Is it Time for a Fundamental Change in the Ofsted Framework?

Ofsted Inspections: Is it time for a fundamental change in the Ofsted framework? How relevant is the Ofsted framework in a classroom where the principles of metacognition are embedded?

As schools are just about getting their heads around the new Ofsted inspection framework, it is interesting to reflect that the mere term ‘Ofsted’ still has staff in a tizz! Comments such as ‘we haven’t had the call yet’ or ‘we thought that call was from the big O' that permeate the air of our staff rooms remain very high.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the quality of teaching provided for our children has improved greatly since Ofsted came into being. I am quick to recognise that there have been many other factors that also contributed to this. However, the fact that the original inspection system provided school leaders with a framework to judge teaching was, in its time, a helpful tool.

However, I believe the Ofsted framework does not go far enough in recognising teaching and leadership excellence within the present National Curriculum.

In my view, teaching should be judged by the quality of learning generated within the classroom. In this respect, I believe there is not enough attention paid to how pupils are being supported to be critical friends or how they are being supported to ask questions rather than being asked to provide answers.

In my definition, a truly great classroom is one where generating questions is the norm and pupils can explain why they are learning, not just what they are learning. I would remove from the Ofsted framework the terms outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate. Instead, focus on ‘What makes teaching excellent?’ They could use headings such as pupil-to-pupil questioning, being a critical friend, the quality of reasoning and thinking, understanding how we learn, working collaboratively, and displaying learning behaviour skills.

In this way, it would be easier for inspectors to focus on what does and does not make excellent teaching. It would also be closer to the ethos of the present National Curriculum, where we should be striving for deeper learning and providing pupils with a greater degree of reasoning and thinking about problems.

An example of the change in the Ofsted framework

If the framework, as an example, provided the following expectations for ‘what being a critical friend’ might look like:

  • Pupils listen attentively when necessary and sometimes paraphrase their partner's words.
  • Pupils offer and take feedback positively, even if the messages suggest that something requires improvement.
  • Pupils are encouraged to share their thoughts with their partner and ask their partner what their thoughts are.
  • Pupils act as advocates for views and beliefs that may differ from their own.
  • Pupils show maturity when acting as a mediator.
  • Pupils cope with criticism and learn from it.
  • Pupils use feedback from a range of sources to help solve a problem.
  • Pupils confidently provide feedback to support others to solve problems.
  • Pupils recognise that alternative viewpoints can be equally valid and be open to ambiguity.
  • Pupils critically reflect on their knowledge, understanding and ideas in the light of new experiences and interaction with a partner.
  • Pupils know when to modify their knowledge, understanding and ideas based on their critical friend’s reflections.

Suppose the framework had similar objectives for each of the other areas. In that case, I believe that Ofsted inspectors could focus on excellence and be able to recognise where shortcomings were if indeed that was the case. This would make demands on the inspection team to get to the heart of the school’s ethos and, therefore, be able to reflect on what a great school is.

The Ofsted Framework and School Leadership

With regard to leadership, I don’t think the framework has taken account of the different types of leadership within schools and academies since the growth of multi-academy trusts. For example, there is a vast difference between the role of an executive headteacher and the head of school. Does the present Ofsted Inspection framework really capture this difference? I would suggest no.

The present leadership criteria do not focus enough on the impact of leadership on teaching and learning. This aspect should, in my view, dominate the leadership section of the framework.

Focusing on learning outcomes rather than the ‘catch-all’ objectives

In a nutshell, I think the different frameworks from Ofsted have all played their part in deepening our thinking about ‘what makes a great school?’ However, I believe it is time for a fundamental change in thinking because great leaders focus more on the learning outcomes than on the ‘catch-all’ objectives in the current Ofsted framework.

Get in Touch

If you have further questions about my view on the potential changes that could be made within the Ofsted Framework, or you would like to discuss the principles of metacognition and learning outcomes in the classroom in more detail, join me on twitter @Clive_FocusEd or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818.


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