If you have seen Ofsted in the news recently then you may well have noticed that we’ve been talking about changes we are proposing to make to the way we inspect schools.
In particular we have been talking about the curriculum, the substance of what is taught in schools.
There are good reasons for that; after all, that substance is the thing that stays with pupils as they progress through primary school and beyond. Without a strong curriculum, a school isn’t much more than a building.
Change the way we inspect
From September 2019, we plan to change the way we inspect schools. In the new academic year, our inspectors will look closely at what children are learning, and focus a little less on test and exam data.
We will recognise those schools that are making sure children are learning about a wide range of subjects and are not curtailing enjoyment to prepare for primary school tests. Here in Northamptonshire there are already many schools that are providing this kind of broad and rich curriculum.
We can see this at St Barnabas Church of England School in Wellingborough where, as our inspection team found late last year, children get off to a flying start in their Reception classes. And the curriculum offers a wide range of learning experiences for pupils to broaden their horizons.
At this school, teachers make links across the curriculum. For example, pupils wrote questions that they would like to put to Florence Nightingale. The school invited parents who were firefighters or paramedics to explain what they do. And school leaders broadened pupils’ horizons by taking pupils on trips to the seaside and to a lifeboat station.
We will be launching a consultation about our proposals next month – if you have the time, please do take a look at it and let us know what you think. Feedback from parents is very important to us.
But while there will be changes, I’d like to make it clear that keeping children safe will remain a priority for our inspectors.
In case you didn’t know, inspectors in my team all have qualified teacher status and, whether they are HM Inspectors, who work directly for us, or Ofsted Inspectors, who work for us a few days a year, they all have experience of leading a school. In short, they have devoted their professional lives to raising standards for children and young people, and helping to keep them safe.
Ofsted normally calls schools the day before an inspection. On this call the inspector asks to be able to see the record of checks of all staff who work with pupils and records of bullying behaviour. If there is an issue then inspectors will follow that as a line of inquiry, and make a judgement in their inspection report. People sometimes denigrate ‘paperwork’ but this kind of information is a vital part of being able to show that the right checks are being put in place to help keep children safe.
Helped and protected
On the day of inspection itself, inspectors always have an eye on how well children are helped and protected, so that they are kept safe. They talk to pupils and ask them about the school. They observe the canteen and playground sessions to see how pupils are getting on. And they talk to teachers and school leaders too.
Finally, they take into account the views of parents and what they say about whether or not they think their child’s school is safe. Each primary school inspection report will say whether or not children are safe in the school.
So while there will be a new approach to inspection, some things will not change. And on that note I would like to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas.