Knowledge Bank - Leadership

School inspection update

What's the latest on the SEF and Ofsted? I've just heard that a review has been published. Does this mean we now know what to expect?

None of us can be totally certain. However, in the light of the recent Education Select Committee discussions we perhaps have more of an indication than previously. The Education Select Committee is the group responsible for monitoring the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Education. Their recent report, ‘The role and performance of Ofsted’ hit the headlines. 

The lead story was their recommendation to split Ofsted into two new organisations. One for education and skills and one for the inspection of children’s care. They recommend that each inspectorate should have its own head – a Chief Education Officer and a Chief Children’s Care Officer. They also advise that:

  • There should be greater clarity on what the purpose of inspection is
  • More inspectors should be serving practitioners
  • Limiting judgements should be abandoned

The committee were in favour of outstanding schools not being routinely inspected unless a particular trigger is present such as a headteacher leaving, exam results falling or exclusions rising. They have also recommended that the category of ‘satisfactory’ should be split into two to distinguish between those schools that are ‘stuck’ and those that are continuing to improve. However, they emphasise that there should be clear criteria that distinguishes the ‘stuck’ from the unstuck and from the inadequate categories of ‘notice to improve’ and ‘special measures’. 

The current framework inspects schools against 27 headings. In place of this the select committee are in agreement that there should be a clearer focus on just four things:

  • pupil achievement 
  • quality of teaching
  • leadership and management
  • the behaviour and safety of pupils 

The idea is that this sharper focus will leave more time for inspectors to observe lessons, engage in dialogue with teachers and school leaders and give a more reliable assessment of the quality of education that children are receiving. They agree that the current framework is too complex and recommend that the use of limiting judgements are abandoned. 

As for the SEF, it looks like we may not be completely free from it yet. As you probably know, the SEF is no longer a compulsory document from September 2011. However, the committee do point out that something is needed and recommend that there should be a simple form available for schools to complete on a voluntary basis. As we all know, this probably means that all schools will complete it, after all the previous SEF wasn’t actually compulsory either.

Schools should be reminded that from 22nd July 2011 they will no longer be able to access their school information and self-evaluation form. Schools should therefore save their most recent SEF and submit it in order to create a PDF version. They can then print or save this into the school’s own electronic filing system. 

Although the consultation is not over yet it is likely that these recommendations will inform any final decisions.  The new Ofsted will be introduced in September 2012. 

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