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News: Research and policy

NACE response to Ofsted draft education inspection framework 2019

12 March 2019   (0 Comments)
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NACE’s response to Ofsted’s draft education inspection framework 2019 (“the framework”):

1.0 Quality:

1.1 Creating a culture of high expectations, engendering confidence and self-belief are all prerequisites for learning. NACE supports the focus on quality of education that is seen throughout the framework.

1.2 The framework places a strong emphasis on whole-school vision and values as drivers for improvement. Alongside this, the focus on quality of practice is clear: from a focus on teachers’ own speaking, listening, writing and reading to the emphasis on the development of teacher subject and pedagogical knowledge.

1.3 A focus on creating an environment where learners are “resilient to setbacks”, know how to study effectively and take pride in their achievements is also emphasised and well-received.

1.4 This resonates strongly with NACE’s own beliefs – and is witnessed in the effective practice of our community of schools, where the education of more able learners is a whole-school endeavour and an ethos of high expectations and aspirations is key.

2.0 Character education:

2.1 NACE supports the framework’s focus on personal development and character. All schools should be able to show how they promote an ambitious learning culture which enables talents and abilities to flourish. This can result in changing the life chances for some young people. Making sure that all learners are challenged in every lesson helps them to become resilient learners. Challenge should be an explicit part of school; learners and teachers should know what challenge is, what it feels like and why it is an important part of growth because challenge is pervasive in the school culture.

3.0 Narrowing of real curriculum choices:

3.1 Whilst the framework makes reference to rewarding schools that are ambitious and making sure that young people accumulate a broad, rich curriculum, NACE would argue that the reference to EBacc expectation (75% by 2022, 90% by 2025) is counterintuitive to an “ambitious” curriculum offering breadth and balance and could be perceived as one where the arts and technologies risk being further marginalised. This is already being seen in a number of NACE member schools, where curriculum collaboration across schools is the only way to support dynamic delivery of some subjects.

4.0 Highlighting specific learner groups:

4.1 There is no clear message in the draft framework that schools should be paying attention to the needs of their most able pupils beyond the implication that the curriculum will need to be sufficiently “demanding” to do so. The only reference to able pupils is p.154, stating that inspectors will take a “rounded view” of the education a school provides to all its pupils, including the most able. Nevertheless, the inspection data summary report (IDSR) will be used to determine a focus in section 8 inspections. If able learners are an issue in the IDSR, this could be the main line of enquiry in an inspection.

4.2 A high percentage of current inspection reports consistently identify the achievement of able learners as a cause of concern. This has been backed up in recent years by a series of reports from Ofsted and The Sutton Trust which suggest that schools need to do much more to meet the needs of able pupils, including disadvantaged able pupils. If schools ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of the most able, then it will undoubtedly be demanding. As Sir Michael Wilshaw noted: “How well the brightest children are doing will usually be among the first questions an inspector asks the school leadership team… This is because if provision for this group is good, it is likely that other groups of pupils are also being well served.”

4.3 Inclusion of the most able could be highlighted within the framework where SEND and disadvantaged pupils are mentioned.

5.0 Review of performance data and progression:

5.1 NACE supports the framework’s intention to de-intensify focus on data in isolation. However, from our work with schools across England and Wales NACE can highlight practices which contribute to greater clarity when examining data, greater precision when planning, and greater rigour within quality assurance and school self-evaluation. Success in achieving rapid improvement or maintaining a highly successful school is dependent on whole-staff involvement. It is important that all members of a school have a meaningful share in data intelligence, including a focus on more able disadvantaged learners. (NACE Essentials guide: Using data to improve provision for more able leaners, 2018)

5.2 There is no explicit mention of looking at starting points or groups of pupils’ achievements. No use of the word “progress”. NACE believes there is a strong case to retain the review of internal performance data for current pupils. We recognise that data should be meaningful and linked to curriculum design, development and implementation.

5.3 There is a strong move away from looking at the starting points of pupils to judge the progress they make. This could have implications for more able provision in that insufficient attention is paid to whether the progress they make is good enough. Without tracking information, how accurate will inspectors’ judgements be about progress seen in books? Without a scrutiny of internal data which covers all year groups, what can be taken from a small sample of work, interviews and lessons? How will inspectors be able to make judgements about a school’s curriculum based on qualitative evidence?

6.0 About NACE:

6.1 The National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE) was founded 35 years ago. An independent membership charity, NACE works with schools, education leaders, practitioners and policy makers to improve provision for more able learners, driving whole-school improvement and raising achievement for all. We create a space for schools to debate, evaluate and exchange approaches and resources. Drawing on extensive experience we offer support across all sectors, phases, contexts and stages of development in more able provision.

6.2 We support schools in practical ways:

  • A wide programme of CPD: national, regional and bespoke
  • Resources: online, guides, webinars, newsletters
  • Access to research findings
  • Facilitate the engagement in professional enquiry and wider research
  • Networking with other schools and organisations 

6.3 Our team is comprised of lead practitioners and senior leaders in schools across England and Wales, as well as school improvement experts and curriculum specialists.

6.4 In 2008, NACE established the NACE Challenge Framework, a tool for whole-school review and improvement in provision for more able learners. The Challenge Framework provides a structure through which to identify strengths and priorities for improvement. Over the past decade, the Challenge Framework has been used by thousands of schools, and proven its value as a tool for effective whole-school improvement. Many schools go on to have their provision externally audited through the NACE Challenge Award.

6.5 As an organisation, NACE is interested in impact: from providing access to the latest evidence-informed practice, debate and views to equipping schools with the skills to systematically evaluate and develop their practice.

6.6 With more than 1,500 member schools, NACE has access to a growing repository of effective curricula and practice in more able provision. Moving “from excellence to evidence” is a central strand of our current work, through the NACE Research and Development Hubs, practitioner-led research, and our 410 NACE Challenge Award-accredited schools. In addition, we are working with Anglia Ruskin University to review what Challenge Award schools do effectively for more able learners and why they are successful in this aspect of their provision. The university will also be working with NACE partner schools to undertake research into “challenge” and what this looks like, particularly within STEM.

7.0 Developing the discussion further:

NACE would be pleased to further discuss the points raised in this response with colleagues at Ofsted. For further detail please contact Sue Riley, NACE CEO.

Have your say…

Ofsted is seeking views on proposed changes to the education inspection framework, which will take effect from September 2019. The consultation is open until 11.45pm on 5 April 2019. To view the draft framework and accompanying materials, and to contribute to the consultation, click here.