In September 2019, the Ofsted inspection framework will change, but what does that mean for assessment?

Thanks to John Dabell, trained teacher and former Ofsted inspector, for the following article.

Although work is ongoing, and Ofsted is still preparing for the 2019 changes, there are some signs we can draw on which help shed some light on what the future holds.

Ofsted strategy: 2017-2022

Ofsted reminds us in it 2017-2022 strategy that everything it does is first and foremost to champion the interests of children and students, acting as a ‘force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection and regulation.’  It also tells us that it is nimble and adaptable to change and does not have preferred styles of teaching.

In it’s myth busting guidance, Ofsted reminds teachers that marking and feedback are important aspects of assessment, but ‘Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback’.  Although data is seen as important, Ofsted state that its inspections look beyond published data and explore how results have been achieved.

 

Data and inspections

Not for the first time we are being told that data must not be the be-all and end-all of inspection.  In June 2018 Amanda Spielman talked about the future of school inspections at the Bryanston Education Summit, saying that ‘we do not expect to see 6-week tracking of pupil progress and vast elaborate spreadsheets’.

There is too much reliance on data that is meaningless.  Contrary to what teachers might think, Ofsted don’t need to see piles of graphs and charts on how children are performing and ‘we shouldn’t be asking you to predict progress or attainment scores’.

It is reassuring to hear what Amanda Spielman said at the Education Policy Institute conference stating that “in the new framework, we’re thinking about how we can take the inspection conversation even further on education itself and less on data.”

This reinforces messages in the September 2017 School Inspection Update which makes clear that:

  • Assessment data and information is only a starting point for discussion with schools. It is far from the only piece of evidence that informs judgements about outcomes.
  • Inspectors will use ‘meaningful data’ to inform areas for investigation. They will not focus on single measures with small cohorts.

A high-stakes, low-trust accountability system has previously created fear and uncertainty but Ofsted is keen get to the heart of the daily experiences of pupils right across the curriculum. This perhaps signals a change that Ofsted is moving from a quantitative mindset towards a more considered and reflective inspection that values qualitative data.

 

Inspection data reports

Inspection Data reports have been redesigned to reduce the likelihood of over-interpretation.  There is now a new data dashboard called the IDSR (inspection data summary report) which places context at the beginning of the report and also includes ‘areas to investigate’ which fewer detailed breakdowns of groups than before

 

Assessment vs teaching the test

Amanda Speilman feels children are being betrayed by an exam culture.  In her speech at the Festival of Education she noted Ofsted has a vital role in balancing the accountability system and ‘looking  underneath the bonnet to be sure that a good quality education – one that genuinely meets pupils’ needs – is not being compromised.’

Ofsted makes clear warnings about teaching to the test, cramming for SATs and ‘eroding the depth and breadth of the curriculum in the process.’  It says that it finds schools often ‘lose sight of the purpose of education’ and so makes clear that exams ‘should exist in the service of the curriculum rather than the other way round.’

Assessing the curriculum culture of school is going to be more of a focus because if teaching and learning are working well then pupils will benefit from a deep and rich education. Ofsted has said that the new framework will “build on recent findings” and stresses the importance of having rich and deep curriculums.

It’s obvious therefore schools need smarter and more refined thinking about how assessment sits within the curriculum which is why it has created a working definition of what curriculum means which is centred around the three i’s of intent, implementation and impact.

 

Role of assessment in Ofsted’s new framework

The clearest articulation regarding assessment comes from Ofsted’s National Director, Sean Harford who says that it is crucial schools don’t design assessment around what they think Ofsted will want to see.  He emphasises that what Ofsted are looking for is whether a ‘school’s assessment system to support the pupil’s journey through the curriculum.’

The new framework could be a genuinely radical change and paradigm shift although some fear it will be a cosmetic respray.  The updates and clues tells us it is likely to be somewhere in between with a focus on meaningful assessment of the ‘right things at the right point in the curriculum.’