Updated: Mar 13, 2020
At the Heads Forward Leadership Summit, we were lucky to hear directly from Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector. It was heartening to hear her genuine desire to improve the education system, to connect the evidence base with what’s happening in schools and find effective education models for disadvantaged students. She spoke openly about Ofsted’s new inspection framework and the impact this is having on schools, and what’s working well across the country.
David Thomas, Principal at Jane Austen College did a great job of asking some challenging questions and I’m pleased to share a summary of Amanda’s responses below:
What is the role of an Ofsted inspection?
We have to provide parents with objectivity and the information they require to decide what’s right for the child. We have to provide the government with the evidence it needs and support schools with feedback that is genuinely worth having.
There should be a focus on process, conversation and constructive feedback rather than on the overall judgement.
Assessments should be conducted in a way that creates a proper, professional conversation with teachers, leaves them with their pride and enthusiasm intact and provides them with something that’s going to help them going forwards.
What is your response to the criticism of Ofsted’s new inspection framework?
Angela was clear that Ofsted take feedback and complaints seriously and are continually adjusting the implementation of the framework and making adjustments where needed. However, Angela shared that close to 90% of schools that have been inspected under the new framework felt it was fair and constructive.
When questioned on a two vs three year KS3, Angela confirmed that Ofsted do not have a preference, their judgement is based on the totality of secondary education that a child receives.
What are we doing well in schools at the moment?
The proportion of schools that are struggling is continually shrinking. A lot of initiatives (including Teach First) designed to bring capacity to the places that most need it have really made a difference to this.
We have more clarity around whole school behaviour models that can help children and teachers work together to maximise incentives for children to default to good behaviour.
We are experiencing an ‘intellectual renaissance’ about teaching. The emergence of blogging and social media has engaged more people in teaching and despite its challenges is contributing to an increasing movement of ideas and enthusiasm for education.
We are close to extraordinary coherence between different leaders that help bring people into the right roles. We are giving people the maximum chance of enjoying teaching and staying in it.
What do we need to fix in education?
Amanda took a moment to think about her answer to this question but responded that we need to be careful not to underestimate children. Behaviour problems build up when children get bored and are under stretched, or if they haven’t learnt to read properly and act up because they’ve got left behind.
We need to design an education model that has high standards for all children and can effectively challenge them, whilst also supporting those who need it.
Our Final Thoughts
Amanda showed a genuine motivation to work collaboratively with schools and teachers and open to listening to feedback. Amanda defended the framework’s focus on some non-academic areas and emphasised that education is about ‘the totality of what a child receives throughout their time at school’. This is reflected in the incorporation of personal development into the new assessment framework and seems an important shift in focus for Ofsted.
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