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Headteacher has answer to new Ofsted requirements

The changes to Ofsted judgements and how to manage them …

Ofsted will launch a consultation on the new set of inspection categories in a new framework in January, in the hope of starting to use them at the start of the school year in September 2019.

In a speech in Newcastle on Thursday Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said the focus on performance data has narrowed what is taught in schools and inspections had placed too much weight on exam results.

Ian Norton, Headmaster of ‘Outstanding‘ Vranch House School in Exeter believes that his school has the answer to achieving high Ofsted judgements:

The Common Inspection Framework (CIF) always has, and probably always will, require a healthy dose of liberal interpretation to prevent it from becoming a noose around a school’s neck.

Curriculum and assessment tools are too often designed dogmatically to key headings of the present CIF:

  • quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • outcomes for children and learners

When schools use success criteria from these assessment tools as guiding principles to curriculum design, they often narrow and constrict a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ Ofsted say they want to see to a ‘Teach(train)-Test-Analyse’ conveyor belt approach to teaching and learning.

This is because this unimaginative approach sets teachers in ever-decreasing circles, trying to capture evidence of ‘learning and progression’ in the classroom before feeding it into assessment software tools to produce numerical data, statistics and comparisons.

The individual pupil progress is lost is a miasma of ‘trends’ and differences between key demographic groups e.g. boys/girls, free school meals/SEN and EAL.

And who benefits from this exercise, the teachers, Senior Leadership Teams, Headteachers?

No, it is an all-consuming, often de-motivating task with often misleading output.

It is most certainly not for the pupils benefit; pupils who tried so hard to produce their best work, only for it to become a ‘number’ in an endless data stream, being poured over by a teacher feeling equally deflated by the effort it took to produce said ‘number’. 

It is time for this counter-productive cycle to stop. The new planned judgement headings for the next iteration of the Ofsted CIF could in fact be seen as a wake-up call.

Planned New CIF Headings:

  • Personal development
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Schools’ leadership and management

The word ‘assessment’ is crucially missing, which could be viewed as a permission to ditch obsessive ‘data’ driven curriculum design and delivery, which could in-turn free teachers up to do what they have known for years is the important part of their job: looking at the whole child, how they learn and how much they develop as individuals over time.

One can never truly escape assessment, but we can all be smarter about what that involves, and we are highly likely to be asked by the new Ofsted CIF to make our assessments more ‘personal’, ever more individual.In my school, we have used Earwig Academic to ride the waves of change, past and present.

We started our journey in designing a needs-led, bespoke curriculum just over two years ago and Earwig has been a crucial tool in bringing our vision to life.

They have been amazingly flexible each time we have developed our curriculum further and even adapted the assessment module in Earwig to enable us to assess the way we wanted to.

For our Ofsted Inspection in June 2018, we were graded ‘Outstanding’ in all judgement areas. This was in no-small part because all evidence of pupil progress against our unique curriculum, with real-time accompanying assessments against this curriculum, were all in one place: Earwig.

The Inspector was readily able to see within Earwig how our curriculum and assessments were interlinked and individualised for every last pupil.

When they asked to see the evidence of the progress being made and rationale for the assessment teacher-judgements, there was no desperate scrabble through endless ring-binders of data, print-outs or pupil workbooks; I simply showed her pupils’ ‘timelines’ then clicked on ‘Assessment’ within Earwig.

My teachers work from, and conduct their assessments against, a purely qualitative framework and Earwig’s assessment module creates the quantitate analysis for them, no more ‘feeding the ravenous data machine’ for the benefit of no-one in particular.

So, if our approach was deemed ‘Outstanding’ under the present data-focussed CIF framework, we certainly have no fear of a revised framework that points to more individualised curriculum delivery and assessment.

In some respects, the new CIF headings may replace the old CIF headings, but the challenge for teachers remains unchanged; we should not perhaps be asking ourselves, ‘What assessment data will I need under the new Ofsted CIF?’, but instead, How do I capture and demonstrate the unique progress of each pupil in a more meaningful way?’. The answer to that question for us was in our use of Earwig Academic.

Emilie-Kate Kidd, Co-Founder of Earwig Academic says;

“Although we are delighted to hear that schools will now be assessed in a more holistic way that considers challenges such as SEN, demographic and parental engagement, the new Ofsted judgments of personal development, behaviour and attitudes and schools’ leadership and management are much harder to measure, and the last thing teachers need is an increased workload.

“However, Earwig can solve this problem. The Earwig app enables teachers to capture multi-media evidence, link it to assessments from any curriculum and organise it in clear, vivid timelines. Ofsted inspectors are given a coffee, a login and can view the progress and achievements of the school all in one place.

“Evidence for the new judgements can be easily captured and organised through Earwig’s tagging and filtering record system, making it simple for Ofsted’s inspector to gauge efficacy. It is a great relief to both the school and the Ofsted inspector to find all of the assessment and evidence in one place and several schools have credited Earwig for their excellent Ofsted ratings”

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