Author: John Dabell
Posted: 06 Jan 2020
Estimated time to read: 7 mins
2019's Ofsted Framework changes threw a spanner in the works for many school leaders. It seemed like something of a change of course for our national regulatory body. A shift away from teacher focussed, outcome driven inspections and a decisive step towards the curriculum centric.
For many classroom teachers, learning the new inspection criteria comes as more of a pain than a pleasure. With so many new guidelines, it's difficult to know where to start. Thankfully there are people like John, our guest blogger for this post, who help to bring us a little more clarity surrounding Ofsted and the major changes it poses for our schools.
John Dabell is an author, blogger, reviewer, former school inspector and a teacher with 25 years experience. His blog, 'Every Day Is A School Day', tackles everything from philosophy to behaviour and is updated every day.
In September 2019, Ofsted put into place some pretty huge changes to their inspection framework. From the new Quality of Education judgement to changes in how data and behaviour are approached, almost no stone was left unturned.
So, how should you prepare for the new framework?
Not entirely that is.
That might sound like completely crazy advice but there are a few things you don’t need to do as a teacher regardless of whether the inspection system is a new one or not.
Firstly, you don’t need to obsess over Ofsted and let it gnaw away at you. If you do then this will eat into your wellbeing and could burn you out either before, during or after an inspection. You don’t want that.
Some teachers can become preoccupied about Ofsted and this can create a climate of anxiety and vulnerability across the school. Contrary to what many people think, Ofsted are not the enemy and they aren’t out to ruin anyone’s career. They are well aware that many teachers feel inspections are a source of stress due to added workload although Ofsted themselves recognise that part of this is driven internally by SLT.
Put on a show
Don’t go out of your way to do something special and perform party tricks. Ofsted have to see the real picture and they know when they are looking at the Greatest Showman. It’s no use putting on a front to be the star of stage for the 15 minutes someone will come and see you because this isn’t a true depiction of who you are. Teachers always need to be themselves as much as they can be because children will smell a rat and soon ‘dob you in’ if you aren’t.
An inspection is never a ‘normal’ experience but if you can be as true to yourself as possible then you will be more in control. Forget buzzwords and over-trying, just teach.
Believe the hype
There are various urban myths and ludicrous legends about what the Ofsted experience is like and what inspectors will be looking for. Quite frankly, these tall and toxic tales have discredited Ofsted, fuelled fear and caused moral panics.
It’s definitely worth taking a look at the previous myth-busting advice Ofsted have produced to quash rumours and help restore some normality to the process. They present the folklores and the facts so teachers can root their thoughts in reality. Their latest blog is to help bust the ‘intent’ myth associated with the curriculum and quality of education judgement.
You will already be ready. Your evidence will already be there. Ofsted are quite clear about not spending disproportionate amounts of time ‘getting Ofsted ready’.
Inspections can cause countless hours of needless, extra work if people start pressing panic buttons. Remember, Ofsted does not require teachers to undertake additional work, nor does it ask pupils to undertake work specifically for an inspection. Instead, take the time you would have spent worrying and focus on your wellbeing.
Fret about data
Data is not king. The new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) moves away from data-driven accountability as this can distort children’s long-term learning. This means you don’t need to drown yourself and your pupils in targets. Ofsted are keen to move away from schools being exam-factories and teaching to the test.
Classroom teachers should not be data managers and Ofsted don’t expect them to be. Ofsted realise that school data can be an unreliable indicator so their job is to focus on what matters for pupils’ education, drawing on a range of evidence. That’s not to say data isn’t important as Ofsted will still consider the actions a school takes in response to whatever internal assessment information it has.
There is no point in looking at what happened to the school down the road after Ofsted had visited, expecting to pick-up some golden nuggets of wisdom and battle-scarred gems of guidance. Every inspection is unique and as Headteacher Michael Tidd says, “It’s a fool’s errand to try to use other schools’ experiences of Ofsted to prepare for your own”.
He makes the very valuable point that if we get bogged down with what Ofsted are looking for elsewhere and think we have to be doing the same, then there is a chance that schools could miss something highly relevant on their own turf. And they do. Schools need to do their own calculations.
Pay for consultants
There are many people eager to exploit a school’s fear and vulnerability when it comes to preparing for Ofsted and this is wrong. Schools don’t have to buy someone in to tell them what to do. Don’t waste your precious money on snake oil.
So, what can you do?
Inspection is a team-effort and everyone can do their bit by being on the same page and following the same path, as under the new framework there will be a real emphasis on triangulation between leaders, teachers and students.
No one expects a class teacher to read the new EIF from cover to cover and senior leaders shouldn’t be asking staff to.
"All learners should have a broad
and balanced curriculum"
Being inspection savvy is something for senior leaders to focus on and share with their team but that doesn’t mean they should be relied on for everything.
The main focus of inspections now is on the substance of education – the curriculum and what pupils are actually receiving day-by-day in classes. All learners should have a broad and balanced curriculum. Ofsted take a holistic approach to assessing education by combining a consideration of curriculum, pedagogy and outcomes.
What are Ofsted inspectors looking for?
When evaluating the quality of education inspectors will focus on intent (what is intended to be learned), implementation (how well the curriculum is taught and assessed), and the impact of the curriculum on learners.
Therefore, what matters is whether middle leaders and senior leaders are able to show that they have built a curriculum with appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing, and are able to show that it has been implemented effectively. If they have, then inspectors will assess a school’s curriculum favourably.
"What matters is ... a curriculum with appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing, and ... that it has been implemented effectively"
From a classroom teacher’s point of view, this means doing what you have always done because inspectors will look for evidence that the curriculum is adapted, designed and developed to be ambitious and meet the needs of all learners, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The vast majority of teachers do this instinctively as it is part and parcel of being an inclusive professional committed to high-quality teaching for all.
From an implementation point of view this means identifying pupil misconceptions and providing clear and direct feedback again, this is good practice. Also, teachers should not fear ‘deep dives’, instead they should listen carefully to their subject leaders on how best to support them.
Get clued up
Do what you normally do (yes, really) but be clued up and in the know - something you’d do anyway as part of your own professional development. That means looking at what the most up-to-date Ofsted inspection guidance is and taking an occasional dip into the Ofsted website. This will reassure you rather than panic you and believe it or not, there is actually some good content on there.
The new framework is intended to be supportive and recognises the professionalism of teachers in providing good quality education for all pupils.
"Do what you normally do (yes, really) but be clued up and in the know"
As a teacher, inspection is always a subjective experience. You can have a really good one or a really bad one but so many factors feed into what happens on the day. For those that have been through the new inspection system, then reports have included a range of responses from “brutal”, “intense” and “more rigorous” to “robust”, “definitely better” and “a much more thorough and fair process”.
Ofsted can be a positive experience and it’s good to hear that schools are “refreshed at the quality of professional dialogue” they’re able to have with inspectors, where the focus isn’t on accountability but on responsibility. It suggests that this new framework is a step in the right direction.
However, with all being said, it's worth mentioning that an inspection is also just a moment in time which provides a snapshot into your school, and that’s well worth remembering.