How will school inspection changes affect your child’s school?

PUBLISHED: 10:17 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 16 January 2019

Ofsted inspections are changing - what could it mean for your child's school? Picture Getty Images

Ofsted inspections are changing - what could it mean for your child's school? Picture Getty Images

Mark Bowden

Schools which achieve good exam results by “gaming and cramming” could be penalised under a new inspection framework.

Ofsted says it wants to take the focus away from exam results to look more at how pupils are taught. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoOfsted says it wants to take the focus away from exam results to look more at how pupils are taught. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ofsted wants to change the over-reliance on performance data in its inspections to take a broader look at how children are taught and supported in schools.

This could mean a crackdown on schools which use “gaming and cramming” to achieve better exam results, or cut subjects from their curriculum to boost performance at the expense of a good all-round education.

So what’s changed?

Perhaps the most crucial change to the framework is the new “quality of education” judgement – which will see a school assessed on how good an education their pupils are getting overall.

Paul Brooker, Ofsted's regional director for the east of England. Picture: OfstedPaul Brooker, Ofsted's regional director for the east of England. Picture: Ofsted

The aim is to take pressure off exam performance to focus more on the progress that children make in a particular school – sort of like the Progress 8 measure the government introduced alongside GCSE results in 2017.

It means parents will be able to see how good an education pupils are actually getting at a school, even if their exam results aren’t top of the table.

There will also be longer interim inspections for “good” schools, to ensure that they are in fact still good.

Why does this change need to happen?

Ofsted thinks that the current focus on exam performance might actually be bringing down the standard of education pupils are getting.

Research by the watchdog found that, for example, pupils in some primary schools were spending time repeating reading comprehension tests rather than reading a wide variety of books, while at GCSE level pupils were pushed away from subjects such as history, geography and modern languages towards qualifications deemed to be “easier”.

Similar practices were found in some further education colleges, where pupils were encouraged to take “popular” courses rather than ones which might actually lead to a job, and at apprenticeship providers, where focusing on “quantity rather than quality” was bringing down the standard of training on offer.

What will it mean for my child’s school?

This could have a profound effect for pupils in schools across the board.

With teachers and schools leaders asked to focus more on how children are taught, rather than the exam result at the end of it, teaching should become more rounded and pupils should benefit as a result.

More focus could be brought back into “non-core” subjects like humanities, languages and the arts as schools look to give pupils a broader education.

Ofsted also says the new framework should make it easier to “recognise and reward good work done by schools in areas of high disadvantage”.

Essentially this means schools in more deprived areas will get praise for how far their students progress – meaning they could achieve a better inspection report than a top-performing school packed with straight-A students.

There will also be a new separate judgement about pupils’ development and behaviour, meaning parents can see exactly how good behaviour at a school is to assess how their child is likely to fare there.

What will it mean for my child’s college?

Further education colleges will also be affected by the new focus on a good, well-taught curriculum.

City College Norwich, which is currently ranked as “good“, says that it and many other colleges which serve a large catchment area have to shape their curriculum to the demands of the local area – not necessarily the subjects which get the best results.

The new framework aims to recognise this need for further education colleges to provide not only the courses that their students want, but courses which will help local businesses and give young people a better change of getting a job at the end of their studies.

In the long run it could see students having more sway over which subjects are offered as colleges respond to demand.

What will it mean for my child’s nursery school?

In its research Ofsted found that, in nursery schools and other early years providers, there was pressure on nursery staff to “complete endless documentation” recording children’s development rather than actually spending time reading to them or playing with them.

The intention seems to be to free up nursery staff to give more attention to children and help them learn in a more natural way, rather than trying to show how regimented development targets have been met.

Education professionals and members of the public can view the consultation document online at

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