Press release: New inspection framework promoting improvement for schools and children

10 Mar 2010

Ref: 2010-13

Ofsted today releases the official data showing inspection outcomes for the first four months of the new inspection framework. The findings reflect Ofsted’s sharper focus on weaker schools and confirm that by emphasising the overall achievement of all pupils, in particular their progress as well as the quality of classroom teaching and learning, Ofsted is providing the additional challenge to schools that the new inspections were intended to provide.

Ofsted carried out 2,140 school inspections from September to December 2009. The new inspection regime is focussing more on weaker provision, and good and outstanding schools are now inspected less frequently. So, fewer schools that were outstanding or good at their last inspection were chosen for inspection in the autumn. This means that these results cannot be taken as reflecting the general quality of provision across all schools. The figures show that, through the combination of raised expectations and the selection of a greater number of weaker schools for inspection, the proportion of schools judged to be good or outstanding was 49%. Forty percent were graded as satisfactory and 10% were inadequate.

A significant proportion of schools inspected in the autumn term have shown improvement since their last inspection. Overall a quarter of schools have improved their grade, while 35% of schools previously graded satisfactory were judged good or outstanding at this inspection. Half of the schools inspected maintained the same grade as their previous inspection, while a quarter went down. To give the autumn term 2009 figures a context, we must be clear that we have inspected a greater proportion of weaker schools and this has made a difference to the inspection outcomes. In addition, a comparison to the first term of results in 2005/06, the last time the inspection regime changed with the subsequent increased expectations, shows that the level of inadequate schools was at 10% while 11% were outstanding.

Announcing the results, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, said:

'These results are what we expected given the sharper focus of the new inspection framework and the sample of schools inspected in the first few months. We introduced this new framework because we believe the upward trend in the quality of provision in recent years has masked wide variations. We wanted to concentrate more resources on the less effective schools, particularly those with pupils in danger of underachieving and offer clear recommendations for improvement.

'The new inspections have been designed to help schools improve so that children and young people get the best possible education. By focusing on weaker schools; introducing more classroom observation; giving more detailed recommendations and emphasising progress, the quality of teaching and learning and overall achievement of all pupils, Ofsted is helping raise standards and promote improvement for all groups of children.

'Concerns have been raised that the new framework, with a focus on the standards reached by pupils, could penalise schools serving areas of deprivation. However our analysis show that 8% of schools considered to be serving areas of high deprivation have been graded outstanding in the last term, which is very similar to the overall figure of 9% for all schools.

'Every time an inspection framework is revised, expectations are raised and it is right for Ofsted to hold higher expectations on behalf of pupils and parents. We want every child to go to a good school. We expect more pupils to get better results and expect schools to improve the life chances for each and every group of pupils.'

The reaction from those schools that have responded formally and informally after experiencing the new inspection is overwhelmingly positive. Nine out of ten schools, who have responded to surveys following inspection, say they were satisfied with the way inspection was carried out. Most believe the inspection judgements were fair and accurate and were satisfied with the clarity of the recommendations in their report.

Commenting on the new framework arrangements, headteacher of St James Comprehensive School, Exeter, Helen Salmon, said:

'We are a school in challenging circumstances with the most deprived profile in Devon. Under the new framework we were judged good with many outstanding features. We felt the inspection process was rigorous, fair and well conducted. I particularly welcomed the very helpful opportunities for senior leaders to do joint lesson observations with the inspectors and for myself and my Deputy to maintain dialogue with them.

'With the chance for constructive debate throughout we could express our views and these were reflected in the report. The pre-inspection briefing was thorough and enabled us to plan an effective programme to highlight good practice as well as to look at areas of concern. I felt that the team really got a measure of where the school is and the enormous progress we have made, giving us clear actions for improving still further.'

Principal of West London Academy, Northolt, Hilary Macaulay said:

'Our inspection under Ofsted’s new framework was an overwhelmingly positive experience for us all and we found the team to be insightful and constructive. They went out and about talking to students, parents and staff, capturing life as it is and putting in extra time to get the evidence they needed. The joint observation of lessons ensured that judgments were fair and accurate.

Inspectors took the context in which we operate fully into account, as well as the fact that we are an all-age school (ages 3-19) with complex curriculum and staffing, attainment and achievement data. Being able to sit in on inspectors’ meetings at the end of each day meant there were no surprises. We were aware of why judgements were being made and we could work together with the lead inspector on areas for development.'

Head of The Kings of Wessex School, Cheddar, Somerset, Chris Richardson, said:

'We welcome the new Ofsted inspection framework that brings significant improvements, particularly through a sharper focus on student achievement. A new self evaluation form meant we felt well prepared for inspection and it gave the inspectors a good overview of the school. They were keen to work with us and to involve me as headteacher in discussions and the whole process. It was good to be part of the inspection team meetings with my views being listened to and helping me understand the rationale behind judgements.

Our students valued the opportunities to engage with the inspectors and give their perspective on the school. The team left no stone unturned but at the same time gave us every opportunity to showcase the work of our school. They were professional but went out of their way to make us feel at ease. The outcome was a very positive report and an accurate reflection of our work with young people and the community.'

Ofsted has been clear from the outset that the new inspection framework should place a greater emphasis on attainment – the standards reached by pupils compared with those found nationally. Persistent patterns of low attainment affect pupils’ well-being, life-chances and have a deep and damaging impact on families and communities. However, it is achievement – which takes account of a pupils’ learning and the progress they have made as well as their attainment – that is at the heart of our inspections. This remains of prime importance. It is at the core of what schools are about – it is where they have the greatest impact. The data released today show there is a strong correlation between the overall judgement for overall effectiveness and that for pupils’ learning and progress, whereas there is a much weaker correlation with attainment.

These first results also show that suggestions that schools were being penalised for minor safeguarding issues have been misplaced. Analysis shows that no school in this term was placed in special measures simply because of minor safeguarding issues and in fact of the 2,140 inspections carried out, only 17 schools were given a notice to improve for issues related to safeguarding, care and leadership alone.

The new framework has brought many changes to the way we inspect. Ofsted inspectors are observing twice as many lessons during inspections, giving more opportunity to observe the quality of teaching and learning. Headteachers are often accompanying them; this helps their understanding of how judgements have been reached, and precisely what they need to do to further improve. Combined with greater involvement for senior staff in the overall inspection process and an improved and simplified self evaluation form, the new framework is helping to ensure schools are better able to understand their own weaknesses and areas in need of development. This further improves the overall effectiveness of inspection.

We have also increased our emphasis on the views of pupils and parents to ensure their voices are being heard in the inspection. The next step is to trial online arrangements for receiving these comments to make the process far more efficient, accessible and easier to use.

Related Files

Notes For Editors

1.The inspection outcomes data is available on the Ofsted website at

2.The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 5866 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359

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