20 Jul

The Common Inspection Framework for September 2015;

An inspectors introduction to the reforms to education inspection

Ofsted have published the long awaited Common Inspection Framework.   This comes into effect from September 2015 and is designed to ensure ‘greater clarity, coherence and comparability for learners, parents and employers.’ (Sean Harford, Future of Education Inspection).  Three major reforms focus upon-

  • One Common Inspection Framework with separate handbooks;
  • Short Inspections for good or outstanding providers;
  • Changes to the inspector workforce.

The four judgements are indeed as had been anticipated;

  • Effectiveness of leadership and management;
  • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment;
  • Personal development, behaviour and welfare, and
  • Outcomes for children and learners.

Recognising the differences in the remits of different educational provision, four handbooks support the framework.  The largest impact of these reforms will affect the Further Education and Skills sector.  This will see the removal of grading of individual teaching sessions so as to be consistent with the School criteria.  Also the general judgement for the quality of teaching and learning will no longer be informed around individual subject area grades.
Recognising the similarities within the provision of Early Years and Post 16-19 settings, judgements and the language of such reports will be comparable.  This is intended to offer parents and young people consistency, to understand the quality of provision and make informed choices.  However, in FE and Skills, inspectors will also form judgements on different types of provision, including apprenticeships, adult learning and learners with high needs.
The School inspection handbook consolidates the changes introduced over the last few years and the document, The Future of Education Inspection 2015, draws attention to greater emphasis on:

  • ‘the impact of leaders’ work in developing and sustaining an ambitious culture and vision in the school
  • a broad and balanced curriculum;
  • safeguarding, which will be central to every inspection, an
  • pupils’ outcomes, where inspectors will give most weight to the progress of pupils currently in the school rather than attainment and nationally published data.’

After an initial scan of the Schools handbook, comments upon the lesson planning, grading of lessons and pupils work reveal how Ofsted have taken note of feedback from the pilots and public review.  This is explained fully in the ‘myth busting’ document; Ofsted Inspections – Clarification for Schools and is worth reading.
The Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare judgement will focus upon behaviour and attitudes of learners and the effect this has upon outcomes. This is linked to the support and choices that are available for learners to inform their next steps.
Short inspections are designed to promote a greater professional dialogue between Ofsted and leaders.  This will result in more regular updates to parents and employers and, of course, learners.  Through these short inspections, greater emphasis will be placed on the ‘quality of leadership and the capacity of leaders to drive improvement.’ (p2 The future of Education changes – Understanding the Changes)

The diagram below which is an excerpt from Ofsted: Future of Education Inspection (p26) explains how the process will work –

Ofsted - new framework

In theory, the short inspection process seems credible, but how it will work in practice, with all the logistics of short notice planning arrangements, remains to be seen.
There has been much negative press about the selection process and slimming down of the Additional Inspectors workforce, now called Ofsted Inspectors, who will be directly contracted to Ofsted.  A rigorous selection and assessment process, designed to create consistency, can be seen as an attempt to improve the confidence of leaders with inspection teams.  To achieve greater consistency and quality of the inspection process inspectors and HMI’s have been allocated to particular regional areas.  This should hopefully develop a team ethos between HMI’s and the recently recruited Ofsted Inspectors.  It is quoted that seven out of ten Ofsted inspectors will be current practitioners, leading good or outstanding provision, so there should be a good awareness of best practice between settings.
The approach for Non-association independent schools, continues to consolidate the changes previously made which includes using the same judgement criteria as applied to maintained schools and academies.  In January 2015, revised independent school standards were introduced which all schools under this provision should meet.  The Future of Education Inspection, states that ‘These standards are more challenging and all non -association independent schools must meet them.’  All non-association schools will be subject to an inspection between September 2015 and July 2018.
Reactions to the reforms are mixed, so it will be very interesting to see the inspection process in action next term.


  • Ofsted Common Inspection Handbook June 2015
  • Ofsted Schools Inspection handbook June 2015
  • Ofsted Fe and Skills Inspection Handbook June 2015
  • Ofsted Future of education inspection slides presentation June 2015
  • Ofsted Inspections – March 2015 No 140169