‘Rebalanced' deal pledged for schools in tough areas

A proposed new inspection framework for the way schools in England are assessed is seeking to rebalance the process to make sure that young people receive the best teaching possible.

Ofsted says that instead of taking exam results and test data at face value, inspectors will look at how those results have been achieved, whether they are the result of broad and rich learning - or gaming and cramming.

According to the inspectorates own research, some schools are narrowing their curriculum in order to boost results in key exams, meaning that pupils drop arts, languages or music lessons at secondary school, as young as 13, to focus on exam subjects, while in primary school, instead of reading a wide range of books, children focus on comprehension tests.

The proposals will call time on the culture of ‘teaching to the test’ and off-rolling, instead focusing on a new ‘quality of education’ judgement, with the curriculum at its heart and no longer using schools’ internal performance data as inspection evidence, to ensure inspection does not create unnecessary work for teachers. The consultation also suggests extending on-site time for short inspections of good schools to two days, to ensure inspectors have sufficient opportunity to gather evidence that a school remains good.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Two words sum up my ambition for the framework: substance and integrity. The substance that has all children and young people exposed to the best that has been thought and said, achieve highly and set up to succeed. And the integrity that makes sure every child and young person is treated as an individual with potential to be unlocked, and staff as experts in their subject or field, not just as data gatherers and process managers."

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the practices Ofsted deplored in the document, the narrowing of the school curriculum and teaching to the test ‘have been the results of its own enforcement, through inspection, of a range of narrow measures to judge school quality’. The National Association of Head Teachers were also critical, commenting that the plan did not do enough to allay teachers' fears that schools in tough areas were treated unfairly in inspections and would not remove the disincentive for teachers and school leaders to work in the most challenging schools.

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