to analyse why, how and where eligible pupils were falling behind, and used this information to target funding towards addressing these barriers.

Build an inclusive culture with high expectations – Governors and senior leaders sending a clear message that they had high expectations of all staff and pupils. This included implementing a “firm and consistent” behaviour policy and not tolerating lower standards for poor children because of the belief they could not do better.

Have an incessant focus on the quality of teaching – the report identified the quality of teaching as perhaps the single most important way schools could improve social mobility.

Use tailored strategies to engage parents – the report recommended that schools had high expectations of parents and did not accept a lack of involvement.

Prepare pupils for all aspects of life, not just for exams – focussing on pupils’ social and emotional development as well as their academic achievement, and ensuring they had access to extra-curricular activities as a key part of the educational experience. It also included providing high quality careers advice.