In 2019 Ofsted introduced a new Education Inspection Framework (EIF), which placed a greater focus on the ‘substance of education’: the curriculum. This is reflected in the Quality of Education judgement. Inspections were suspended between February 2020 and September 2021 due to the pandemic. During that time Ofsted published its report into sexual abuse and harassment, and carried out additional visits to understand the impact of the pandemic on schools and colleges.
Inspections resumed in summer 2021, with the timeline expediated so that all schools and colleges will receive an inspection by summer 2025. Since 2019, Ofsted has begun carrying out MAT Summary Evaluations, to understand the effectiveness of multi-academy trusts, although these are not graded and MATs do not have to engage with them.
The process of appointing a new HMCI is currently underway. At the same time, the government’s white paper Opportunity for All proposed substantial changes to the school system, which would have implications for both inspection and regulation. This provides an opportunity to think differently about inspection in the future.
The case for change
Any policy change in education should be approached cautiously; incremental change is often more effective and less disruptive than radical overhauls to the system. In this paper, we acknowledge that there is an ongoing need for an independent inspectorate, and that many aspects of the EIF are very positive.
However, the implementation of the EIF has been flawed. Too many school and college leaders feel that the framework allows for overly subjective judgements to be made, that the quality of inspection teams is too variable, and that inspection activity sometimes goes beyond that set out in the handbook.
ASCL is concerned that Ofsted is losing the trust of the profession. Moreover, Ofsted’s public response to these challenges has not always been as helpful or constructive as it could have been.
We think that implementing the immediate actions proposed below could help rebuild trust in the short term. This could then be carefully followed up with some more substantive longer-term changes, also set out below.
About this paper and these proposals
This paper is intended to support discussion about the future of inspection, and is drawn from the views of ASCL Council – ASCL’s policymaking body. We hope it will be a useful contribution to the dialogue for policymaking now and in the future.
The recommendations in this discussion paper are offered for comment, critique and stress-testing. They do not yet represent formal ASCL policy. We hope that school and college leaders, policymakers, the inspectorate and other stakeholders will engage proactively with the ideas set out here.
We hope this discussion paper is a useful contribution to the ongoing debate around inspection and accountability.
ASCL welcomes the views of school and college leaders, policymakers, the inspectorate and other stakeholders on these proposals.
We would be delighted to work with government and the inspectorate on implementing these proposals.
ASCL will be actively seeking views on the future of inspection throughout 2023. To share your views on this paper, or offer an alternative perspective on inspection, please email email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you.