Ofsted To Ditch Focus On Exam Results When Inspecting Schools To 'Raise True Standards'

Emphasis on best teaching in update of standards.

School, nursery and college inspections could face a drastic overhaul as Ofsted looks to focus more on the best teaching and not just exam results achieved through cramming.

A look at the school curriculum and teaching environment could spell the end of top rewards for schools which achieve excellent exam results by teaching to the test.

It comes as research by the inspectorate found some schools, nurseries and colleges were gaming the system by giving frequent comprehension tests, or steering students towards exam subjects to boost results.

The education standards body is to crack down on schools which “off-roll” less able students, as it launched a consultation for its new proposals on Wednesday.

Schools which focus too narrowly on exam results could face consequences, while institutions with a great curriculum and teachers could be rated outstanding, even if they are in a tough area.

Ofsted says shifting the emphasis away from performance data will empower schools to always put the child first, and make sure they are given the best teaching possible.

“Creating a sufficiently disciplined environment is a prerequisite to any learning taking place,” the consultation says.

“If behaviour is not managed effectively and learners are not instilled with positive attitudes to learning, nothing much will be learned.”

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector

The change comes as Ofsted bosses acknowledged that although there aren’t the “terrible” examples of behaviour seen in schools some years back, increasing low-level disruption, such as passing notes and swinging chairs, has become the “bane of teachers’ lives”.

Ofsted’s national director for education, Sean Harford, said: “We want to really update the profile of behaviour.

“It is my personal opinion that if every child behaved in school that the standard would rocket up.”

Referring to a previous report Ofsted published on behaviour, he added: “And what it said effectively was, there aren’t the terrible examples as often as there were if you go back 15-20 years of behaviour.

“The problem now is more one about low level disruption – swinging on chairs, tapping when the teacher is talking, passing notes, whispering, mobile phones, you know getting distracted by electronic devices etc.

“That kind of thing is what has been on the rise, and is the bane of teachers’ lives.”

In the new framework outlined in a speech by Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, a separate behaviour judgment will assess whether schools are creating a calm, well-managed environment free from bullying.

While a personal development judgment will look at the work schools and colleges do to build young people’s resilience and confidence in later life – through work such as cadet forces, National Citizenship Service, sports, drama or debating teams.

The changes, if adopted, will come into effect from September 2019, and would take six years for all eligible schools to be inspected.

Launching the consultation in a speech to the Sixth Form Colleges Association on Wednesday, Spielman said: “The new quality of education judgment will look at how providers are deciding what to teach and why, how well they are doing it and whether it is leading to strong outcomes for young people.

“This will reward those who are ambitious and make sure that young people accumulate rich, well-connected knowledge and develop strong skills using this knowledge.

“This is all about raising true standards. Nothing is more pernicious to these than a culture of curriculum narrowing and teaching to the test.”

The ‘leadership and management’ judgment will remain, and will include looking at how leaders develop teachers and staff, while taking their workload and wellbeing into account.

The consultation on how Ofsted inspects schools, early years settings and further education and skills providers is open until April 4 this year.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “We have been working closely with Ofsted as it develops this new framework and will continue to do so to make sure we keep raising standards.

“Since I took this post a year ago I’ve made cutting down unnecessary and bureaucratic workload my top priority. Accountability is vital.

“But we know that perceptions of what Ofsted wants have unintentionally contributed to unnecessary workload – so the fact that this framework addresses this is a hugely positive step forward for all our schools.”


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