Progress reports

17 March 2016

Leader logoMarie Cordey highlights the trends emerging from Ofsted full and short inspections since the new framework was introduced last September.

Ofsted has carried out fewer inspections at secondary schools than usual since the new inspection framework was introduced in September 2015, according to our review of the data.

There were more than 300 secondary inspections and monitoring visits during the autumn term, a significant reduction that can be attributed to the need to train inspectors in the new framework.

There were more than 150 monitoring visits for schools judged to be in a category of concern or requiring improvement, the single largest type of inspection activity. Eight unannounced inspections had no formal designation and were the result of a complaint to Ofsted over issues around safeguarding, behaviour, welfare or, in one case, above-average numbers of exclusions. In almost all cases complaints were not upheld.

At just over a 100, full Section 5 inspections outweigh the number of short Section 8 inspections. However, these numbers include about 20 short inspections that were converted to full two-day inspections, mostly because there was insufficient evidence to make a judgement.

Of previously ‘good’ schools inspected, more than 20 remained ‘good’ while approximately 16 were judged to ‘require improvement’. A couple moved from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ and apparently one school moved from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’. There are far more inspections taking place this spring term.

Judgements from Section 5 inspections
Judgements were spread across the categories with, approximately:

  • 15 outstanding

  • 48 – almost a half – good

  • 36 requiring improvement

  • 8 inadequate

An interesting point is the number of inspection judgements that upgraded the school’s effectiveness. For instance, a significant proportion, approximately 17, moved from ‘requiring  improvement’ to ‘good’ and a small number, approximately 4, moved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’. A  very small number, approximately 2, went from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’.

Themes in reports
The recurring themes in inspections last term centred on assessment, especially ’life after levels’; teaching, learning and outcomes for groups of pupils, especially the disadvantaged and most able pupils; attendance for disadvantaged pupils; and governance.

Although Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate (HMCI) appeared to want more consistency between judgements, some reports include higher grades for leadership and management even if the teaching, learning and assessment judgement is lower. In their school self-evaluation, headteachers may consider whether leadership may be judged to be better than, say, the quality of teaching, if other aspects of the school are stronger. In most cases, when leadership and management are a higher grade it is linked to personal development, behaviour and welfare or another phase, for instance the sixth form.

There are many comments in reports about the impact of leadership and management in creating a culture of respect and good preparation for the next stage in pupils’ learning. There is much emphasis in outstanding schools on the impact of leadership and management in improving other institutions.

‘Over-generous’ assessments of teaching are referred to when schools do not take sufficient account of the progress made by pupils over time, which is evident in inspections and monitoring visits.

The most-able pupils and disadvantaged pupils recur as areas for improvement and they are not just linked to outcomes and teaching but also, for example, the attendance of disadvantaged pupils.

There is continued emphasis on the importance of the headteacher or principal in schools, independent and maintained, academies and colleges, to transform a school’s effectiveness. In many cases where schools move from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’, the impact of leadership in transforming outcomes is made clear in inspection reports.

Points about changing or improving a school’s ethos and improving the effectiveness of teaching in order to hasten pupils’ progress is another recurring theme.

More emphasis on Key Stage 3 is reflected in some reports and on the curriculum and new assessment systems. ‘Detailed assessment frameworks’ to support the growth of pupils’ knowledge and academic ability are favourably commented upon.

There is very much more emphasis on the effectiveness of governance in almost all inspections. Areas for improvement tended to be framed around behaviour or/and the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, but not around leadership and management.

Conduct of the inspection
Marking and its effectiveness is referred to repeatedly in reports and visit letters. Evidence on assessment relates to the very different criteria in the new framework that centres on the school’s policy and not any preconceptions of what assessment should look like. Clear instructions to inspectors include not making reference to amounts of marking.

There are a number of clear expectations of inspectors in bold type in the Ofsted handbooks. They include instructions about not making assumptions, especially around assessment, school self-evaluation and lesson planning. It is emphasised that the school’s self-evaluation is a tool for the school, not fundamentally for inspection, and should be looked at accordingly.

As in previous frameworks, inspectors are expected to work with the school appropriately and to keep headteachers informed about emerging inspection findings.

ASCL PD events
The following ASCL Professional Development events may be of interest to leadership teams:

Ofsted Seminar: How to be Prepared for Inspection 10 May in London (www.ascl.org.uk/ofstedseminars)

Ofsted’s Guidance on Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare Half-day sessions on 19 May in Birmingham (www.ascl.org.uk/ofstedpdbehave)