In his keynote speech at ResearchEd Durrington yesterday, Prof Daniel Muijs set out the rationale for the new Ofsted framework and expanded on the detail of how it will work in practice. Currently in draft form, the framework will be published in May and implementation will start in September. As expected, Prof Muijs strongly underlined the key role that subject leads will play in the new inspection framework with its heavy emphasis on curriculum and reduced focus on internal data. (Though it is worth noting that he warned that the final decision on whether to take internal data into account has not yet been made.)
The accountability system has moved us away from the substance of education, Prof Mujis admitted, pointing out that overfocusing on data and teaching to the test, have particularly impacted on disadvantaged pupils. The corrective, Ofsted believes, is to put the curriculum at the heart of what matters and this is what the new inspection system is designed to achieve.
What does this mean in terms of how schools are judged?
First of all, there will be an overall judgment on quality of education that replaces the two separate categories of teaching, learning and assessment and outcomes. Alongside this sit three other categories: behaviour and attitude, personal development and leadership and management. The shift in focus from the current four categories is clear: personal development has been separated out from behaviour and attitude and linked more closely to curriculum opportunities.
This, claims Prof Muijs, will represent the most evidence-based inspection framework ever. He outlined the process Ofsted went through to arrive at the framework, starting with a literature review that informed the development of the new criteria followed by three big research projects focusing on educational effectiveness, curriculum and observation.
Speaking about observation, he admitted that the rise of the dreaded ‘Ofsted’ lesson was an unintended negative consequence of the previous inspection framework and emphasized that inspectors would have rigorous and thorough training in the new framework to avoid a similar situation arising from the new inspection structure.
So what is the new inspection going to feel like on the ground?
Although Ofsted used 25 key curriculum indicators to work from in the initial research phase, Prof Muijs was keen to stress that these will not be used in inspections, in order to avoid creating a ticklist culture. Inspectors are to be thoroughly trained in the research base behind the new model so that they understand why as well as what they are looking for. An ambitious curriculum that focuses on depth of knowledge, strong subject knowledge among subject leaders, effective curriculum planning and ensuring that all pupils can access the curriculum are the key factors for schools to focus on.
After extensive testing of different models of lesson observation and work scrutiny, the new model of observation will be unveiled next month. Prof Muijs emphasized Ofsted’s recognition that context is vital and that it is impossible to come to a judgement about a lesson without speaking to the teacher about their intention. He also confirmed that lessons would not be considered in isolation, but as part of a sequence and that there would be no return to the grading of individual lessons.
One much discussed aspect of the new framework is the pivotal role that work scrutinies will play in the judgement of quality of education. Prof Muijs explained how pupil books would be used to help come to a judgment of how the curriculum is enacted in practice as evidence of what pupils are learning and not, he insisted, to look at progress made by individual children. Book looks will be contextualized through conversations with pupils, teachers and subject leads and not examined in isolation and the focus will be on evidence about how the curriculum is being delivered.
Book scrutinies will form a crucial part of the socalled ‘deep dive’ approach to inspection, which will see inspectors focusing on between three and six subjects in detail, starting with indepth conversations with subject leads about curriculum before looking at four to five lessons to see its implementations and then speaking to pupils and teachers in a process of triangulation. Although it has been widely reported that Ofsted will no longer be looking at internal data, Prof Muijs emphasized that that decision has not yet been made. However, he reaffirmed that looking at pupils’ work will not be used to judge internal progress because of the unintended consequences that has had. Instead, he said, progression should be built into the curriculum model and the books should show evidence that the curriculum is being followed.
Overall, it was a fascinating and very encouraging insight into the detail behind the development of the new framework.