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New Ofsted - 2 months in

Matt Koster-Marcon
Nov 12, 2019

For maintained schools in England, it's now been 2 months since the new Ofsted Inspection Framework went live. 

So, what have we learned from the new inspections so far?

Well it's very good news for schools who are focussed on their curriculum, great responsive teaching, and purposeful data.  

It’s not such good news for schools still using old fashioned tracking systems from the days of levels that just produce data with no pupil or parental interaction.


Early Inspection Reports

David Didau recently published a summary of insights from 11 Primary and 14 Secondary school inspections, using reports via Watchsted. For Primary he observed:

  • in the schools judged as Good or better, Ofsted note that the curriculum is logically sequenced and well-planned
  • these schools were also praised for the quality of their assessment
  • there are numerous references to teachers building on students’ prior knowledge, and students being unable to remember what they had been taught previously
  • all the early reports had a big focus on reading, and in particular phonics teaching
  • in ‘good’ schools, provision for children with SEND is often praised
  • there was not a single mention of marking in any of the reports

As you’d expect the reverse is true of schools judged as Requires Improvement, and in particular Didau notes for these schools:

  • the curriculum is viewed as disjointed or patchy
  • teachers are not building on student’s prior knowledge
  • schools are not teaching clearly sequenced phonics 
  • a poor curriculum is linked to poor teacher subject knowledge 


Is this what we expected?

In a word, yes.

Ofsted have pushed their new agenda very clearly under the banner of curriculum ‘Intent, Implementation, and Impact’ and so it’s no surprise to see such a focus on the curriculum (see our previous blog).

‘Intent’ is simply the school’s curriculum, ‘Implementation’ is how it’s taught and brought to life, and ‘Impact’ is the effect, and crucially what schools do when things don’t go to plan.

Schools need to show that they’ve really thought about what they want children to understand, and how they’re going to know when they do.  This is the bespoke curriculum approach that we’ve always championed at Learning Ladders (and for which we’ve already won awards from the UK Department for Education).

Teachers are still expected to show that they’re assessing how children are progressing against this curriculum, and that they are constantly making adjustments to their teaching based upon this detailed knowledge of individual children’s learning (our Insights in Learning Ladders).

Further still, these early reports signify far greater importance being placed by Ofsted upon children’s own recall and use of prior knowledge in building ongoing learning. This, for Learning Ladders schools, is the Learning Journey brought to life through the booklets, and the accompanying Structured Conversations between child and teacher.

In Summary

From what we’ve learned so far we can say simply that good schools (in our sense not the Ofsted sense) should stick to what they are already doing - they were always doing it for the children and not Ofsted anyway.

And for everyone else there are some key things to remember:

  • Be brave - do what you know is right for YOUR children
  • Don’t do anything just for Ofsted (even they say that!)
  • Curriculum design is key.  If that’s overwhelming then simply use one of our exemplar curricula as a starting point, which covers all subjects at Primary / EYFS
  • You cannot teach effectively without formative assessment (see Sam Hunter ‘Life after Levels’ for more on this)
  • Tracking is not assessment, so ditch the (data dumping) tracker
  • Ofsted don’t want to see your internal tracking data, but they DO want to see that your doing it and the impact of what you’re doing on learning
  • They want to see the actions taken as a result of your internal assessments

One final point…

Of course, the inevitable next step for this approach is the expectation that schools will review and evaluate their curriculum, and make changes based upon that. Can you do this in your current system?

This couldn’t be better news for schools who’ve adopted the Learning Ladders approach of continuous improvement. 

Ofsted are not quite there yet, but it’s reassuring to know that Learning Ladders schools will have been doing it for some time by the time they get there.

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