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ASCL calls for end to overall graded judgements in new paper on the future of inspection

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ASCL calls for end to overall graded judgements in new paper on the future of inspection

The Association of School and College Leaders has today published The Future of Inspection, a discussion paper seeking to fuel a debate that ultimately leads to a fairer, more constructive approach to school and college inspection.

The paper contains suggestions for both long-term and short-term changes to the inspection system. Proposals for immediate change are:

  1. Remove overall graded judgements.
  2. Tell schools and colleges in which academic year they will be inspected, and review the inspection cycle timeframe.
  3. Publish Ofsted inspector training and associated training materials.
  4. Undertake an internal review of how pupil voice is used during inspection.
  5. Update the inspection handbook and reporting to better reflect the role of trusts in school effectiveness.

The proposals for long-term changes, which should only be introduced following thorough piloting and analysis of impact, include the removal of all graded judgements, to be replaced with a narrative description of a school or college’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Currently, as well as getting an overall grade of either outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate, schools are given individual grades in four areas: quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management. Removing these has the potential to end the unhelpful and misleading practice of reducing a school or college’s performance in key areas to a single word or phrase, and to instead give parents and other stakeholders a more nuanced understanding of what a school or college is doing well and how it could improve.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Graded judgements are a woefully blunt tool with which to measure performance, failing to account for the different circumstances under which schools operate. Negative judgements come with huge stigma attached and create a vicious circle that makes improvement more difficult. We know from speaking to members that the punitive inspection system is contributing to the recruitment and retention crisis in education by adding to the pressure school leaders are under, and by making it more difficult to recruit high-quality staff in the schools which most need them.”

Tom Middlehurst, Curriculum, Assessment and Inspection Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We appreciate the need for an independent inspectorate, and acknowledge the current Education Inspection Framework has some positive aspects. But many school and college leaders feel the framework is flawed and Ofsted risks losing the trust of the profession. We think that, if implemented, the changes put forward in this paper could help win back that trust and produce an inspection system that is just, reliable and in the best interests of children and young people.”

Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Although these recommendations do not yet represent formal ASCL policy, the paper has been produced following consultation with ASCL Council – our policymaking body. Our hope is it will be a useful contribution to the dialogue for policymaking now and in the future and we would welcome feedback from across the sector.”

ASCL will be actively seeking further views on the future of inspection throughout 2023. We will be discussing the ideas in this paper with our members and other experts through a series of roundtable discussions and other events.  

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