08 Sep

INSIDE INSPECTION: Changes to the School Inspection Handbook: An Inspectors Perspective

Ofsted have extended last term’s pilot scheme for the inspection of the quality of teaching. Held in the Midlands for the second half of the summer term, the scheme is now extended across the country. Changes include not grading lessons, individual teachers, or their teaching during a lesson observation. Teachers can still expect feedback on lessons observed but will not be given grades in either words or numbers. This does not diminish the need to observe learning in lessons and gauge the extent to which knowledge skills and understanding are being acquired over time.

The Quality of Teaching

All inspectors on a team have to contribute to a single judgement for the school’s quality of teaching. To do this they will highlight strengths and weaknesses through the collection of a wide range of evidence. An example of what this might involve will include talking to pupils and parents, looking at pupils’ work, displays and the learning environment, marking and feedback and pupils’ engagement in learning. Schools are reminded that Ofsted are reinforcing the message that there is no Ofsted format lesson that inspectors expect to see. The only praise or criticism revolves around how well all pupils are learning.

National Curriculum Levels

Two of the main changes for schools and inspectors this autumn are the alterations to the curriculum and the removal of national curriculum levels. The advice for inspectors is not to expect schools to have these changes all addressed and in place by 1st September 2014. The changes should form the basis of discussions and questioning with the schools on their responses, what they already have in place and what they are planning for the future.

Spiritual, Moral, Social, and Cultural Knowledge and Understanding: Life in Modern Britain

In particular, inspectors will question schools about how well they are preparing pupils for life in modern Britain with a focus on the place ‘British values’ has at the centre of a school’s work. The inspection of how schools develop pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural knowledge and understanding (SMSC) will have a renewed rigour as part of this work.

Training for inspectors has also highlighted the need to ensure the curriculum provides sufficient depth rather than a shallow coverage of a lot of topics. Inspectors must focus on how the curriculum provides for all groups of pupils but especially the disadvantaged and the most able.

Assessment and Work Sampling

Schools’ systems for and use of both formative and summative assessment will have a central part in inspection because of the new freedom. Inspectors will spend more time checking the quality of pupils’ work and levels achieved in different subjects. Discussions will be held with leaders to assess how assessment information is used to improve teaching.  Schools will need to demonstrate how well pupils are doing against age-related expectations.

Schools will need to show how they use assessment to identify and provide for individual pupils’ needs. Inspection will also evaluate how well parents are kept informed of pupils’ progress when levels are not used. School’s moderation activities will be evaluated so that assessment accuracy can be agreed. Schools will need to prepare well for these changes and be able to show inspectors what the data tells them and how they respond to it. As in the past, it is not for inspectors to analyse data but school’s to show outcomes.


The inspection of Governance will focus on these changes. Governors will be expected to talk about the curriculum, assessment and explain how the school prepares pupils for life in modern Britain and ensures their SMSC development. The focus on disadvantaged pupils entitled to the pupil premium and the closing of gaps has an even stronger focus this year.

The Early Years Foundation Stage and Sixth Forms

Finally, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and Sixth Forms will now have a separate single judgement against criteria in the handbook. This will cover the usual four aspects. While they are not limiting judgements, inspectors are required to take them into account when considering the other judgements and the schools’ overall effectiveness. For both EYFS and Sixth forms it will be vital that schools can illustrate achievement through clear data for individual pupils.

‘An Inspectors Perspective’ is written by an experienced  lead inspector. This is intended to provide and inspectors view of the most significant changes. It is not intended to provide a definitive guide.