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A term guide to Ofsted inspection success

March 3, 2020, 7:18 GMT+1
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  • Pearson's Danny Cuttell has developed a strategy to help schools develop, implement and communicate their curriculum successfully...
A term guide to Ofsted inspection success

The transition period for the implementation of Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework (EIF) is set to finish this year.

The revised EIF marks a significant shift from the outgoing framework and puts renewed focus on the quality of a school’s curriculum with a view to putting a ‘single conversation about education at the centre of inspection’.

With significant changes in the key judgement areas it is crucial that schools across the country know the ins and outs of the EIF to ensure Ofsted Inspection success. There is a wealth of information available to support schools but it can be a challenge to differentiate opinion from fact.


Take stock of how you support NQTs and pupils through the Ofsted process
Use the Easter holidays to think about your NQTs. Do they have a clear understanding of the school’s approach to behaviour management, curriculum design and safeguarding, for example? Do you have a training plan to support them? Ofsted inspectors could interview NQT’s as part of an inspection.

Pupils and their work will be much more in the spotlight as well. Conversations with pupils will explore what they have retained, and pupils may be asked to show their books and talk through what they have learnt.

It is likely that inspectors will review a minimum of six pieces of pupil work from each lesson and an in-depth review with teachers and subject leaders will take place across at least two year groups. Be aware that Ofsted will no longer check on homework policies or ask parents and carers for their views about this!.


Consider carefully how you use assessment data
Ofsted has moved away from a reliance on internal data as a means of assessing the impact of a school’s curriculum, and schools will need a clear rationale for any data collected. Is an appropriate balance being struck between gathering useful assessment information that informs the teaching of the curriculum and over-burdening teachers?

Ofsted supports the view of the Teacher Workload Advisory Group, which recommends no more than two to three data drops per year. If schools choose to have more, a clear rationale will be needed on how this is manageable for staff.


Deep Dive into subjects
Embrace the Deep Dives and the opportunity to ‘see the school in action’. A number of subjects will be chosen as the focus but remember that reading will always be included and mathematics will often be chosen too.

Make sure you are ready for the Deep Dive to explore:

  • Senior leaders’ intent for the curriculum in that particular subject
  • Curriculum leaders’ thinking and planning in a subject
  • How lessons connect and build on each other
  • Teachers’ understanding of a lesson’s purpose, how it fits into the broader sequence of learning and what they know about pupils’ knowledge and understanding

Does your curriculum model fully deliver the national curriculum or offer a course of similar breadth and ambition? Ofsted are interested in seeing that all subjects are given sufficient time and emphasis and not squeezed out by literacy and numeracy.


Evaluate your curriculum progress
With term almost over, why not take some time as a senior team to audit your existing curriculum, identify areas of strength and development and create an action plan for strengthening your 2020/2021 curriculum? As you build a better picture of your current position, consider the pros and cons of your approach.

For example, if decisions about content are driven by what you feel students will find most interesting, are you confident that you are providing sufficient stretch and challenge?


Think about the balance of your school’s curriculum – skills versus knowledge?
While pupils are away enjoying their break, consider how balanced your curriculum is. Is it underpinned by deep knowledge and cultural capital? Are subject-specific skills and concepts being systematically developed in foundation subjects?

How schools promote a broad range of knowledge and skills is an important focus for the EIF. Be prepared to discuss your rationale as a school with Ofsted.


Kick off the new academic year with a strong and cohesive vision for your curriculum
The new Ofsted inspections are focusing more on subject leads and teachers than ever before. Make sure all members of staff have a shared understanding of the planning and delivery of the curriculum and the choices the school has made in terms of what is taught and when.

Highlight any areas that you need to look at in more detail and use these as the basis for the ongoing review of your curriculum. How willing are you to adapt your curriculum and what drives these changes?


Remove the fear from the initial Ofsted call
It might be a spooky month but don’t let the Ofsted call scare you!

The 90-minute phone call will explore the progress the school has made since their last inspection and the headteacher’s own view of what the school’s strengths and areas for development are – particularly in relation to the curriculum.

This same call will also include the discussion around which specific subjects and year groups will be the focus of the inspection. There is sometimes scope for school leaders to negotiate and influence the choice of subjects, although be aware this may vary on a case-by-case basis.


Shine a light on wellbeing within your school
Teaching staff report the highest rates of work-related stress, depression and anxiety in Britain. Staff wellbeing forms will now be reviewed by Ofsted.

Make sure you familiarise yourself with the Department for Education’s guidance on reducing workload in the areas of marking, administrative tasks and lesson data.

If you want to explore this area in more detail, Pearson have developed a Pupil and Staff Wellbeing Measurement tool in partnership with the Evidence Based Practice Unit (a collaboration between The Anna Freud Centre and UCL).

It provides a whole-school view of student and staff health and wellbeing.


Mark the end of the year with festive cheer
As the year comes to a close, stuff your stockings full of the successes of your teachers, senior leadership and support staff; and all the pupils, parents and volunteers.

2021 will no doubt bring its own challenges but with a year of consistent and comprehensive planning, you’ll be ready to continue driving your curriculum forward.

Curriculum is at the heart of Pearson’s work with schools, creating the very best resources and tools to help them understand, design and deliver an effective curriculum.

Pearson’s curriculum offer encompasses ‘off-the-shelf” courses, bespoke curriculum development using intelligent planning tools and free resources and strategies.

Download the Handy Guide to Ofsted’s Inspection Framework series and find out more about Pearson’s curriculum work, here:

Danny Cuttell is Head of Curriculum Services at Pearson UK Follow Pearson on Twitter @PearsonSchools #curriculumdesign #curriculummatters