Ofsted inspection in September 2015

Written by: John Viner | Published:
Photo: iStock

Inspection is changing again, with a new Framework due to be published this month. John Viner looks at the key changes, offers some advice for self-assessment, and some templates to help you prepare

Ofsted's consultation report on the draft inspection proposals (Better Inspection For All, Ofsted, February 2015) cited high levels of support for the proposed changes and so they are set to go ahead with little alteration. The key points to emphasise are as follows:

  • The Common Inspection Framework will apply to both state and independent sectors and all remits from EYFS to post-16 (but will differ in relevant content).
  • All remits will be inspected against four main headings (see later).
  • Non-association independent schools will each be inspected within three years.
  • Outstanding schools, but not special schools or nurseries remain outside inspection.
  • Good schools will have more frequent short inspections by a single HMI.
  • A short inspection may trigger a full inspection if the HMI raises concerns or thinks the school is outstanding.

Ofsted has always aimed for a catchy title that summarises its latest phase of inspection. Some of us will remember David Bell's A Sharper Focus, which ended multi-day, long-notice inspections that were characteristic of the early days of Ofsted.

When the present framework was introduced in September 2012, it was called A Good Education for All, signalling the commitment of chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to this principle. No surprise then that the new Common Inspection Framework, which will be in place from September 2015, is entitled, Better Inspection For All, a title which embraces the end of the contracts with the three regional inspection providers and signals the new determination to deliver even sharper and more closely focused inspection through directly contracted inspectors and HMI.

In the words of the consultation report, we will ensure that our inspections are of increasingly rigorous quality and of value to the profession and the public, are more proportionate and have greater impact.

The consultation on the new approach closed in December 2014, but the new Inspection Handbook will not be published until this month (June 2015). The purpose of this article, then, is to draw on the consultation outcomes and give a heads-up as to what we can expect in the new Framework.

Consultation of interested parties on the remit of HMCI is a requirement of Section 117 of the 2006 Education and Inspection Act. This process managed to elicit the views of around 5,000 respondents, the vast majority of which were in broad agreement with the consultation document. Therefore there are few changes to the proposed arrangements.

A common framework

The new framework will apply to all providers, from early years to learning and skills and to both state providers and to independent provision that is currently inspected by Ofsted (under Section 162a of the 2002 Education Act).

Leaders of independent schools have reason to be anxious. With a framework that has already replaced "adequate" with "requires improvement", they are promised a full inspection within the first three years of the new framework.

The Common Inspection Framework will see inspectors making graded judgements across the same four areas, regardless of the remit. This will provide a more cohesive picture than we have at present.

The new framework

Inspectors are already being trained on the four inspection areas, although the final shape of the framework will depend largely on what is learnt from this term's pilot inspections. During a full inspection, graded judgements will be made on:

  • The Effectiveness of Leadership and Management.
  • Quality of Teaching, Learning and Assessment.
  • Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare.
  • Outcomes for Children and Learners.

These key areas are in line with the general direction of travel, with 70 per cent of the consultation respondents agreeing that leadership was the hook on which all else hangs.

Leadership and Management

This new category is a sort of beefed up version of the existing leadership and management area. The usual expectations of ambitious vision and effective leadership of teaching are enhanced by a focus on the curriculum, because it is Ofsted's view that leadership and management are central to the effective development and implementation of the curriculum. The recent changes to the curriculum give this element increased importance.

Furthermore, it will be no surprise that this judgement will take safeguarding into consideration and the effectiveness with which the school promotes equality, diversity and fundamental British values (FBV). Respondents sought clarity on defining the promotion of FBV so expect some more detail on this in the new Inspection Handbook. Although not clear yet, it could be that there will be an element under leadership that relates to how providers help to improve other providers through formal and informal partnerships.

Quality of Teaching

In line with overall strategic direction, teaching now explicitly includes learning and is strengthened by a greater focus on the use of assessment. The existing framework links to the Teachers' Standards and we can expect this to remain explicit, especially in terms of subject knowledge, pedagogy and knowing how children and young people learn.

Expect a much greater focus on mastery teaching and understanding how to promote deep learning rather than on progress at any price. Because an even greater emphasis is being placed on partnerships with parents and their involvement in their child's education, we can expect the old "partnership with parents" element of leadership to be reconfigured under teaching, learning and assessment – with a greater emphasis on how assessment informs reporting to parents.

Personal Development

The new area of Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare is much broader than the old Behaviour and Safety. While behaviour continues to be important, this area now brings in attendance, managing feelings, keeping healthy and safe (shades of the old ECM outcomes) as well as self-confidence, preparation for the next stage in education and employability. SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural education), which is kind of an adjunct to the present framework, is now included, so expect some clarity that builds on recent revised advice about promoting SMSC and FBV.

Outcomes for Children and Learners

The Outcomes section, we are told, will include a brief statement and commentary about the reported attainment and progress of pupils. In answer to concerns raised by some respondents that there would be an over-emphasis on data, Ofsted has said that, while inspectors will use this data as a starting point in all cases, they will reach the final judgement by considering the information and context of the school or provider, as revealed by the full range of inspection evidence.

The key to what we might be expecting in the new framework is the focus on how well all children and learners progress from their different starting points and achieve or exceed the expected age-related standards. So, while meeting the needs of all pupils including vulnerable groups is likely to feature in each of the three previous sections, the outline suggests that it will be summarised here.

The Common Inspection Framework will have a separate grade for EYFS and 6th form, as at present further education and skills providers have a raft of other graded judgements relating to their provision.

Frequency of inspection

The commitment to differential inspection is sustained. Schools judged to be outstanding are removed from inspection by legislation, although the right to inspect is retained should performance fall or other concerns be raised.

This is not the case for special schools, pupil referral units and maintained nurseries, which will have the same short inspection that is planned for good schools. Short inspections will focus on the performance of the school and the effectiveness of leadership and management. Initially all short inspections will be carried out by HMI.

It looks at the moment that if HMI raises concerns about the school then they will remain at the school and call in an inspection team for a full inspection beginning the following day. Likewise, if the school is likely to be outstanding then a full inspection will follow to confirm it. Schools that are not at least good will continue to have a full inspection. The short notice period remains but Ofsted retains the right to inspect without notice if there are concerns about safeguarding.

Preparation for inspection

At the time of going to press, we are still best-guessing what the situation will be in September. There will be many schools for whom the new year will quickly bring an inspection. Perhaps the best preparation should be to analyse the school against the new four headings so that leaders have a clear sense of strengths and areas for development.

Self-assessment templates

Here follows suggested templates for self-assessment documents covering the four new inspection areas:

Effectiveness of Leadership and Management

Headlines (300 words max)

  • Explain any difference between last inspection leadership grade and the self-assessment grade.
  • What is the impact of leadership on achievement?
  • How effective are middle leaders?
  • How effective are governors in challenging and supporting the headteacher?
  • Performance management.
  • Safeguarding.
  • How successfully is the school promoting fundamental British values?
  • Schools Financial Values Standards compliance.

Actions (500 words max)

  • Explain what leaders are doing to demonstrate an ambitious vision and high expectations for what learners can achieve.
  • Explain what leaders are doing to secure high standards of care for learners.
  • Explain how leaders monitor, evaluate and support teaching through rigorous performance management.
  • Explain how the curriculum provides breadth, depth and relevance and how it meets the needs of learners.
  • Explain how leaders promote an appreciation of diversity and fundamental British values.
  • Any on-going disciplinary/capability issues?
  • Current initiatives relating to community, safety, parents, etc.
  • Check that safeguarding arrangements meet statutory requirements.


  • What does the School Improvement Plan say about the effectiveness of leadership and management?

Outcomes for Children and Learners

Headlines (300 words max)

  • Explain any difference between last inspection outcomes grade and the self-assessment grade.
  • Don't repeat the detail in RAISE; just the headlines that inform the school's actions and character.
  • Explain any anomalies.
  • Explain variations in vulnerable groups.

Actions (500 words max)

  • Explain what the school is doing to improve outcomes.
  • Vulnerable groups.
  • Pupil Premium.
  • High-attaining pupils.
  • More detail about tracking pupils' progress and how teachers support their conceptual development.
  • In-year/term-by-term progress of each year and groups within years.


  • What does the School Improvement Plan say about outcomes?

Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare

Headlines (300 words max)

  • Explain any difference between last inspection grade in this area and the self-assessment grade.
  • What is behaviour like in lessons?
  • Explain any variation in behaviour between classes/key stages.
  • What is behaviour like around the school and outside the school?
  • Attendance and punctuality.
  • Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development.
  • Keeping healthy and safe.
  • Securing self-esteem.
  • Bullying.

Actions (500 words max)

  • Explain what the school is doing to promote and sustain positive behaviour.
  • Explain what the school is doing to address attendance and punctuality issues.
  • Explain how pupils know about safety and learn to keep themselves safe.
  • Explain how pupils know about healthy lifestyles and how to keep themselves healthy through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Explain how pupils learn to be self-confident and independent learners.
  • Explain how SMSC is promoted.
  • Explain what the school is doing to prevent radicalisation.
  • Any other live issues.


  • What does the School Improvement Plan say about personal development, behaviour and welfare.

Quality of Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Headlines (300 words max)

  • Explain any difference between last inspection grade in this category and the self-assessment.
  • Quality of teaching overall.
  • Assessment procedures.
  • Explain any variation in teaching between key stages/departments.
  • Is there an improving trend?

Actions (500 words max)

  • Explain what the school is doing to raise/sustain quality of teaching (including developing teachers' subject knowledge).
  • Explain how under-performance is being addressed?
  • Link between teaching and progress (eg, pupil progress meetings).
  • Link between teaching and performance management.
  • Explain how assessment information is used to plan the next steps in learners' development.
  • Explain how assessment information is used to support pupils who are falling behind and those who are exceeding expectations.


  • What does the School Improvement Plan say about teaching, learning and assessment?

  • John Viner is a writer, trainer and consultant. He has a background of 28 years of successful primary headship.

Further information
Better Inspection For All (Ofsted, February 2015): www.gov.uk/government/consultations/better-inspection-for-all

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