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The Ofsted EIF: What is the Education Inspection Framework and Why is it Important?

In September 2019, the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) replaced the Common Inspection Framework (CIF), changing the way Ofsted inspects schools, colleges, further education institutions and early years settings in England.

In this post, we take a closer look at what the EIF is and why it is important.

What is the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework?

The Education Inspection Framework sets out how Ofsted inspects maintained schools, academies, non-association independent schools, further education and skills provision, and registered early years settings in England.

It details Ofsted's inspection principles and the main judgements that inspectors make when carrying out their assessments. The framework applies to different educational settings to ensure comparability when learners move from one setting to another and aims to support consistency across the inspection of different remits.

Using the framework, inspectors will make graded judgements on:

  • quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management


What is new and why it is important?

Under Ofsted’  EIF the ‘quality of education’ measure places more emphasis on the curriculum and gives less weight to school exam and test results. It combines the previous 'teaching, learning and assessment' rating and the 'pupil outcomes' grade and aims to lessen the reliance on exam results as a measure of school quality.

When evaluating the quality of education, inspectors will consider the extent to which leaders have designed an ambitious and well-sequenced curriculum. There will be more focus on the design and content of learning. Inspectors will be interested in not only what is being taught, but also how well pupils/students are being taught. They will be looking at how a lesson contributes to the bigger picture.

So, how dramatic are the changes? Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Further Education and Skills, Paul Joyce, says the new framework is “a refocusing of inspection, rather than a radical change”.

Under the new format, Joyce says: “Inspectors will be spending less time looking at performance data, and more time considering how providers are making sure their learners are developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to allow them to successfully progress and achieve.”

The overarching objective of the revised inspection framework is to increase the quality and consistency of education throughout England. The aim is to provide schools with greater insight into the quality of teaching and caregiving. A high standard of training will be undertaken by inspectors to ensure they make judgements fairly and consistently across the different types of education providers.

Ofsted’s recent reviews into different subjects across the curriculum - Maths, English and Science - draw on the EIF and other literature to identify factors that can contribute to a high-quality curriculum, assessment, pedagogy and systems in each of these subjects. The findings will be used to examine how Maths, English and Science are taught in England’s schools.

What the EIF means for your school

Leaders and inspection nominees will need to understand how inspectors will judge behaviour in the educational setting within the new inspection guidelines.

With the new focus on curriculum delivery, providers must be able to assess curriculum intent, and provide detail on implementation and impact. A curriculum audit is advisable to demonstrate that curriculum development is being a prioritised.

What does curriculum intent mean?

‘Key for School Leaders’ describes curriculum intent as “what you want your pupils to know and be able to do, both at different stages of education, and by the time they leave your school.” It suggests providers consider the following:

  • What are your curriculum objectives?
  • How does the curriculum plan sequence how objectives will be implemented?
  • What values are reflected in the curriculum?
  • Is everybody in the teaching and support team clear on these objectives?
  • How do you cater for different needs, such as disadvantaged or SEN pupils?

In general, inspectors will place more emphasis on work scrutiny and “deep dives” and less on learning observations. There will be fewer inspector meetings with managers and more use of first-hand evidence. They will be looking at outcomes in context and whether they are the result of a coherently planned curriculum.

The new EIF provides much more opportunity for discussion with teachers and for them to explain their approach to teaching, so it’s essential that all staff know how to prepare for an Ofsted inspection.

Prior to inspection, providers need to:

  • Examine the EIF and consider its impact on the inspection process
  • Know and understand the key Ofsted criteria
  • Understand roles during the inspection
  • Identify what evidence Ofsted will require and develop an inspection-ready action plan

There are four inspection handbooks according to remit. These are:

The handbooks include information on:

  1. How schools will be inspected: the processes before, during and after the inspection
  2. The evaluation schedule: the evaluation criteria inspectors use to make the graded judgements, including some examples of the kinds of evidence and activities used by inspectors to make their judgements
  3. Applying the EIF in different contexts: guidance on how to apply the EIF in specific contexts and provisions

Note that Ofsted's latest handbook update considers the pandemic and its effect on schools. When assessing the impact of the curriculum, inspectors will have due regard to any loss of learning the pandemic may have caused.

Providers should illustrate what they are doing to address any disruption to learning and how they are ensuring that children are well prepared for their next stage of education. But note, Ofsted will not be inspecting the Covid-19 response.

Inspectors will look at how providers have adapted and prioritised their curriculum from September 2020, including how it has been implemented remotely. They will need to evidence how learning gaps have been identified and addressed.

The impact on curriculum leads

Under the CIF, inspectors spent much of their time engaged with headteachers. With the EIF being more curriculum focused, it means that many middle leaders in educational settings will be more involved in the inspection process than they were previously.

The logistical demands of enabling staff to spend time with inspectors poses challenges, especially in small establishments where cover is more difficult to organise. Head teachers and leaders will need to be aware of the potential for staff, especially curriculum leads, to feel overwhelmed now that the focus has shifted to curriculum delivery. Meanwhile, leads will need to ensure teachers develop a deeper understanding of ‘intent’ - why a particular approach to teaching/learning has been adopted. See more about what the new EIF means to teachers here.


Visit the IG Schools Hub for further content, such as interviews with sector experts and helpful resources to enhance teaching and learning. The hub offers best practice guidance documents in addition to policy updates for senior leaders, teachers and support staff working in early years, primary and secondary education, across maintained, academy and independent schools.

IG Schools Hub