My recent interview with Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Schools, Matthew Purves, revealed that school leaders and teachers believe Ofsted has the right focus for the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) but what will inspection actually feel like, post-September?
Matthew has been a leading force in the creation of the new framework and spoke with me for The Curriculum podcast to explain some of the outcomes of the EIF consultation and piloting, and how these have influenced the final document.
In our conversation, the Deputy Director explained:
“The response from senior leaders and teachers to the question, ‘Do we have the focus right in this framework?’, was overwhelmingly positive. Of course, we have taken feedback from the consultation on board. For example, before an inspection, inspectors will now have a phone call with the senior leaders of a school to discuss the areas of focus, rather than preparing for inspection on site.
Senior leaders and teachers who have been involved with the piloting have commented that whilst some elements of the inspection, such as safeguarding, are very similar, the core curricular conversation feels really different with inspectors talking to teachers and children a lot more as part of their in-depth review.”
Ofsted’s key messages for primary schools
Matthew was keen to bust some myths, which he acknowledges Ofsted seem to attract – no matter how transparently they communicate. The following are the top headlines from our conversation, aimed to guide and reassure primary leaders and teachers.
Do what’s right for your children: Ofsted want to see you doing what is right for your children, in your school. Don’t do things purely because you think it will please Ofsted.
Have a clear curriculum vision: Inspectors will take a top-level view of a school’s curriculum, through conversations with curriculum leaders, to find out whether you have a clear vision of the ‘end points’ you want children to get to and how this translates into the sequences of lessons that are being taught.
A primary, not secondary, curriculum: Ofsted are keen to point out that they have no preferred curriculum approach and acknowledge the place of both topic and subject-led curricular, as long as it suits a primary setting. Matthew said:
‘‘I hear one or two primary colleagues worrying that Ofsted will expect to see a secondary style curriculum in a primary school. I want to say that’s absolutely not the case.
Topic teaching is a big part of many primary schools and there are many different approaches. Inspectors will inspect what they find. When we talk about subjects in primary. We are thinking about the disciplinary knowledge of a subject, which might be taught through a topic or might be taught through a subject.”
It is fine to adopt a published curriculum: Primary schools often have a harder job in curriculum design, and Ofsted have reflected this in the new framework by advocating the adoption of curriculum materials. Whether you choose this option or construct your own, a curriculum should be adapted to suit your setting.
The ‘deep dive’ approach: Inspectors will take an in-depth, intense look at four to six different subject areas within the school – something Ofsted calls a ‘deep dive’. Deep dives will help inspectors better understand the quality of education being offered throughout the school and whether curriculum intent is being achieved within the lessons and in children's work.
Reducing teacher workload: Ofsted hopes that a reduced focus on schools’ internal data will have a positive impact on teachers’ and leaders’ workload, taking the pressure off producing or managing data for Ofsted, to allow staff to focus on teaching and learning.
Inspectors will not look at schools’ internal attainment and progress data, although they will be interested in how leaders respond to it to move the children forward.
Reading and vocabulary can ‘close the gap’: Reading unlocks children’s access to a rich curriculum, and it is central in the new framework. Inspectors will, therefore, always take a ‘deep dive’ into the teaching of reading and hear readers across the school.
Matthew also stressed the importance of vocabulary, in particular, the grasp of subject-specific word meanings in context. He said: ‘A focus on strong reading and vocabulary teaching is how we’re going to close the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children.’