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Ofsted Moves the Goalposts

Today, we hear the news that Amanda Spielman has announced a “major shift” in how Ofsted assesses schools.

If we are to believe the headlines, this is a big step for the education watchdog, moving away from a rigorous and restrictive focus on results to try and take in the curriculum and “the whole experience” of pupils’ education.

Teachers across the country will no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief, their prayers finally answered. For years, teachers have maligned the Ofsted inspection process for not taking into account the demographic, geographic and institutional issues (among others) that they face in their classrooms, as well as the broader efforts they make to support and inspire their pupils.

Indeed, in recent months there have been noises, both within and without Oftsed, that the watchdog should measure wellbeing in schools, and while that may be a long way off, it seems we have someone at the helm of Ofsted who is certainly not cut from the same cloth as results-are-all Michael Gove.

But for those of us who obsessively refresh TES and Schoolsweek every day for any sign of policy change, it might come as less of a shock. Spielman for some time has been making the case, such as at the Festival of Education in June, as she did again today, for a “broad curriculum” and a focus on the way it is taught, not purely the results.

Make no mistake, this a big step, and one in the right direction. But KS2 and KS4 results will remain some of the largest factors in how Ofsted assesses schools, for this academic year at least. This fact was highlighted at the inaugural Confederation of School Trusts (the association formerly known as FASNA) conference, by Matthew Purves, Deputy Director, Schools at Ofsted, while discussing the emerging model of Ofsted MAT ‘review’ – perhaps a story for another time.

In any case, this is well-earned good news for the education sector, and about time too.