Ofsted publish final Education Inspection Framework

Following a three-month consultation on its draft new Education Inspection Framework, Ofsted has published its final framework and attendant inspection handbooks.

In total, Ofsted received more than 15,000 responses to the consultation process.  This, they say, included almost 11,000 responses to their online questionnaire, more than 600 responses by email and post, and more than 4,000 responses as a result of a campaign by YoungMinds.

In addition, there were more than 100 face-to-face events and what Ofsted describes as the largest programme of piloting they have ever done, with more than 250 pilots taking place in early years providers, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools and further education (FE) and skills providers.

All told, it is, they say, the largest consultation in Ofsted’s history.

And the outcome?  What exactly has changed as a consequence of this large-scale listening exercise?

The answer: very little.  Somewhat as expected.

When the draft handbooks were published in January, you got the feeling the consultation would be a confirmatory exercise.  Indeed, whenever I’ve spoken about the EIF at conferences, I’ve done so with the caveat that it is in draft form but predicted there’d be no substantive changes to the framework, and only minor tweaks to the methodology of inspection.

So, the framework remains largely unchanged from the version I dissected here.

And the schools handbook (which I analysed here) and FE handbook (see here) are also largely unchanged.  But there are some changes of significance that it’s worth noting before the framework is translated into practice in September…

Here, for ease of reference, is my attempt at a game of ‘spot the difference’:


  1. Pre-inspection preparations

In the draft handbook, Ofsted proposed that, for section 5 (full) inspections, inspectors would arrive on site the day before inspection activity began in order to prepare.  This suggestion has now been culled.

Following feedback from senior leaders about the potential negative consequences of having inspectors arrive at the school gates the day before an inspection, Ofsted have said that, rather than be on site, all preparation will continue to be carried out off site and the notice of inspection will remain at half a day.

However, Ofsted say that their pilots have convinced them that they can enhance the way that inspectors prepare for inspection.  Accordingly, inspectors will increase considerably the amount of time they spend speaking to leaders about the education provided by the school during the normal pre-inspection telephone call.

Indeed, this phone call – which will take place in the afternoon before an inspection, after ‘the call’ has been made, will now last for 90 minutes.

Inspectors will use this conversation to understand:

  • the school’s context, and the progress the school has made since the previous inspection, including any specific progress made on areas for improvement identified at previous inspections
  • the headteacher’s assessment of the school’s current strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to the curriculum, the way teaching supports pupils to learn the curriculum, the standards that pupils achieve, pupils’ behaviour and attitudes, and personal development
  • the extent to which all pupils have access to the school’s full curriculum
  • a discussion of specific areas of the school (subjects, year groups, aspects of provision, and so on) that will be a focus of attention during inspection.

This call will, Ofsted say, give inspectors and headteachers a shared understanding of the starting point of the inspection. It will also help inspectors to form an initial understanding of leaders’ view of the school’s progress and to shape the inspection plan.

  1. Use of internal data

In the draft handbook, Ofsted said it would no longer look at a school’s internal progress data, relying instead on externally available, validated outcomes data.

They said that this was an attempt to reduce staff workload because they did not want school leaders and teachers producing complex data for the sole purposes of inspection.  Unsaid but loud and clear was the implication that Ofsted did not trust schools’ own data.

Following negative feedback from senior leaders, Ofsted has clarified that although inspectors will not examine or verify internal data first-hand, they will still be interested in the conclusions drawn from such data and will be willing to hear about any actions taken as a result of the findings from any internal assessment information.

However, inspectors will still use published national performance data as a starting point on inspection.

  1. Short inspections

To allow inspectors to gather sufficient evidence on section 8 (short) inspections of good and non-exempt outstanding schools, the time inspectors spend on site will, as expected but a source of some contention, be extended to 2 days.

Short inspections will focus on particular aspects of the school’s provision – principally the quality of education and safeguarding – as a subset of the full EIF criteria.

Ofsted say that their consultation and pilots have convinced them that inspectors need to have enough time to gather sufficient evidence against these criteria.  Ofsted say they’ve also found that schools need to have this opportunity to provide evidence they believe is relevant.  This change will apply to almost all mainstream schools and all special schools.

However, inspectors will continue to be on site for only one day for section 8 inspections of the smallest schools – defined as those with 150 or fewer pupils.

Further education and skills providers

  1. Provision types

Ofsted say that, following consultation feedback on the matter, they will make their FE and skills inspections and reports more coherent and inclusive by reducing the number of provision types that they grade and specifically report on – but not quite to the extent they had initially proposed…

In the draft handbook, Ofsted proposed inspecting just 3 types of provision (young people, adults, and apprenticeships) but they now say this will increase to 4, which nevertheless is still 2 fewer than previously.

As a result of the response to the consultation, they say, Ofsted have been persuaded that the types of provision inspected should – as now – include provision for learners who have high needs.

  1. Short inspections of FE

A new model for short inspections will, Ofsted say, bring greater consistency to inspections of FE and skills providers.  These inspections will focus on particular aspects of the provision – principally the quality of education, safeguarding and leadership – as a subset of the full EIF criteria, while allowing the lead inspector some discretion.

  1. Timetable for re-inspection

A new timescale for re-inspecting FE and skills providers that are judged to require improvement will, Ofsted say, better recognise that genuine, sustained improvement can take time.

The timescale within which these providers will receive their next full inspection will now be 12 to 30 months. This will allow Ofsted to recognise whether rapid improvement has taken place or whether it may need more time.

  1. On-site planning

As with schools, during FE and skills inspections, inspectors will not now carry out on-site planning as was proposed.  They will continue to prepare for inspection off site instead.

Following the outcomes of the consultation and Ofsted’s experience on pilots, it is not – they say – clear that on-site planning is always beneficial to providers and inspectors. Therefore, they do not intend to proceed with this proposal.

Methodology for inspection

Ofsted has also just published its methodology for inspection.  They say that inspection activity will take three forms:

  1. Top-level view: inspectors and leaders will start with a top-level view of the school’s curriculum, exploring what is on offer, to whom and when, leaders’ understanding of curriculum intent and sequencing, and why these choices were made.
  2. Deep dive: next, they will be a ‘deep dive’ which will involve gathering evidence on the curriculum intent, implementation and impact over a sample of subjects, topics or aspects. This, Ofsted say, will be done in collaboration with leaders, teachers and pupils. The intent of the deep dive is to seek to interrogate and establish a coherent evidence base on quality of education.
  3. Bringing it together: finally, inspectors will bring the evidence together to widen coverage and to test whether any issues identified during the deep dives are systemic. This will usually lead to school leaders bringing forward further evidence and inspectors gathering additional evidence.

Top level view

This will largely take place during the initial 90-minute phone call between the lead inspector and headteacher/principal and, as I say above, will focus on the following:

  • the school’s context, and the progress the school has made since the previous inspection, including any specific progress made on areas for improvement identified at previous inspections
  • the headteacher’s assessment of the school’s current strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to the curriculum, the way teaching supports pupils to learn the curriculum, the standards that pupils achieve, pupils’ behaviour and attitudes, and personal development
  • the extent to which all pupils have access to the school’s full curriculum
  • a discussion of specific areas of the school (subjects, year groups, aspects of provision, and so on) that will be a focus of attention during inspection.

Deep dive

The deep dive, meanwhile, will take place throughout the inspection visit and will include the following elements:

  • an evaluation of senior leaders’ intent for the curriculum in any given subject or area, and their understanding of its implementation and impact
  • an evaluation of curriculum leaders’ long- and medium-term thinking and planning, including the rationale for content choices and curriculum sequencing
  • visits to a deliberately and explicitly connected sample of lessons
  • the work scrutiny of books or other kinds of work produced by pupils who are part of classes that have also been (or will also be) observed by inspectors
  • a discussion with teachers to understand how the curriculum informs their choices about content and sequencing to support effective learning
  • a discussion with a group of pupils from the lessons observed.

Ofsted says that, during deep dives, context will matter.  Carrying out lesson visits or work scrutiny without context will, they accept, limit the validity of their judgements.

It is important that, in order to make lesson visits and scrutiny more accurate, inspectors know the purpose of the lesson (or the task in a workbook), how it fits into a sequence of lessons over time, and what pupils already knew and understood. Conversations with teachers and subject leads will, they say, provide this contextual information.

Ofsted also says that a sequence of lessons, not an individual lesson, will be their unit of assessment – accordingly, inspectors will need to evaluate where a lesson sits in a sequence, and leaders’/teachers’ understanding of this.

As now, inspectors will not grade individual lessons or teachers.

Ofsted say that work scrutiny will form a part of the evidence they use to judge whether or not the intended curriculum is being enacted.  They’ll ask: Do the pupils’ books support other evidence that what the school set out to teach has, indeed, been covered?

Work scrutinies, Ofsted say, can provide part of the evidence to show whether pupils know more, remember more and can do more, but only as one component of the deep dive which includes lesson visits and conversations with leaders, teachers and pupils.

Coverage is a prerequisite for learning, Ofsted say.  But simply having covered a part of the curriculum does not in itself indicate that pupils know or remember more.

Work scrutinies cannot be used to demonstrate that an individual pupil is working ‘at the expected standard’ or similar, and it is not valid – Ofsted admits – to attempt to judge an individual pupil’s individual progress by comparing books from that pupil at two points in time.

Ofsted say that inspectors can make appropriately secure judgements on curriculum, teaching and behaviour across a particular deep dive when four to six lessons are visited and inspectors have spoken to the curriculum lead and teachers to understand where each lesson sits in the sequence of lessons.

The greater the number of visits, they say, the more inspectors can see the variation in practice across a deep dive.  However, there is a point after which additional visits do little to enhance the validity of evidence.  Since an inspection evidence base will include multiple deep dives, the total number of lessons visited over the course of the inspection will substantially exceed four to six.

Ofsted say that inspectors should review a minimum of six workbooks (or pieces of work) per subject per year group, and scrutinise work from at least two year groups in order to ensure that evidence is not excessively dependent on a single cohort.  Normally, inspectors will repeat this exercise across each of the deep dives, subjects, key stages or year groups in which they carry out lesson visits.

Bringing it together

At the end of day 1, the inspection team will meet to begin to bring the evidence together. The purpose of this important meeting is to:

  • share the evidence gathered so far to continue to build a picture of the quality of education, identifying which features appear to be systemic and which are isolated to a single aspect
  • allow the lead inspector to quality assure the evidence, and especially its ‘connectedness’
  • establish which inspection activities are most appropriate and valid on day 2 to come to conclusions about which features are systemic
  • bring together evidence about personal development, behaviour and attitudes, safeguarding, wider leadership findings, and so on, in order to establish what further inspection activity needs to be done on day 2 to come to the key judgements.


Follow me on Twitter: @mj_bromley


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