Another blog about the Policy Exchange Ofsted report? Don’t mind if I do, squire.

Policy exchange published their report on Ofsted today to almost universal positive acclaim. I broadly agree with the report with one or two exceptions. The main one is the suggestion that lesson observations would continue for the longer in-depth inspections. It seems strange to me that having effectively trashed the case for having observations this should sneak back in.

I really like that the balanced report card has been revived. Oh come on, of course it’s the balanced report card! It even looks like the mockups that were made at the time. No shame in re-inventing something that was a great idea. It’s simple – reducing a school to a single stat is wrong. The report card presents several statistics in an equitable fashion.

It remains to be seen which, if any, of the reports recommendations will get implemented. For each of the recommendations I have below set out some issues that will need to be considered should they actually find their way into policy.

The Ofsted inspector person specification should be tightened so that all Inspectors should only be allowed to inspect a school when they have relevant and recent teaching experience in Special, Primary or Secondary Schools, or a high knowledge of assessment and pedagogical practice in that area.

I’m not sure about this. Having set out that lesson observations should not be the centre of the inspection surely reduces the importance of this as an issue. I can understand why heads would see this as important. I just don’t. I would be more concerned to ensure that the inspector was data literate and completely on top of the quality assurance aspects of the inspection. This is not to suggest we need an army of data geeks. Which brings us onto…

Inspectors should have to pass a data interpretation test in order to become accredited. Such accreditation should be time limited and regularly renewed – perhaps every five years. For inspectors who wish to deliver tailored inspections, they will need to be trained in lesson observations to the extent set out by MET, or as the result of a specific UK study commissioned to identify the conditions necessary for a high level of validity and reliability.

Well, yes. However, why should the accreditation last 5 years when the school inspection is on a 2 year cycle. Inspectors need to be data experts, not just data aware. School will have a data expert, Academy Chains certainly will. No inspector should be capable of being “out-data-ed”. Which possibly contradicts the idea that we don’t want an army of data geeks. Perhaps what it suggests is that the short inspections should be carried out by a team of two. This would also help avoid any suggestion of “cosy relationships”. This is kind of what the report is suggesting but I think it needs to be more explicit about the team of two.

Ofsted should consider how to introduce additional methods to test the reliability and validity of their inspections on a randomised basis, not just when complaints or appeals are raised by schools. This could include random sampling follow up moderation days.

This is a key recommendation. It has become clear, with the continued publishing, un-publishing and re-writing of reports that Ofsteds own QA processes are compromised and need to be rebuilt from scratch. There is a role here for a lay (educational) panel, along the lines of adoption approval panels. Randomly selected (anonymised) reports could be laid before the panel for review prior to publication. Given the volume it may be that this panel would only view the longer, stage 2, inspections and any reports where the judgement was not supported by the data.

Schools’ internal assessment procedures should be validated by Ofsted as to their rigour and frequency, to ensure moderation is reliable.

I am a bit concerned that this could replace Ofsteds commenting on ‘approved’ methods of teaching with commenting on ‘approved’ methods of assessing. Teaching and assessment are so interlinked that this could just replace one problem with another. However, it may well be a necessary evil. If this happens then the style and content of the reporting should be very clearly laid out. Perhaps the review of assessment procedures could be carried out by specialist teams – indeed, thinking on it, I would say this would be a requirement if it were to be done properly. Perhaps there is a role for the Institute of Assessors here – perhaps time to have a member in every school.

Of course, this issue has only really arisen because some idiot rewrote the national curriculum and then couldn’t be arsed to rewrite the attainment levels. Because they’re “too complicated for parents to understand” or “to simple for teachers to use” or WHATEVER THE EXCUSE IS TODAY (rants about levels – tick).

Ofsted should pilot a survey of students’ school experiences, including views on teaching, bullying and safety. This pilot should be tested against other judgements made on these elements to explore its reliability and validity ahead of a possible wider roll out.

I know that there are many that will recoil from this suggestion. I like it. It’s another view. Another dimension to the data. It would benefit from being considered along with the recommendation on Parent View. And anyway, I have an idea for an App, so I’m not going to let that cat out of the bag here! I’m thinking that any information from such student surveys could be used much like the Speaking and Listening element of GCSE English. Put it on the report, but don’t let it change the overall judgement (gets in dig at exam changes – tick)

Ofsted should be exercise more caution in publications which seem to endorse certain teaching methods.

Again, maybe a role for the lay panel to ensure that a balance is maintained. But as a rule I would say publish everything. Put it on a big database and make it searchable. Ofsted are in a privileged position, they see more schools than any other organisation. Lets use that to put as much information out there as possible.

Ofsted should work with the Behavioural Insights Team to trial different models of ensuring high level of parental sign up to the Parent View survey, combined with low levels of fraudulent feedback.

Yes, well, good luck with that one.

Ofsted should design a system for inspecting Academy chains.

This should actually become easier once the idea of lesson observations being central to the inspection disappears. The Academy chain inspection should focus the QA aspects of the chain. Of course, individual schools within the chain should be inspected as any other school would. My concern here is that a separate regime for Academy Chain inspection gets turned into a separate regime for inspecting schools within a chain. This must not happen.

Ofsted should consider carefully whether it retenders its contracts for Additional Inspectors when the contracts are re-let in 2015. Should Ofsted retender the contracts, it should place a condition that AIs work full time for the contractor so as to ensure organisational loyalty and mechanisms for development and information flow.

My minor issue with this is that it seems to rule out serving heads being used as part of an Ofsted team. Unless the suggestion is that different rules will apply to Ofsted itself and allow them to directly subcontract to individuals.

Overall, it’s a strong report. I can nit-pick with some of the recommendations but accept them all.

I hope it gets the consideration it deserves.

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