It’s been some week of course, but for education the big news of the week has been the launch from Ofsted of its long-awaited proposals for a new inspection framework. In launching it, the Chief Inspector singled out two defining words, ‘substance and integrity,’ intended to set the focus if not the tone of the proposals.
Elsewhere this week, the Commons Education Committee held the Education Secretary to account and continued its Inquiry into Special Educational Needs. In higher education, two interesting reports were published, stories continued to circulate about what might come out of the forthcoming post-18 review, and one university announced a 3-day digital detox to help student well-being. On the skills front, the government launched its new apprenticeship campaign, the Skills Minister addressed the Sixth Form Colleges Association Winter Conference and providers were invited to apply for the next wave of T level provision due to start in 2021, while for schools tiered GCSEs and mobile phones have both been among the topics in the news this week.
But back to the main story and Ofsted’s proposed new inspection framework. At the heart of the proposals, which have been in gestation for some time, is a renewed emphasis on the curriculum, something that Ofsted believes has been missing in action from inspections for some time. The curriculum provides the heart beat for so much important activity in schools and colleges and Ofsted is keen to restore it to its central place. That’s not to say outcomes don’t matter or that there’s a special Ofsted style model curriculum rather that this is a classic area where those key words ‘substance’ and ‘integrity’ need to apply.
Quality of education, the umbrella term for the curriculum, therefore becomes one of the new measures in the new four-point scale along with the previous leadership and management and the two now separated measures of personal development, and behaviour and attitudes respectively. The thinking behind all of these can be found in the accompanying research commentary which many will find useful as they consider their response over the coming weeks and which Ofsted claims help make this the ‘most evidence-based, research-informed and tested framework in its 26 year history.’
Reactions to the proposals have been pretty much as Ofsted might have expected. For schools, ASCL’s Geoff Barton saw them as ‘a step in the right direction’ though he detected a continuing ‘finger-wagging’ tone on matters such as KS3, off-rolling and workloads, and challenged the continued emphasis on the EBacc. For colleges, the AoC equally welcomed aspects such as the renewed emphasis on the curriculum but had continuing queries about for example the experience of inspectors in dealing with some sector work-based activity and the nature of multi-site reporting. The consultation remains open until 5 April 2019.