The New Ofsted Framework
It has been refreshing to read the recent comments made by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, about planned changes to the way Ofsted inspects schools from September 2019. We finally seem to have a Chief Inspector who acknowledges the negative contribution previous inspection models have made to excessive workload in schools. Whilst I have always tried to protect staff from unnecessary data collection and jumping through the latest Ofsted hoop, I have been doing so with a degree of trepidation that I have been leaving us vulnerable to the whim of a rogue inspector. The new framework should empower me to protect my staff with confidence.
Equally, it is pleasing to read that Ofsted feel they have placed too much weight on exam results when considering the overall effectiveness of schools. Of course, we want our students to leave us having secured excellent outcomes. That aim is at the heart of our Aim High agenda. But we recognise that exam results are one very important part of a range of outcomes we desire for our students. We want to develop their employability in the broadest sense by ensuring they have the resilience, creativity and adaptability to thrive in the modern world. It will be interesting to see how the new inspection framework will manage to achieve Spielman’s stated aim of ‘complementing rather than intensifying performance data.’
I am also pleased to read that Ofsted will be challenging schools where too much time is spent on preparation for tests at the expense of teaching, where choices are narrowed or where children are pushed into less rigorous qualifications to boost league table positions. We lead our school with a strong moral purpose and I am hopeful that the underpinning values that govern our decision making will be recognised in the new framework. We have staunchly refused to game any system by pushing large numbers of students through inappropriate qualifications. We refuse to introduce GCSE options at an earlier age, ensuring that a full range of subjects are studied until the end of year 9. We have focussed on curriculum and teaching across the school, not just test preparation.
Finally, the separation of behaviour and personal development is a positive move. While the latest wave of ‘zero tolerance behaviour systems’ are lauded in the press and central government, I am hoping that the separation of these judgements will allow our school to shine. We develop our students through a broad range of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities and through a humane and respectful system of behaviour management. Our standards and ambitions are high and we are confident this will continue to be positively recognised under the new Ofsted framework. I am looking forward to the opportunity to respond to the consultation in the new year.