What to expect in an inspection, from an Ofsted leader

An interview with Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Schools, Matthew Purves, has revealed that school leaders and teachers believe Ofsted has the right focus for the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) which will be launched in September. The interview, conducted by primary school curriculum provider Cornerstones Education, is the third in a series with Ofsted, as part of their commitment to help schools understand what to expect from the new framework.

Mr Purves has been a leading force in the creation of the framework and spoke with Caroline Pudner, Curriculum Developer, Cornerstones Education on ‘The Curriculum’ podcast to explain some of the outcomes of the EIF consultation, which received 15,000 responses, and the piloting of the new inspection model with a wide cross-section of 200 schools.

In the conversation, Ofsted's Deputy Director for Schools, Matthew Purves, explains: “The response from senior leaders and teachers to the question, ‘Do we have the focus right in this framework?’, was overwhelmingly positive. Of course, we have taken feedback from the consultation on board and as a result some significant changes to the original draft framework have been made. For example, before an inspection, inspectors will now have an educationally focused phone call with the senior leaders of a school to discuss the areas of focus for the inspection, rather than preparing for an inspection on site, which was not universally popular as part of the draft framework.”

Senior leaders and teachers who have been involved with the piloting have commented that whilst some elements of the inspection, such as safeguarding are very similar, the core curricular conversation feels really different with inspectors talking to teachers and children a lot more as part of their in-depth review.” Ofsted Deputy Director for Schools, Matthew Purves

Further highlights from the Ofsted interview are as follows:

  • Do what’s right for your children: Throughout the conversation, Mr Purves, aims to reassure leaders and teachers that they must continue to do what is right for their children, in their school. He advises teachers not to do things purely because they think they will please Ofsted. Instead, Ofsted is looking to see the choices that have been made, and that work being done is right for the children in that specific school.
  • Clarity of vision for your curriculum: Inspectors will first be looking to take a top-level view of a school’s curriculum, through conversations with curriculum leaders, to find out whether leaders have a really clear vision of where they want their pupils to get to and what their ‘end points’ are. Then, how does this translate to the individual lessons, and the sequence of lessons that are being taught.
  • The ‘deep dive’ approach: As part of a school’s inspection, inspectors will undertake an in-depth, intense look at four to six different subject areas within the school. This is something Ofsted is calling “deep dives”. The purpose of “deep dives” is for inspectors to be able to better understand the quality of education being offered throughout the school and whether curriculum intent is being achieved within the lessons and work that children are doing. 
  • Reducing teacher workload: Ofsted hopes that a reduced focus on schools’ internal data will have a positive impact on teachers’ and leaders’ workload and will take the pressure off producing or managing data for Ofsted, to allow them to focus on the right things. Inspectors will not look at schools’ internal attainment and progress data, however they will be interested in schools’ use of data and what is being done with the data findings.
  • The importance of reading and vocabulary: Reading will continue to be a big part of the new framework and inspectors will always take a ‘deep dive’ in reading within primary schools as it is so fundamental to children being able to access a rich curriculum.

Mr Purves also stressed the importance of vocabulary, the understanding of words and their meanings, at primary level. He said, a focus on strong reading and vocabulary teaching is how we’re going to close the gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children.

Simon Hickton, Managing Director, Cornerstones Education said: “At Cornerstones, we believe that a broad, balanced and connected primary curriculum can have the power to unlock a child’s potential and love of learning, so we are delighted that Ofsted is putting the curriculum at the heart of its new framework. 

"It’s also reassuring to hear that Ofsted is extremely mindful of schools having a curriculum which is right for them, and their children, as well as recognising the importance of having a clear vision for what they want to achieve. This is something which we really encourage and enable our schools to do through the flexibility of the Cornerstones Curriculum and I hope that senior leaders and teachers will also take some reassurance from our conversation with Matthew.”

The Cornerstones Curriculum is taught in over 2,000 schools to 500,000 children. It is written and developed by Simon Hickton and Melanie Moore, both of whom have over 20 years' primary teaching and leadership experience. Following a study visit to northern Italy, where Melanie learnt about the innovative and inspiring Reggio Emilia approach to early years learning, she was inspired to create a primary school curriculum that would develop the skills and knowledge required by the national curriculum, as well as being creatively stimulating and allowing children to explore their own fascinations. Realising that writing a curriculum was going to be a full-time job, she left teaching and established Cornerstones Education with Simon in 2010.

Started in 2017 ‘The Curriculum’ podcast series has had over 19,000 listens with listeners in the UK, USA, Australia, Japan, Dubai, Germany, France and China. Previous interviewees have included Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director of Education, Professor Sam Twiselton, Director of Education at Sheffield Hallam University and Hywel Roberts, an inspirational educational speaker, author and teaching adviser.

Link to listen to the full Ofsted podcast: podcasts.apple.com

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