ASCL response to Ofsted’s new inspection framework

16 January 2019

Commenting on Ofsted’s new draft inspection framework, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Ofsted’s new inspection regime is a major change which will see inspections focus more on the quality of the curriculum taught in schools and less on test and exam results. This is a step in the right direction and it should restore some badly needed balance to a system which has become far too dominated by the government’s soul-destroying fixation on grades and data.

“By the same token, however, Ofsted needs to understand the pressures under which schools are operating. Its proposal to judge leaders on how well they manage teacher workload is laudable in its intention, but inspectors will need to take into account the fact that workload is often driven by external factors such as government reforms to exams and the curriculum, and a school funding crisis which is driving up class sizes and thus generating more work for teachers in charge of those classes.

“Similarly, Ofsted is right to scrutinise the use of exclusions, whether external or internal, but it also has to appreciate that the severe funding pressures under which schools are operating make it difficult to provide the early intervention which prevents challenging behaviour escalating to the point of exclusion.

“Ofsted also plans to ask questions of schools operating a shorter Key Stage 3 in the early years of secondary school to ensure they are still teaching a broad range of subjects. This must be a conversation rather than a rush to judgement. Schools may feel they need to teach a shorter Key Stage 3 because new reformed GCSEs contain so much content that a longer Key Stage 4 is necessary in order to deliver them.

“Unfortunately, the inspectorate’s plan to judge a school’s curriculum partly on how well it is preparing to achieve the government’s ‘ambition’ of 90% of pupils taking GCSEs in the EBacc suite of subjects is misconceived. This target is unachievable because there are nowhere near enough modern foreign language teachers in the system to teach that many pupils. It is nonsensical to judge schools on factors which are clearly outside their control and we will be pressing Ofsted to amend this section.

“The inspection framework also deals with the practice of ‘off-rolling’ whereby by parents are persuaded to withdraw their child from a school, and the ‘gaming’ of exams in which pupils are entered for qualifications which are not in their best interests but may improve the school’s results in performance tables. The vast majority of school leaders will wholeheartedly support any action to prevent off-rolling and gaming. These are unacceptable practices, which shouldn’t happen and don’t do so in most schools.”