From September 2019, Ofsted is adopting a new inspection framework, which will be used to evaluate education providers in England. The main changes highlighted by BBC Teach are:

  1. Inspection of “good” school increased to 2 days
  2. Ofsted could arrive within 2.5 hours
  3. Personal development, behaviour and welfare judgement split
  4. There is a new “quality of education” judgement
  5. Ofsted will not use internal performance data, but will ask about workload
  6. Private schools’ specialisations will be taken into account
  7. Emergency private school inspections will lead to quicker follow-ups

Is it enough?

Greater focus will be placed on the provision of opportunities for student’s personal development. The variety of relevant extra-curricular activities and their uptake will form part of the evidence used by the inspectors in their assessments.  Schools will be encouraged to provide a wide spectrum of high-quality experiences to their pupils, through their curriculum and outside of it. They will also need to ensure that the most disadvantaged students are involved and benefit from those opportunities consistently. But is this enough? How does it compare to the requirements met by independent schools? And does it prepare our young people for the future?

The consultation preceding the announcement of the new framework was in-depth, had 15,000 responses and the overall consensus is that Ofsted listened to the comments put forward. The quality of education judgement has changed and will now be framed by three “I”s: intent, implementation and impact. Those have redefined progress, where inspectors will now look for evidence of what the curriculum intends to teach, at the whole school and at subject levels.

Focus on education, not data

“The new framework puts the real substance of education at the heart of inspection and supports leaders and teachers who act with integrity. We hope early years, schools and college leaders will no longer feel the need to generate and analyse masses of internal data for inspection.” said Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The move towards using qualitative judgements on the substance of schooling to enrich and balance the attainment outcomes is certainly seen as a positive. What is more, it is evident that Ofsted is more aware of issues facing SEND and disadvantaged students and is putting in motion processes that will facilitate better experiences for those groups. There is still a lot of work and research to be done to ensure that all students are catered for equally, but focus on avoiding a narrowed curriculum for disadvantaged and tackling “off-rolling” (identifying where it occurs, where it’s overused and the inappropriate use of fixed term exclusions) has been praised by Education Policy Institute in their review, published in May 2019.

A holistic approach

Two main criticisms are also around SEND and disadvantaged students. The removal of recommendations for Pupil Premium Reviews for schools with weak strategies or outcomes is feared to send the wrong message regarding the drive for and importance of the improvement in outcomes for those students. It has also been noted that a unified and consistent approach to high expectations around pupil behaviour might be superficial. There does not seem to be enough consideration for how trauma or atypical cognitive development might affect student’s behaviour and how that would relate to the inspectors’ expectations. However, the main positive change seems to be around the approach to a more holistic student experience.

“…we have worked closely with Ofsted to make sure all children and young people benefit from an ambitious, broad and rounded curriculum. This framework reflects that approach and I am particularly pleased to see this alongside the enhanced focus on personal development” was how the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, described the changes.

With schools’ budgets being under constant pressure and curriculums narrowing around core subjects, it is refreshing and hopeful to see importance being put back on the development of a young person as a whole. The question of educating our future workforce to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow has been notoriously difficult to answer. With the current rate of technological development, trends can be spotted and predictions made, but there is no certainty on what exactly is awaiting us in the years to come.

Making young people future-ready

So how do we make young people future-ready? Part of the answer seems to lie, luckily, in personal development. Employers are looking for skills that enable young people to express themselves, interact with others, embrace the change and learn from failures. Regardless of the position or industry, these skills are transferable and are equally relevant for their professional and private lives. Having confidence to understand who they are, their strengths and being able to explore different options are hugely important. Young people are constantly flooded with opportunities and it is the ability to make positive choices that makes a difference. Raising aspirations, building resilience and the introduction of positive role models seem to be very important elements of future success.

It fills me with such optimism to see personal development being put on the par with pupil’s achievement in both Ofsted and ISI frameworks. Curricular and extra-curricular activities that encourage and embed those values will have such a robust impact on a young person, far beyond studying a subject. Learning about healthy relationships, social and cultural differences, mental health and wellbeing will allow young people to become confident and ambitious adults that will be able to look after themselves and their communities in a positive way.

Supporting the sector, supporting schools

As it is with everything, this is not just schools’ responsibility. Learning occurs in all types of settings and we all need to contribute. Fantastic services provided by the voluntary, public and private sectors are there to further enrich that experience. Our county is filled with high quality provision, which can be accessed by young people and their families, coming from all walks of life.

Oxfordshire Youth has been providing those services to our membership organisations for over 70 years. We have now decided to open them up to other organisations working with young people. Following on from all changes to the inspection frameworks, we have focused on how we can use our resources to support schools and aid in the holistic development of young people. We have mapped out how we can do that in our School Support Pack.

Is it future-ready? It’s still impossible to say. But we seem to be moving into a space where every person is encouraged to make their own choices. Through these services, we can empower them to feel confident to make those decisions. If we can help young people build their resilience, so they are ready to face the challenges that life throws at them and learn from those experiences, we will be on track to preparing them for the future.

Our county is filled with high quality provision, which can be accessed by young people and their families, from all walks of life.  The increased focus on personal development in schools opens up an opportunity for schools to be working closer with the voluntary sector who have extensive experience personal development provision.

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