Breaking Down the Changes to Ofsted's School Inspections
Ofsted have announced significant changes to its inspection processes this morning (12.06.23).
Here is a summary:
A Closer Look at Inadequacy
One of the most noteworthy changes is the quicker return of inspectors to schools deemed inadequate solely due to ineffective safeguarding. In the past, a single inadequate rating could overshadow all other achievements a school had made. With the new measures, schools in such a situation will have an opportunity to quickly rectify the safeguarding issues, facilitating an improved overall grade. This targeted approach will significantly shorten the period a school retains an overall judgement of inadequacy.
Streamlining the Complaints Process
A crucial part of these changes is the revised complaints process. Recognising the need for increased transparency and an easier avenue for schools to raise concerns, Ofsted is introducing a formal consultation. The proposed changes, aimed at resolving complaints more quickly, will reduce administrative burdens on complainants and increase transparency in the process.
Doubling Down on Wellbeing
Understanding the enormous pressure school leaders face, the Department for Education (DfE) will double its funding for the charity, Education Support. This charity provides much-needed wellbeing assistance to school leaders. With the increase in funding, the programme aims to support an additional 500 heads by March 2024. This investment underscores the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the educational sector.
Increased Transparency with Inspections
Schools will now receive more precise information about when to expect their next inspection. The new measures ensure that schools have a clearer timeline, which is particularly useful for institutions that have been exempt from inspection for a prolonged period. However, it's vital to note that inspection outcomes remain provisional until finalised, which means that reports can still take several weeks to be published.
A Shift in Language
In an effort to depersonalise the reports, the language of inspection reports will shift from referring to individuals, to focusing on 'the school'. This minor but impactful change is aimed at shifting the blame from individuals to systemic issues within the institution, promoting a more collective responsibility approach.
What do we think?
Although Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman's announcement demonstrates Ofsted's initiative to make inspections more balanced and with a more supportive focus on staff welfare, we feel that there is more that can be done.
A better system for inspection without the need for a one word summary: Schools are complex beings.
To sum up a school with one word seems inappropriate, and doesn't reflect everything that the school has worked so hard to achieve.
These one word summaries such as 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate', have a lasting impact on schools over many years. Schools struggle to retain staff and children, and parents and carers lose confidence. The impact of this is a declining budget, instability, and a huge amount of unnecessary stress for everyone concerned. This in turn, affects the children in the school and often has a negative impact on their learning. Surely this is counterintuitive to what Ofsted are trying to do?
Instead schools should be offered more funding, and the resources to 'fix' the issues that the inspectors have found, and swiftly. Schools should be entered into a system of rapid improvement, supported to make the changes in a positive way, with everyone involved and supported in this process. Resources and funding should be made immediately available to enable the changes to happen.
Whilst we recognise the challenges that Ofsted face, we feel that these changes merely scratch the surface, pointing to a recurring pattern of superficial fixes rather than comprehensive change.
More substantial changes are urgently needed in order to move forward in a more positive and supportive manner for our children, families and school communities.