Inspection under the new Ofsted CIF

Written by: Suzanne O’Connell | Published:
A good school: Children at St Jude’s Catholic Primary School in Wigan, which was inspected recently under the new CIF (Photo: St Jude’s Catholic Primary School)

We have seen it on paper, but what does the new CIF – the Common Inspection Framework – mean in practice? Suzanne O’Connell speaks to Steve Barrand about his experiences of an Ofsted inspection in September 2015

St Jude’s Catholic Primary School in Wigan was ready for their inspection. They had already been judged satisfactory on two previous occasions and their last inspection result, in 2013, was requires improvement. They knew they had to rise out of this pattern soon and didn’t intend to leave anything to chance.

“We knew we had a good opportunity this time,” explained headteacher Steve Barrand, who was appointed in January 2012.

“The results had been improving since the last inspection so we had the external data to back us up. We were just hoping that there would be a little time to settle into the new term before they called.”

However, this wasn’t the case. St Jude’s was inspected on September 22, not long into the new school year or the new framework. Fortunately, Mr Barrand and St Jude’s had already been working on their priorities.

“We always put together our priorities on the return to school in September,” explained Mr Barrand. “I begin with some initial ideas that are discussed with staff and governors before being worked on by the senior leadership team. A draft document is then shared with staff before the final plan is produced.”

When the inspectors arrived, the improvement plan was already being discussed with the staff. This timing satisfied the inspectors.

In other respects too, the school was geared up to go. Everyone had their detailed data to hand and there was nothing that Mr Barrand and his senior leaders were asked for that took them by surprise. However, they did notice differences between the school’s last inspection and the new CIF.

Focus on safeguarding

“There was a lot more emphasis on safeguarding,” Mr Barrand told Headteacher Update. “They wanted to know about staff training and not only that they’d been trained but what the training had included. They wanted to know what documents staff had been given and what they were familiar with.”

The team of inspectors were particularly interested in the Prevent Duty and the training to raise awareness of this. As it happened, Mr Barrand was due to go on Prevent Duty training on the day of the inspection. This had to be called off, but inspectors could see that Mr Barrand had been booked in to go and that he’d already rescheduled it. “They could also see my plans for dissemination among staff and reference to Prevent in our policies,” he added.

St Jude’s attendance had been an area for development. A particular issue for them has been the implementation of measures to combat school-time holidays.

“They dug really deeply,” Mr Barrand said. “They wanted to know what we were doing about it and what the impact had been.”

Mr Barrand had recently employed a new pastoral manager and she was able to talk inspectors through the actions that the school was taking and the difference it was making.

The inspectors talked to the children a lot and wanted to know about how safe they felt. There was very close scrutiny of a social care case study. Mr Barrand and his team hadn’t prepared for this but were asked for it by the inspectors. Fortunately they had kept very good records.

“This is so important,” Mr Barrand added. “You need to have everything that you’ve done written down and recorded. They scrutinised very carefully how we had handled referrals and concerns.

“They wanted to know when the child arrived, how social care was involved and what the external agencies did.”
The inspectors were also interested in those children who don’t meet the threshold for social care involvement and what support they receive too.

British Values was another area of enquiry and the head and his team were able to discuss the provision that is made in religious education and through their PSHE curriculum.

“It’s the same questions each time; what are you doing, how are you doing it and what’s the impact,” Mr Barrand said.


Data, as you might expect, was still a priority. Mr Barrand notes that the inspectors were particularly keen on seeing the progress of years 3,4 and 5: “They wanted to see that our internal measures reflected the external measures,” he explained.

Many schools will be concerned about the transition away from levels and how inspectors will judge this. At St Jude’s they had made the decision to run two assessment methods simultaneously while adjusting to the new system. They continued to use levels running alongside the target tracker programme that was new to them.

“Inspectors were fine with this. They just wanted to see what our plans were to move away from levels and how we would keep governors involved,” Mr Barrand explained.

Making sure that governors understand what’s happening in relation to any new system being introduced is particularly important. They still have a key role in monitoring progress and so must understand whatever method the school has decided to adopt.

“We can see difficulties with moving over to the new system,” Mr Barrand continued. “There is nothing to compare with and we’ll be using a completely different curriculum statement at the end of the year. I can see progress flat lining in some schools until the end of the year.”

Mr Barrand believes that the main advice he can give is to be prepared. The initial phone call is very different. This isn’t the pre-briefing that schools have been used to. Instead, they are directed to the Ofsted portal. You can choose to upload your SEF onto this and also see the letter to parents, staff survey and RAISEonline and any further information that the inspection team add before the inspection begins.

Perhaps most important on here are the lines of enquiry that the inspectors will follow when in the school: “It worked well because the inspectors’ lines of enquiry were the same as ours,” Mr Barrand added.

Inspectors inspected too

When a school is inspected as part of a new framework, it is generally felt that the first batch of schools are judged more harshly than those that follow.

Mr Barrand feels that it was certainly a tough inspection and the inspectors dug deep. However, during the inspection, a HMI arrived on the second day to quality-assure.

“There was a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’,” added Mr Barrand. “It was all new for the inspectors too. They were very professional and overall it was a really positive inspection – not just because of the outcome.”

In theory, with a good judgement under their belt, St Jude’s don’t have to walk in the shadow of their next full Ofsted. Instead they can expect a short inspection under Section 8, a new format also introduced with the CIF. However, Mr Barrand thinks it is important not to relax too much: “We won’t change our pattern of working,” he said.

Having achieved so well in this inspection and broken away from the “average” that had dominated them since 2009, it is hard to see why they would.

  • Suzanne O’Connell is a freelance education writer and former primary school headteacher.

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