6 The future direction of inspection
The need for clarity
112. The recently-published White Paper The
Importance of Teaching lays out the Department for Education's
broad policy concerning schools inspection. Whilst we do broadly
welcome the direction of travel laid out by the White Paper and,
as shall be seen, agree with some of its key proposals, its complete
non-mention of the majority of Ofsted's remit does provide us
with considerable cause for concern. We appreciate absolutely
that The Importance of Teaching is a schools-centred document;
nonetheless, we cannot help but agree with Sir Paul Ennals' comments
at the last National Children's Bureau annual conference:
Virtually nothing on early education, on extended
services, on promoting wellbeing, on supporting families. The
vision is fine as far as it goesbut our vision is wider.
Ours is a vision of schools at the heart of their communities,
meeting the diverse needs of children and families...
More specifically, Kate Groucutt of the Daycare Trust
reiterated to the Committee that the children's sector would "certainly
welcome clarification" on "whether the arrangements
announced for schools will also apply to early years."
113. Attempts by the Committee to clarify the
position have so far borne little fruit. The Committee Chair asked
a written question of Department for Education ministers on whether
the cessation of inspection for outstanding schools would apply
to other settings, and was told in response that "consideration
is currently being given to the appropriateness of extending the
principle... to other areas of Ofsted's remit."
Tim Loughton MP, the responsible Minister, told us in his oral
evidence that "it would [be] inappropriate for us to say
definitively what we were going to do" until the Munro Review
had been published.
114. We believe the Government
needs to articulate, as clearly as it has explained its inspection
policy for schools, its plans for the other settings currently
inspected by Ofsted. The current focus on schools in Department
for Education pronouncements on Ofsted alone does not reflect
or respect the breadth of the inspectorate's influence, or show
enough concern for the many settings which are not schools and
which are understandably keen to know how their inspection arrangements
are likely to change. This is particularly
important in light of our earlier recommendation to split Ofsted,
in which case some early steers for the Children's Care Inspectorate
would be welcome.
Cessation of inspection for outstanding
115. The Importance of Teaching
advocates a "highly proportionate approach to inspection",
with more focus on lower-performing schools and cessation of routine
inspection of schools and colleges previous judged to be outstanding.
Subject to legislation, this exemption will apply to primary and
secondary schools, and sixth-form colleges, from autumn 2011,
although the White Paper also announces the Government's intention
to extend this to special schools and Pupil Referral Units. Ofsted
and the Government will work together to develop triggers for
116. Broadly, however, the inspectors we took
evidence from were against the policy of no inspection for outstanding
schools. We were told that heads of those schools "want to
be inspected and held to account", and that this view had
been shared with inspectors. More frequently raised was a concern
that "schools can change almost overnight" and that
outstanding grades do not therefore 'stick' even from one inspection
to another. This is supported by Ofsted's own statement in the
2009-10 Chief Inspector's report:
55% of the 220 schools previously judged outstanding
and reinspected on the basis of risk were no longer outstanding
in their inspection this year.
Furthermore, as one inspector pointed out to us,
many outstanding schools do well "because of the high ability
and motivation of the students" rather than "as a result
of the high quality of provision and teaching". With a new
proposed framework focussing more than ever on the quality of
teaching, that evidence is enough to give pause for thought over
the complete cessation of inspection for outstanding schools.
117. A number of inspectors also shared concerns
voiced by Professor Tony Kelly in his oral evidence:
I am not sure good schools need to be inspected,
but I think all schools need good schools to be inspected... The
system needs to know where its leading edge is, as what the good
schools are doing can be replicated across the system... the inspectorate
and the practitioners themselves [need to] know what the leading
edge is doing.
One inspector told us that "inspectors themselves
benefit from seeing the best possible practice to disseminate
to others", and another queried how inspectors would "now
identify where current best practice is located" if
the best schools were not routinely visited. Professor Chris Husbands,
now Director of the Institute of Education, was clear that "one
consequence of outstanding schools and colleges not being inspected
is that we will know considerably less about what is happening
in the best parts of the system than we have known over the past
118. We support the cessation
of inspection for outstanding schools. We feel that schools should
be encouraged to achieve higher levels of performance and then
depend on self-evaluation and partnership with other schools as
the key drivers to maintain and further improve performance. We
disagree with inspectors that knowledge of current best practice
will be lost: the inspectorate can still gain and disseminate
this through, for example, its surveys and subject reports. These,
in turn, will ensure inspectors can stay in touch with best practice
across the country and maintain sight of the benchmark of high
performance. However if there are signs that performance standards
are not being maintained at a school, or if there is a major management
change, there should be a trigger mechanism to bring forward inspections
at the school schoolnot just, as proposed in The
Importance of Teaching, for special schools and PRUs
but for all educational institutions. We have heard that such
considerations do in any case influence inspection scheduling,
but recommend formalising the triggers, so that parents can be
assured the new regime will not lead to any school missing out
on the attention it needs. Such triggers may include, for example,
a material change in exam results, a change of head, a spike in
the number of exclusions, or a major increase in staff turnover.
Differentiation of grading for
119. Currently, Ofsted inspections commonly result
in one of four grades: outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate.
The Committee heard substantial evidence arguing for a new, fifth,
grade to be used in Ofsted judgments. Although a few witnesses,
such as the Fostering Network, felt that there was little benefit
in a new gradeas agencies should be focussed on getting
"good" or "outstanding" onlythe
majority of witnesses questioned on this issue were supportive.
Lesley Gannon, Assistant Secretary of the National Association
of Head Teachers, told us that the "immediate preference"
of her members was for a fifth grade:
It is about splitting that position between "satisfactory",
"inadequate" and "good". There is not enough
fine grading. When you have an even number, a divide tends to
be put somewhere where it does not necessarily lie.
Lord Sutherland, the first head of Ofsted, argued
even more strongly for the grade to be between "satisfactory"
There should be something above failing, above special
measures, but that implies there is room for manoeuvre.
Eleanor Schooling, Director of Children's Services
in Islington, agreed that a fifth grade would bring benefits for
schools if placed as Lord Sutherland argued:
To differentiate between somebody who is stuck and
somebody who is improving, who may have quite similar outcomes
in all other respects, is very important. If an institution...
is starting to make progress and make inroads into the issues
and has the capacity, that needs to be described differently from
somebody who may still not be achieving good enough standards
and is not doing anything about it.
120. The three Regional Inspection Service Providerswho
submitted written evidence togetherwent furthest in suggesting
that pressure be put specifically on schools which have been consistently
graded "satisfactory" and show little sign of improvement.
They pointed out to us that "a failing school is expected
to make progress with 12 months - there is no such time pressure
on schools that have remained grindingly satisfactory year on
121. We agree with the witnesses and are therefore
supportive of the White Paper's statement on these issues of grading:
Ofsted will differentiate within the broad "satisfactory"
category, between schools which are improving and have good capacity
to improve further, and schools which are stuck. Schools which
are satisfactory but making little progress will be more likely
to receive a monitoring visit from Ofsted within the next year,
and may be judged inadequate if they have not improved.
122. The Committee welcomes
the Government's decision to divide the 'satisfactory' grade in
two, and the extra monitoring for "stuck" schools, but
recommends that specific criteria are developed to suggest why
a school might be placed in either category (for example, how
long a school need be "satisfactory" before it is considered
"stuck"), and how the lower of the two grades differs
from "inadequate". The categories need to be clearly
named to differentiate between them. A similar fifth grade should
be developed for "stuck at satisfactory" providers other
New framework for school inspections
123. The new Coalition Government has made very
clear its views on the framework for school inspections:
The current Ofsted framework inspects schools against
27 headingsmany reflecting previous government initiatives.
In place of this framework, Ofsted will consult on a new framework
with a clear focus on just four thingspupil achievement,
the quality of teaching, leadership and management, and the behaviour
and safety of pupils... It will allow inspectors to get back to
spending more of their time observing lessons, giving a more reliable
assessment of the quality of education children are receiving.
124. Evidence taken for this inquiry suggests
that the proposed new framework is broadly welcomed by inspectors.
Ofsted's own Trade Union Side wrote to us that
The current framework has become too complex and...
imposed a level of prescription which is not helpful. A tighter
focus on fewer judgments... will give inspectors more time to
engage in extended dialogue with teachers and school leaders...
125. The teacher leader unions were a little
more hesitant in accepting the new framework, although the National
Association of Head Teachers acknowledged that the categories
are the right ones to have "in the foreground".
However, the NAHT went on to state that " it very much depends
on how those four areas are defined, and the details behind it."
The Association of School and College Leaders agreed, posing several
specific questions for Government to answer:
We are not quite sure what behaviour and safety will
encompass... Does it include safeguarding? Would that come under
leadership and management? What will the definition of behaviour
be? What will be looked at?
The ASCL also argued that four areas could rapidly
expand, asking "whether it will be only four areas, or whether
other things will be included where there is a statutory obligation
to look at it."
Other questions around precisely what would be included in the
new frameworkand, crucially, the guidance given to inspectorsincluded
take-up of Free School Meals and breakfast clubs and other healthy
eating initiatives, which can "be assessed as indications
of a school's commitment to disadvantaged children."
In the leadership and management category, it is not clear the
extent to which that will include the performance of governors.
The National Governors Association suggested to us that "governance
is not always adequately covered or more importantly understood
which is at odds with the Government's stated desire (in the White
Paper) to raise the status of school governors.
126. The Committee heard a variety of evidence
on the concept of 'limiting judgments'. These are the grades given
to schools for three categoriesattainment, safeguarding,
and equality and diversityand which have a limiting effect
on the overall grade given to the institution. In our first evidence
session, former Chief Inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson said they have
"not been a particularly good innovation",
and David Sherlock agreed that they are "unfortunate".
However, several inspectors argued, in response to our questionnaire,
in favour of the limiting judgments, with one stating that they
are "absolutely right" and asking "How can a school
be performing well without these three factors being taken into
127. The Committee believes
that a slimmer framework for schools inspection is the right,
and mature, way to go. However, we agree with witnesses that clarity
is needed on precisely what the four categories will include,
and we strongly support the recently-launched consultation.
We similarly suggest that the leadership and management category
makes specific reference to the performance of governors in scrutinising
a school as well as the effectiveness of performance within it.
We also welcome the new framework's focus on observation: inspectors,
if they are highly-qualified and well-trained, should have time
to observe practice and form professional opinions rather than
focus on scrutinising data against a large number of separate
128. If schools are inspected
against only four categoriesand assuming a school's commitment
to safeguarding its pupils is covered under the new 'behaviour
and safety' or 'leadership and management' headingswe fail
to see the continued need for limiting judgments, and therefore
recommend that these are abandoned once the new school inspection
framework is in place.
The Self-Evaluation Form
129. The Importance of Teaching
announces the Government's intention to make the existing Self-Evaluation
Form (SEF) non-compulsory for schools:
The new framework will not require schools to have
completed a self evaluation form, allowing governing bodies and
head teachers to choose for themselves how to evaluate their work.
Some concerns were expressed to the Committee about
this proposal. Lord Sutherland told us that "a decent governing
body" would hold a school to account for that information
anyway, but we are concerned that that presumes too much about
the consistency of governors' scrutiny of schools' self-evaluation
across the country. The National Governors' Association itself
"is concerned that the abolition of the SEF will lead to
a deterioration in the quality of school self-evaluation... [and]
believes... that there should be a generic self-evaluation form
However, the NGA did acknowledge that elements of the current
SEF are "too long and bureaucratic",
whilst Tony Kelly argued that the abolition is "neither here
nor there, because good schools self-evaluate" and that inspectors
should examine "the extent to which schools are self-evaluating".
130. We agree with the Government
that the less teachers are constrained by bureaucracy, the better.
However, we recommend that the inspectorate continues to publish
a simplified Self-Evaluation Form, albeit non-obligatory, and
to make itand guidance on good evaluationeasily
available to heads and governors.
Measuring progression and attainment
131. The Committee was heartened to hear the
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools emphasise that
attainment is not the only measure of a school's success:
Children come in different shapes and sizes and schools
have different intakes, and to judge solely on the basis of attainment
when children come from a range of different prior achievements
does not seem to be a very subtle measurement of how the school
We were similarly encouraged to read, in the Chief
Inspector's most recent Annual Report, that a school's role in
progressing its pupils was considered by Ofsted:
Low attainment alone does not prevent schools from
being judged as good. Furthermore, in 15% of primary schools and
20% of secondary schools judged to be outstanding overall, attainment
was broadly average... Typically, their pupils make good or outstanding
progress from their low attainment at entry.
Similarly, the Chief Inspector has written that pupil
progress is already treated more importantly than attainment alone:
I want to make it clear that the driving factor in
determining a school's effectiveness is the difference it is making
for its pupils, not raw exam results.
132. This approach could, perhaps, be seen as
at odds with the Government's intention to raise the 'floor standard'
for schools, as well as the introduction of the English Baccalaureate,
both of which highlight further a school's performance based on
exam results. However, Lord Hill explained to us that the English
Baccalaureate is "separate from the Ofsted process... it
is another light that shows us how schools are doing."
He argued that "you need to have progression, but you also
need to see how children are doing in terms of whether they are
getting some qualifications at the end of it."
133. The Government has also announced its intention
to abolish the existing 'contextual value added' measure:
The measure is difficult for the public to understand,
and recent research shows it to be a less strong predictor of
success than raw attainment measures. It also has the effect of
expecting different levels of progress from different groups of
pupils on the basis of their ethnic background, or family circumstances,
which we think is wrong in principle.
134. The Committee supports
more publicly available information on schools, including more
comprehensive attainment tables. We think it is essential that
the inspectorate prioritises its reporting on efforts made for,
and progress made by, pupils across the full range of ability
groups (including both those in the very highest or 'gifted and
talented' group, and those with the lowest incoming test scores
or assessment), and those with special educational needs. The
Department should seek to give these progress measures prominence
comparable to other key measures such as 'five good GCSEs' and
the new English Baccalaureate.
168 Reported in Children and Young People Now,
30 November 2010 Back
Q 336 Back
HC Deb, 1 March 2011, col. 347W Back
Professor Eileen Munro was commissioned in June 2010, by the Secretary
of State for Education, to conduct an independent review into
children's social work and frontline child protection practice. Back
See paragraph 6.21 of The Importance of Teaching-The Schools
White Paper 2010 Back
Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's
Services and Skills 2009-10, p. 31 Back
Q 88 and Q 89 Back
There are some exceptions to this basic grading structure. For
example, between 1 October 2010 to 28 February 2011, an interim
framework was in use for inspections of CAFCASS, where one of
three grades was awarded: 'good progress', 'satisfactory progress',
and 'inadequate progress'. That interim framework can be found
Similarly, some inspection judgments are not graded. For example,
unannounced inspections of contact, referral and assessment for
children in need and children who may be in need of protection
do not result in a graded judgment, but rather in a letter to
the relevant Director of Children's Services outlining the inspectors'
findings. More information can be viewed at http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/Forms-and-guidance/Browse-all-by/Other/General/Unannounced-inspections-of-contact-referral-and-assessment-from-1-September-2010 Back
See Q 311 Back
Q 157 Back
Q 33 Back
Q 287 Back
Ev 129 Back
The Importance of Teaching-The Schools White Paper 2010,
para 6.22 Back
Idem., paras 6.18-6.19 Back
Ev w68 Back
Q 156 Back
Q 155 and Q 156 Back
Q 155 Back
Ev w143 Back
Ev 122 Back
Q 58 Back
Ofsted launched a consultation on changes to school inspection
on 21 March 2011. See http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/News/News-Archive/2011/March/Ofsted-launches-consultation-on-changes-to-school-inspection-in-England
for more information Back
The Importance of Teaching-The Schools White Paper 2010,
para 6.19 Back
Ev 122 Back
Q 108 Back
Q 458 Back
Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Skills
and Children's Services 2009-10, p. 39 Back
Christine Gilbert, HMCI, in a letter to The Times ('It
is important to look beyond exam results'), 9 June
Q 461 Back
Q 460 Back
The Importance of Teaching-The Schools White Paper 2010,
p. 68 Back