I was delighted to host a Q&A with Ofsted's National Director Sean Harford this week at BESA (British Educational Supplier's Association), to explore the new Inspection Framework for England which comes into effect from September.
The slides from the day can be accessed here, and I'll add the recording of the day too once available, so do check back.
The new Inspection Handbook for Schools itself can be found here.
It wont have escaped anyone's attention that Ofsted's new focus is on a school's curriculum, with the education world already falling over itself to serve up curriculum content. The Chartered College of Teaching's latest 'Impact' Journal leads with Curriculum, and not to be outdone, the TES is currently in the middle of a 3-issue Curriculum special.
Amanda Speilman has been very clear to say that teachers shouldn't be spending their whole summer working up a new curriculum for Ofsted, so what is it they expect?
In Sean's talk he was at great pains to explain the idea behind the new focus is to to address the narrowing of the curriculum to the core - examined - subjects, and to push back against the the temptation for schools to focus disproportionate time coaching children for exams.
The prize is a well-structured curriculum which is well thought through, with clear intent (the latest buzzword, expect to hear this a lot!) and critically that teaching is supporting the intention of the school's curriculum.
There is no prescription for the content or design of the curriculum itself. It's perfectly acceptable for schools to design their own, or use commercially produced frameworks, (or of course in the case of Learning Ladders have the best of both).
Critically, there will be an expectation from Ofsted that school's review and evaluate their curriculum, making appropriate changes where necessary. For Learning Ladders schools our curriculum analytics tools within 'Insights' make that process simple and evidence-informed, and so this new expectation can easily be addressed.
The second noticeable focus of the new framework is the explicit directive that inspectors will no longer look at school's internal assessment data in the way they have done previously.
This is borne of a recognition that the unintended consequence of the previous framework was the mass production of data for the sole purpose of showing inspectors. The dreaded end of term email from SMT instructing staff they need the 'data dump', leading to long evenings entering pointless data into 'trackers', which is largely faked and has no impact upon the learning of children.
Again, this is something that we've been rallying against since we launched.
"Data to improve, not to prove"
The issue here comes back to the fundamental confusion between formative assessment (responsive teaching, whatever you want to label it) and tracking.
Tracking is simply entering data into software, and doing nothing with it beyond producing lots of graphs.
Formative assessment is the lifeblood of good teaching. You can't teach if you don't assess as you go.
I asked Sean whether he feared by telling schools that Inspectors wont look at internal data that they will stop formative assessment, and stop using internal data, and he was unequivocal in saying that's exactly not the intention or expectation.
What Ofsted are interested in is to see how the school is using internal assessment data to improve, but they will not be poring over the data itself in the way they have previously. They recognise that as soon as Inspectors look at the data, that act in itself means the data is manipulated for the Inspectors, not kept real to be useful for teaching and learning (2 sub-levels progress every year anyone?), and the whole point is lost.
Ofsted want to see that assessment data is being used to improve, not to prove. So a new lease of life for proportionate useful data, and hopefully the death of pointless data-entry.
Overall it was a really illuminating session. The key take-away was one of common sense. If your school is gaming data to prove unrealistic (or false) progress, or overly focussing on core subjects to the detriment of others, then the new framework will find you out.
If your school has a well designed curriculum, that's been personalised to the needs of your pupils and is executed well in class, if you're engaging children in their own learning (and their parents), using teacher assessments properly to inform responsive teaching in the moment, and make improvements to you curriculum in the longer-term, then the new inspection framework will suit you just perfectly.
Pretty much the Learning Ladders way.
So it looks like you can enjoy your summer holiday after all.
Matt is the CEO of Learning Ladders and a former school teacher.