Inspecting the curriculumRevising inspection methodology to support the education inspection frameworkPublished: May 2019Reference no: 190024

Inspection methodology for the ‘quality of education’judgement1.In January 2019, we consulted on proposals for a new inspection framework foreducation providers. In May 2019, we confirmed our plans for inspection, tobegin in September 2019. The most significant change from currentarrangements is the introduction of a ‘quality of education’ judgement. Thiscombines aspects of the previous key judgements of ‘teaching, learning andassessment’ and ‘outcomes’ to provide a more holistic view of standards,particularly focusing on the curriculum. We will continue to report on all aspectsof a school, as set out in section 5 of the Education Act 2005, but will do sowithin the new judgement headings.2.The feedback we received on this proposal during the consultation was verypositive. When respondents had concerns, these centred aroundimplementation, with questions about how evidence would be gathered andassessed to inform the judgement, and about the reliability of discreteinspection methods such as lesson observation and work scrutiny. Thisdocument explains how inspectors will assess the quality of education whilerecognising that each inspection is rightly different and can take differingcourses. The document also focuses primarily on inspecting schools. The mainprinciples are applicable across different education remits, but methods willneed to be adapted to be appropriate for different settings. We are thereforecontinuing to gather insight on the best approaches in all settings throughpiloting and inspection.An evolution of current practice3.The outgoing common inspection framework (CIF, in use until September 2019)asks inspectors to form a view of different aspects of a school’s work to deliverhigh-quality education for children and then to put these together towards theend of an inspection to reach a judgement of ‘overall effectiveness’. In order todo this, inspectors take a wide sample of activities across the school (principallyteaching, assessment and pupils’ work) to reach the ‘teaching, learning andassessment’ judgement. They discuss pupils’ progress and attainment withleaders to form a view of pupils’ outcomes and the means by which theyachieve these outcomes. Finally, inspectors draw this evidence together withthe other evidence they have gathered to reach an ‘overall effectiveness’judgement. The final stage of this aggregation takes place at the final teammeeting (which is normally observed by school leaders). Throughout theinspection, inspectors will have been sharing and triangulating their evidenceand keeping leaders informed of their emerging findings. This evidencegathering model is appropriately designed to support conclusions under theCIF.Inspecting the curriculumMay 2019, 1900242

4.Ofsted’s understanding of educational effectiveness 1 has evolved from the CIF,and has informed the development of the new education inspection framework(EIF). Therefore, we require a similar evolution in the way that evidence isgathered and connected.5.At the heart of the EIF is the new ‘quality of education’ judgement, the purposeof which is to put a single conversation about education at the centre ofinspection. This conversation draws together curriculum, teaching, assessmentand standards. In doing this, we draw heavily on the working definition of thecurriculum that Ofsted has used over the last couple of years. This definitionuses the concepts of ‘intent’, ‘implementation’ and ‘impact’ to recognise that thecurriculum passes through different states: it is conceived, taught andexperienced. Leaders and teachers design, structure and sequence acurriculum, which is then implemented through classroom teaching. The endresult of a good, well-taught curriculum is that pupils know more and are ableto do more. The positive results of pupils’ learning can then be seen in thestandards they achieve. 2 The EIF starts from the understanding that all of thesesteps are connected.6.The EIF is built around the idea of the connectedness of curriculum, teaching,assessment and standards within the ‘quality of education’ judgement. It thenfollows that the inspection methodology for this judgement should bestructured so that inspectors are able to gather evidence of how a school’sactivities to deliver a high-quality education for its pupils link and arecoordinated in order to achieve the highest possible standards. The findingsand approach set out in this report therefore apply across shorter and fullertypes of inspection, for example section 5 and section 8 inspection in schools. 3This is the process that inspectors will normally follow, but they may, onoccasion, choose to operate differently because of circumstances they identifyat schools.Developing an inspection method to assess ‘quality ofeducation’7.By the time we start to use the EIF on inspection, we will have completedapproximately 200 pilot inspections in schools, the largest such programme wehave ever carried out. These pilots are helping us to develop and refine amethod for evidence-gathering on inspection that reflects the connectedness ofthe new ‘quality of education’ judgement.8.This method has various elements:‘Education inspection framework: overview of research’, Ofsted, January l inspection update: academic year 2018 to 2019’, Ofsted, September pection-update-academic-year-2018-to-2019.3As set out later in this note, the methodology will necessarily be different for the very smallest schoolsand providers. We are continuing to pilot how we will adapt and apply that methodology in those settings.1Inspecting the curriculumMay 2019, 1900243

Top-level view: inspectors and leaders start with a top-level view of theschool’s curriculum, exploring what is on offer, to whom and when,leaders’ understanding of curriculum intent and sequencing, and why thesechoices were made. Deep dive: then, a ‘deep dive’, which involves gathering evidence on thecurriculum intent, implementation and impact over a sample of subjects,topics or aspects. This is done in collaboration with leaders, teachers andpupils. The intent of the deep dive is to seek to interrogate and establish acoherent evidence base on quality of education. Bringing it together: inspectors will bring the evidence together towiden coverage and to test whether any issues identified during the deepdives are systemic. This will usually lead to school leaders bringing forwardfurther evidence and inspectors gathering additional evidence.9.Further evidence-gathering activity will follow in order to test the emergingconclusions from this work. This is likely to include follow-up conversations withleaders, members of staff, those responsible for governance and pupils. It willusually also involve sampling of other areas of education within the school toprobe questions that have emerged as a result of the deep-dive work.10. It is crucial to note that inspectors will not reach judgements on the basis ofany single inspection activity; rather, inspection judgements will be reachedonce inspectors have connected the different types and pieces of evidence inthe manner set out above.11. Our piloting to date has been based on the assumption that, as per the publicconsultation, most routine inspection types will last two days. At present, shortinspections last one day. Our piloting so far tells us that this new methodologycan be carried out securely within that timescale, and that the two-day period isuseful for both inspectors and school leaders because it gives time for reflectionand for schools to bring forward additional evidence on the second day if theyfeel that the view formed on day 1 could be supplemented or challenged ifinspectors were aware of other information. 4 Our piloting has been carried outby the current inspection workforce, and designed on the basis that noadditional subject specialism should be required in order to deliver itconsistently and reliably.12. Pilot inspections have tested the full range of judgements and evidencegathering techniques inspectors will use when they come to inspect against theEIF. The method set out above focuses primarily on the judgement of ‘qualityof education’ but, in parallel with this, inspectors will also be gathering evidenceabout ‘personal development’, ‘behaviour and attitudes’ and ‘leadership andWe have proposed in our consultation approach to carry out shorter (one-day) inspections for the smallestschools and maintained nursery schools, due to the fundamentally different organisation and operation ofthose schools. We are carrying out further piloting to apply the methodology appropriately in thosecontexts.4Inspecting the curriculumMay 2019, 1900244

management’ judgements. These activities are integrated within a singleinspection. When inspectors are forming their initial ‘top level’ view, they willalso be gathering evidence about leadership and management. Do leaders havea clear and ambitious vision, for example, for providing high-quality, inclusiveeducation to all pupils? 5 Similarly, when inspectors are gathering evidence firsthand in classrooms, they will be alert to any evidence that helps themunderstand whether the school has high expectations for pupils’ behaviour andconduct, and whether these expectations are applied consistently and fairly. Inaddition, inspectors will be recording any evidence which helps them tounderstand whether the curriculum and the school’s wider work support pupilsto develop character. 6 They will also carry out activities to gather evidencespecifically around each of the inspection judgements.Forming a view of the curriculum offer: taking a ‘toplevel’ view13. We consulted on a proposal to allow inspectors and school leaders to preparefor the inspection at the school on the afternoon before the inspection starts.Following consultation, we have decided that inspectors will prepare away fromthe school, as they do now, and arrive at 8am on the first day of inspection.14. However, the extensive piloting we have carried out shows us that there wereaspects of the on-site preparation model that inspectors and school leadersvalued greatly, in particular the opportunity for extended discussion about theinspection before it started. Inspectors will therefore hold an introductoryconversation by telephone with school leaders before the inspection begins.This should include giving school leaders the opportunity to explain theirschool’s specific context and challenges. Inspection experience, including ourpilot inspections for this framework, shows that this helps both leaders andinspectors build stronger professional relationships.15. Inspectors will use this conversation to understand: the school’s context, and the progress the school has made since theprevious inspection, including any specific progress made on areas forimprovement identified at previous inspections the headteacher’s assessment of the school’s current strengths andweaknesses, particularly in relation to the curriculum, the way teachingsupports pupils to learn the curriculum, the standards that pupils achieve,pupils’ behaviour and attitudes, and personal development the extent to which all pupils have access to the school’s full curriculum‘Education inspection framework’, Ofsted, May 2019; tion-framework6‘Education inspection framework’, Ofsted, May 2019; tion-framework5Inspecting the curriculumMay 2019, 1900245

a discussion of specific areas of the school (subjects, year groups, aspectsof provision, and so on) that will be a focus of attention during inspection.16. This telephone conversation will last up to 90 minutes. It will help inspectorsand school leaders to establish a rapport before inspection and give them ashared understanding of the starting point of the inspection. It will also helpinspectors to form an initial understanding of leaders’ view of the school’sprogress and to shape the inspection plan. Our experience from piloting thenew framework shows that this is the part of preparation that school leadersand inspectors often find to be the most helpful and constructive.17. Inspectors will then build on the insight from this conversation during theinspection.Forming a view of the quality of education: carrying outdeep dives18. It is essential that the primary focus of inspection is on the education thatpupils are actually receiving day-by-day in classes, rather than simply beingabout the ambitions or intentions of senior leaders. A key mantra used byinspectors is ‘let’s see that in action together’. This is the core of the deep-diveapproach. Its aim is to allow inspectors to gather the evidence necessary toform an accurate evaluation of how education flows from intention toimplementation to impact within a school. Without doing this, it would beimpossible to form a valid judgement of the quality of the education that aschool provides.19. In gathering this deep, rich evidence about the education that a school providesin one subject, topic or aspect, inspectors carrying out the pilot inspectionshave been careful not to rely on small samples of evidence. One deep dive isinsufficient to form a view of the school’s provision, but a collection of deep,connected case studies of subjects, topics or aspects can allow inspectors toform a valid and reliable view of the education on offer, provided that it issubject to further evidence-gathering to test the systemic strengths andweaknesses of the curriculum.20. In primary schools, inspectors will always carry out a deep dive in reading anddeep dives in one or more foundation subjects, always including a foundationsubject that is being taught in the school during