New Ofsted inspection framework: foundation years
Much is changing in the world of Ofsted with the announcement of a new chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, replacing Christine Gilbert, who left the post in June of this year.
He will preside over the introduction of new arrangements for inspecting schools from January 2012. The new arrangements have been introduced in the light of the 2011 Education Bill and government policy that reflects ‘the importance of inspection focusing even more extensively on the quality of teaching when judging the quality of the school, with inspectors spending most of their time in classrooms.’
The practical effect on inspections as a result of the changes is to:
- reduce the scope of inspection and the number of judgements that are required
- increase the proportion of inspectors’ time in school that is spent observing teaching and gathering evidence of learning, progress and behaviour
- enable schools to request an inspection and for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to charge for this
- end the expectation that schools complete a standard self-evaluation form, although inspectors will take into account of any summary of self-evaluation evidence that schools present
- give greater consideration to the views of parents, pupil and staff as important evidence.
Inspections will focus on the quality of education provided in the school and its overall effectiveness, in particular:
- the achievement of pupils at the school
- the quality of teaching in the school
- the behaviour and safety in the school
- the quality of leadership and management of the school.
Most classes in schools which include children in the Early Years Foundation Stage will be inspected under the new ‘section 5 inspection’ arrangements outlined above. There is a proposal that those schools which have been judged outstanding at their previous inspection will be exempt from section 5 inspection subject to continuing to perform well. If the Education Bill receives parliamentary approval, these schools will be known as ‘exempt schools’.
Early years registered childcare provision will continue to be inspected under different regulations – section 49 of the Childcare Act 2006. Where the childcare provision is managed by the school, the section 49 inspection will be carried out at the same time as the section 5 inspection and the quality of the provision will be reported in a single inspection report. However, where registered childcare provision on a school’s site is managed by a private, voluntary or independent provider it will be inspected separately under the Childcare Act 2006. In these circumstances the inspection may be scheduled to take place at the same time as the school’s section 5 inspection. Separate inspection reports will be provided for the school and the childcare provision.
When looking at the achievement of pupils at the school, how well pupils make progress relative to their starting points, how well pupils learn and develop skills, inspectors will look at the standards of learning in the early years. They will take into consideration Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) scores. The new arrangements for the EYFSP state that it ‘provides parents, practitioners and teachers with a well-rounded picture of a child’s knowledge, understanding and abilities, their progress against expected levels, and their readiness for school.’ The last statement on ‘readiness for school’ seems somewhat misplaced as almost all children in England will already be at the end of their first year at school when the EYFSP is used.
Currently, the exact arrangements for revising the EYFSP are not certain. The consultation on the EYFS (and EYFSP) closed on 30 September and the results of the consultation are awaiting a government response. Any new arrangements for the EYFSP will come into effect in September 2012.
The new Ofsted Evaluation Schedule makes it clear that all grade descriptors – what is outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate – apply equally to the Early Years Foundation Stage as to the rest of the school’s age groups.
The quality of teaching focuses on raising pupils’ achievement and promoting their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Judgements on the quality of teaching include teachers’ planning and implementation of learning activities across the whole curriculum, as well as marking, assessment and feedback. The evidence for judgements also includes activities within and outside the classroom, such as support and intervention. Any judgement on the quality of teaching must take into account evidence of pupils’ progress and learning whatever the age of the children. The new inspection arrangements mean that inspectors will spend more time in classrooms observing teaching and learning, discussing teaching and learning with staff and discussing children’s work with them.
The behaviour and safety of pupils will be judged in many different ways, not only on the behaviour seen during the inspection. The inspection schedule draws attention to the fact that, whilst judgements will be based on persistent absence and attendance rates, attendance is not compulsory in maintained nursery schools.
The judgements on the quality of leadership and management of the school include the standards achieved by all leaders and managers in the school, including the EYFS leader or coordinator and the school governor responsible for early years. The factors which will influence the judgement include:
- how relentlessly the leaders, managers and governors pursue a vision for excellence
- effective strategies for improving teaching
- ensuring that the curriculum is broad and balanced and meets the needs, aptitudes and interests of pupils and promotes a successful progression to the pupils’ next stage of education
- managing performance, including tackling areas of underperformance
- promoting the confidence and engagement of parents and carers in their children’s learning and the development of good behaviour
- managing safeguarding arrangements.
As the draft framework for school inspection states, ‘The government expects schools to be in control of their own improvement and to set improvement priorities. Ofsted is required to carry out its work in ways which encourage the services it inspects and regulates to improve, be user-focused and to be efficient and effective in the use of resources.’ Excellent early years provision will give a school a head start towards becoming outstanding.