Mythbusting with Ofsted

Sean HarfordThanks to Sean Harford, National Director, Education, Ofsted for the following article.

‘My bookcase was messy so I got marked down in my assessment…this is the level of hysteria we are facing in schools’.

Receiving messages like that is why we – and you – need to tackle the misinformation that circulates about ‘what Ofsted wants’.

Teacher workload is one of the most pressing concerns in education today and has a real impact on the retention of staff. We can’t afford to lose good teachers – and children certainly can’t afford to lose the opportunities you offer them.

The impulse to make everything ‘perfect’ can drive out creativity, passion and the love of teaching that are the reasons most people enter the profession. That’s why at Ofsted we know how important it is that people aren’t doing unnecessary tasks for us and adding to their workload. Continue reading →

Education Select Committee: second session

Thanks to Michael Tidd for the following article.

Following on from nearly 400 written submissions, and my own appearance last month, the Education Select Committee recently took further evidence from academic experts in assessment and data – and some common trends are arising.

This time, the evidence was from organisations such as Education Datalab, Ofsted, and the assessment experts of Durham and Cambridge Universities. The main strands of discussion focussed again on the impact of accountability – no surprises there – and it seems that the experts agreed with the classroom teachers by and large: it’s the high stakes that can cause the risks.

Becky Allen set out early on her view – as someone who deals with the data all the time – that we are making substantial decisions on what is always going to be rather fragile data in primary assessment. The limitations have long been known to teachers: the snapshot of test, the unreliability of KS1 data as a baseline, the small numbers of pupils. She echoed the point that has been made before that we really shouldn’t be making judgements of schools based on a single year’s data.

Continue reading →

Primary School Performance Tables

Achievements of pupils in state-funded primary schools in England have now been published.

Just 5 per cent of primary schools have been announced as being below the floor standard.  Schools are considered under-performing if fewer than 65 per cent of pupils fail to reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, or if they fail to make sufficient progress in these three key areas.

Continue reading →

Assessment and Ofsted inspections from September 2014

In July, Ofsted published an updated version of the School Inspection Handbook. This handbook details the evidence that inspectors should be looking for when carrying out Section 5 inspections.


Of particular interest is the new guidance to support inspectors in making judgements during the phased removal of National Curriculum levels. Assessment is mentioned in the ‘Leadership and management’ and ‘Quality of teaching’ sections of the handbook, but it is a key focus of the ‘Achievement of pupils at the school’ section. Below is a summary of the key points and how use of the Rising Stars Assessment Progress Tests will help schools to provide the evidence that inspectors will be seeking.

Download the printable PDF version Continue reading →

Changes to Ofsted inspections from September 14

Ofsted letter to Headteachers

Ofsted has recently written to Headteachers alerting them to changes to inspections that will start from 1 September 2014. This follows publication of the Note for inspectors: use of assessment information in 2014/15.

The key details of relevance to primary schools are:

  • the introduction of a separate graded judgement for the early years;
  • an increased focus on how well school leaders tackle low-level disruption and ensure that pupils’ conduct and attitudes to learning are good;
  • greater attention on whether or not a school’s curriculum is broad and balanced and promotes tolerance of and respect for people of other faiths, cultures and lifestyles;
  • details as to what evidence Ofsted will use given the demise of National Curriculum levels.

The letter also outlines the criteria that will be used for unannounced inspections for 2014/15.

Ofsted and assessment information

The note for inspectors provides details of the assessment evidence that Ofsted will be using in 2014/15 to judge learning and progress recognising that there will be a mixed economy for the next year as schools start to migrate to the new curriculum and assessment arrangements. Specifically:

  • Pupils in Years 2 and 6 will still be taught the old National Curriculum so their attainment and progress will continue to be tracked and measured using levels.
  • For other pupils, apart from those in Year 1, there will be historic data expressed in National Curriculum levels as well as assessment data collected against the new Programmes of Study.
  • Additionally, some schools may choose to move away from the use of levels immediately, others may do so more gradually. In 2014-15 inspectors will recognise that schools are likely to be still developing their preferred new assessment system. Continue reading →

Ofsted and assessment


National Curriculum levels will cease for Years 1, 3, 4 and 5 at the end of this academic year and for Years 2 and 6 at the end of the 2014/15 academic year. In future schools will be expected to make their own decisions about how to assess pupils. This has implications for future Ofsted inspections, which currently rely heavily on National Curriculum level-related data in RAISEOnline.


This excerpt from Sir Michael Wilshaw’s speech at the North of England Education Conference in January 2014, illustrates what Ofsted will be looking for when carrying out their inspections:

Good schools have always tracked their pupils’ progress and Ofsted will expect to see this continue. We will not endorse any particular approach. But we do expect every school to be able to show what their pupils know, understand and can do through continuous assessment and summative tests.

I don’t know of any good or outstanding school that doesn’t set targets for children to achieve at the end of any key stage. I don’t know of any good or outstanding school that doesn’t use assessment to establish whether children are hitting those targets. I have never seen a good or outstanding school that doesn’t have summative tests at the end of each year.

Regular testing has received a bad press in recent years, as if it were somehow separate and antithetical to the business of education. It is not. It is an essential tool that allows students and their teachers to assess progress. Continue reading →

Assessment in a world without levels

by Sue Walton, assessment consultant and part of the Rising Stars Assessment advisory team.

The wait for information about the Government’s proposals for assessment in primary schools was a long one and it wasn’t until July last year that we finally had sight of the proposals – and there were some surprises!


A key change was the abolition of national curriculum levels and level descriptions. The Government plans to give schools the freedom to carry out day-to-day formative assessment however they choose. So it will now be up to schools to decide what assessment regime they follow.

However, schools will still need to be able to demonstrate that pupils are making progress against the new curriculum. This means they will need to decide what evidence to collect to show to Ofsted and also what and how they report to parents.

These proposals mean that not only do schools now have a new curriculum to prepare for,  they also have to create a new way of tracking their pupils’ progress. This will be challenging. The new attainment targets have very general wording. They state that ‘by the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study’. This is all well and good, but how should teachers go about deciding that each pupil can in fact apply and understand the curriculum as well as ‘know’ it? For example, does the pupil just need to demonstrate a skill in maths once, or do they need to do it several times? Continue reading →